Politics | ‘Deaths in Custody’ March Attacked by Police
New in Ceasefire, Politics - Posted on Saturday, October 29, 2011 18:34 - 9 Comments
The ‘March Against Deaths in Custody’ has been taking place for over a decade, along the same route, calling for the same demand: an end to police violence.
Although campaigners may differ in their political or ideological approach as to how this should be best achieved, all agree that peaceful protest is the first avenue that should be pursued and, indeed, all of those on today’s march remained committed to the principles of non-violence.
When the march reached Downing Street, moving testimonies from family members and relatives of Smiley Culture, Mark Duggan and Charles de Menezes left the crowd both moved and frustrated. Cries for ‘justice!’ over the beats of local African drummers added to an atmosphere of tension. As campaigners stood outside the gates of Downing Street, dozens of police encircled them, forming a line around the protest, moving in closer.
While the testimonies from the families were being read, one woman was told to “get inside.” Another young male, the nephew of a man killed in police custody, was pushed by an officer.
Every year at this march, a letter is written, signed and handed to the Prime Minister, highlighting the fact that no officer has ever stood trial for the murder of an innocent civilian, and demanding justice for the families, friends and communities affected by police violence.
Many of those who attended the initial march had started to leave, feeling the job had been done for another year and it was time to go home. This year, the thirteenth in the history of this demonstration, roughly half the attendees felt that their current methods were not effective.
Campaigners peacefully occupied the road outside the gates of Downing Street, led by the families of the deceased. Within moments, over 300 officers surrounded the protest, stepping on those sitting crossed legged on the ground.
Without warning, two elderly women, one of whom had delivered a speech earlier that afternoon about the killing of her grandson at the hands of police, were dragged by officers across the pavement. The women protested with shouts, but at no moment did any of them fight back.
Following this, other protesters began to be dragged from the peaceful occupation, many of whom were put in stress positions. Two more protesters, one male and another female, were detained in a ‘holding pen’ outside Downing Street for what police described as having a “threatening demeanour”.
All those attacked by police at this point were African Caribbean. Minutes later, officers also detained a young white male, whose uncle had been killed by police and who was visibly distressed by what was happening to him. He had, at no point, touched an officer.
By this point, roughly 500 officers had been deployed, vastly outnumbering the protesters. Inevitably, arguments broke out, yet protesters remained peaceful throughout. A number of complaints, and likely civil action lawsuits, will almost certainly be filed by those victimised by today’s police violence.
Since 1998, there have been almost 350 deaths in police custody, yet not a single officer has been convicted as a result. As the brutal repression of today’s march demonstrates, the quest to bring to justice those responsible must, and will, go on.