Through our campaign work we worked to build awareness and solidarity with others campaigning against police and state violence in particular those campaigning against deaths in custody.
When Alfie Meadows was charged by police after being almost killed by a baton strike to the head – many family campaigns including those of Christopher Alder, Sean Rigg and Smiley Culture supported his campaign for justice.
Their stories of the horrific deaths of loved ones at the hands of police and often decades long struggle to seek truth, justice and accountability need to amplified and demand the support of all interested in challenging the state’s right to use violence with impunity and the institutional racism
The Charity Inquest has recorded, 1555 deaths in custody or following police contact since 1990 – yet not a single police officer has been successfully prosecuted for these deaths - despite a number of unlawful killing verdicts being delivered by juries at Inquests.
The conclusions of the recent Inquest into the Hillsborough tragedy -25 years after 96 people were killed - has exposed the lengths to which politicians, the media, and the police will go to cover up the state’s culpability whilst blaming the victims –and shows just what victims of injustice are up against. In recent years the use of undercover cops to put grieving families seeking justice under surveillance has also been exposed.
As recent work by the Institute of Race Relations has shown, deaths in custody and the systematic demonization that takes place after, hits those in the BME community the hardest.
In truth these deaths cannot be separated from routinsed racism, harassment and violence inflicted on many in their day-to-day lives. From stop and search, to UKBA raids and the criminalisation of young people under so called anti-gang initiatives such as operation Shield; many experience routine and violent incursions in their daily lives.
Black people are six times more likely than their white counterparts to be stopped and searched, while Asian people are twice as likely. The death of Habib Paps Ullah, who died during the course of a stop and search, highlights the potentially lethal results.
The entrenchment of inequality and social injustice goes hand in hand with oppressive policing in our community, and in recent decades we have seen successive governments enact a rapid and steep rise in criminal justice spending and increase in police powers –focusing on controlling and monitoring people rather than meeting needs.
This underlines the vital need to work to make resistance to police violence and racism a central part of our struggles for social justice.
We encourage people to join the work to strengthen all those campaigning for justice against police violence:
-Support the United Friends and Family Campaign including their Annual Memorial march on the last Saturday of October each year.
-Support family justice campaigns – whether its twinning with a campaign local to you, offering your time, skills, responding to calls, in the immediate aftermath of or sitting in inquests and court hearings where families request it.
-Get involved in the work of other organisations (link to bottom with listing) working at the grass roots to challenge oppressive policing whose work includes equipping people to deal with stop and search or immigration raids and monitoring and challenging police harassment in our communities.
-Support the many local campaigns and taking place against removal of vital local services, assault on social housing, gentrification and wider criminal justice policies which criminalise the poor and those who protest.
Connecting our struggles internationally
Since the Black Lives Matter protest movement gained popularity in the United States, DTRTP has developed also a relationship with campaigners that side of the Atlantic to learn from shared experiences and mutually promote the problem of deaths in custody, police brutality and racism.
This has involved key organisers from the US visiting areas up and down the country since January 2015. On all of these occasions they noted that the international reputation of British policing did not match up with the realities they heard from many families and friends of those who have died here in the UK.
In October 2015 we organised alongside the United Families and Friends Campaign and the NUS Black Students’ Campaign to hold a historic trip to California that brought Marcia Rigg, Shaun Hall, Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennett and Kadisha Brown-Burrell into contact with leaders in the Black Lives Matter justice movement, as well as families throughout the state that have lost loved ones at the hands of the state.
Again the realities of British policing fell short of expectations in the view of many people we met. There were also common themes between the stories of those affected by a death on both sides of the Atlantic. Often we heard familiar stories of frustration regarding investigations, families having to look into deaths themselves with no resources, the long timescales suffered before any answers are given, officers continuing to serve despite the serious nature of incidents and a general experience of disregard of those affected in favour of law enforcement maintaining good PR.
Of course there are a number of difference between the US and UK situations, but we have found enough similarities to say that if unaddressed the situation here could well become as infamous as that faced by Americans.
We continue to work to strengthen these alliances. To keep up to date go to www.fergusonsolidarity.com
Useful campaigns and organisations:
Deaths in Custody
Stop and Search and Police Monitoring
London Campaign Against Police and State Violence https://londonagainstpoliceviolence.wordpress.com
Stop Watch http://www.stop-watch.org
Stop and Search App http://www.stopandsearch.org/#map
The Monitoring Group http://www.tmg-uk.org
Tottenham Rights http://tottenhamrights.org.uk