Politics | ‘Deaths in Custody’ March Attacked by Police

On Saturday, hundreds of campaigners and relatives gathered in Trafalgar Square to march against deaths in police custody, ending in a peaceful sit-in across the road from Downing Street. However, the police reacted violently, attacking two elderly women and detaining a number of protesters. Ceasefire associate editor Adam Elliott-Cooper reports.

New in Ceasefire, Politics - Posted on Saturday, October 29, 2011 18:34 - 9 Comments

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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.


Report on the protest from PressTV

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.

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Adam Elliott-Cooper

Adam Elliott-Cooper, a writer and activist, is Associate Editor of Ceasefire and a doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford. His column on race politics appears twice a month. He tweets at @adamec87.

9 Comments

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abc
Oct 29, 2011 19:41

I wonder if there will be any mention of this on the news tonight. And if so they will only quote the numbers of people who were detained in the holding pen and bypass the whole point of the day.

jo
Oct 29, 2011 20:10

Don’t help the police the next time one of them get taken out. Eye for a eye is the only way as we have seen the police are protected by each other. Look how long its taken for the killer of Ian Thomson to come to court and the only reason it did is due to the public and media seeing the assault on Ian.
But a cover up is always a police excuse for why people get killed by them. Does this sound, Libya had a uprising. on things like this.

linphil
Oct 29, 2011 21:01

What’s wrong with the police today? Is it the calibre of the human or are they being trained that way? Whatever it is it stinks n it has to change before its too late. Most of the problems at these demos are as a direct consequence of thugs in fancy costumes. Can you decent police officers please do your job n get those law breakers to account for their crimes. You who have integrity and believe that no1 is above the law. Please help get rid of the corruption amongst you. You still have some supporters amongst ordinary ppl but it looks like this ‘new breed’ is becoming dominant. An elite few who think they are above the law serves no1 but themselves. We the ppl will support you. Join us while you still have a choice

Minty
Oct 29, 2011 21:13

at least 2 of the family’s speaking today, said very clearly, we do not blame all police etc. X

danny
Oct 30, 2011 18:30

That video was brutal!

The police kept saying offensive things like “Please sir move back” and “Keep moving back please”.

Hardly Zimbabwe or Syria

Adam Elliott-Cooper
Oct 30, 2011 18:37

The article does not take issue with anything said by police. Their actions were far more damaging. I agree however, that the police deserve a pat on the back for not being as violent as those controlled by dictators in some parts of the Middle East or Africa

Protest against UK deaths in police custody (2011) | UFFC Campaign Central
Oct 30, 2011 22:27

[…] ‘Deaths in Custody’ March Attacked by Police 29th October 2011 […]

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Nov 6, 2011 15:23

[…] ‘Deaths in Custody’ March Attacked by Police 29th October 2011 Share this: Posted in: Joint Events, Other Custody Deaths […]

Dawn Wales
May 22, 2012 11:44

I will be there this year with all my family, the system killed my son in November 2011, aged 21, this is corruption at it’s highest , I am with you all who lost your love ones through filthy liars.

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