We send our condolences and solidarity to the family of Michael Brown, and to the families and friends of all who have lost loved ones to police racism and violence. Yet again police officers will go unpunished for the deaths of black people at their hands. This is a system that fails to deliver justice for black people and lends institutional sanction to police killings.
Since Michael Brown’s death in August, 14 teenagers have been killed by US police – at least six of them African American. Young black men in the US are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than their white peers. Some 26% of police shootings from 1999 to 2011 were directed against African Americans.
These killings are horrifically regular, and the criminal justice system backs them with its authority every time that no action is taken. This has propelled people in their thousands to take to the streets of Ferguson and across the US to assert that Black Lives Matter. Demonstrators have been confronted with the National Guard, militarised police, tear gas, mass arrests, criminalisation and prohibitive bail bonds. Despite this repression, the protests have ensured that the world has heard the names of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner.
In Britain there have been over 1,500 deaths in police custody since 1990 – but not a single successful prosecution of a police officer for manslaughter or murder since the first recorded death in custody in 1969. Time and again families have had to battle within a legal framework that deems a “reasonable belief” or “perceived threat” by the police a permissible defence for lethal force.
This is a framework that delivered the perverse verdict of “lawful killing” in the case of Mark Duggan. It is a framework that effectively makes all people of colour a legitimate target for police violence. It is one that extends surveillance and harassment to all “suspect communities” in its range – from the Irish community in the past to Muslims today, from the victims of the Hillsborough stadium disaster to the miners who picketed at Orgreave. This is a fight for all those who challenge the state’s right to use violence with impunity.
It is for all these reasons that we are proud and privileged to invite the Reverend Osagyefo Sekou to Britain. We seek to amplify the voices of families and protesters making a stand in Ferguson and across the US. We seek to use this moment to build a movement for those fighting injustice here.
We stand for:
- Solidarity with the families of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Tanisha Anderson and others whose loved ones have been killed by police in the US
- Solidarity with Ferguson protesters – we want charges dropped and immediate release for all those arrested for demonstrating against police violence across the US
- Solidarity with the United Families & Friends Campaign here in Britain to demand justice for those who have died in custody
As the protesters in Ferguson put it: “We march on with purpose. The work continues. This is not a moment but a movement. The movement lives.”