Letter to mark International Day Against Police Brutality

UFFC march, London, October 2014

The excesses of policing have come under more scrutiny since the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson and we feel that today, International Day Against Police Brutality, is an important time to speak out against the injustices of policing.

The advising charity Inquest has recorded 1507 “deaths following contact with police” in England and Wales since 1990. Each time someone dies after contact with the police the grief and mourning of their family and friends is put on hold indefinitely. Instead they are forced to become campaigners seeking justice for their loved ones and themselves.

What these family campaigners want more than anything else is the truth about what happened to those killed. Many would agree that police should not investigate the circumstances of the killing themselves, yet the Independent Police Complaints Commission is populated by a significant number of ex-police officers; a clear conflict of interest.

For a reliable account of the circumstances surrounding a death the coronial inquest system is often relied upon, yet there is no guarantee that families who have suffered a loss will receive the legal aid often necessary to hire a barrister that represents their interests in these proceedings. In the majority of cases unlawful killing verdicts returned by juries have not lead to prosecutions against police.

We demand that the families of all those who die at the hands of the state automatically be afforded legal aid to help in their pursuit of the truth. Where inquests find an unlawful killing a CPS prosecution should follow as a matter of course.

Police brutality is by no means restricted to those instances where people die in custody. Stop and search monitors StopWatch place Black people in London as almost three times more likely to be subject to stop and search. A recent HMIC report has found that African-Caribbean people are also disproportionately subjected to strip searches, accounting for 17% of the total. With such drastic disparity and discrimination this amounts to a routine and violent incursion into many people’s everyday lives.

There is also a direct continuum between this kind of everyday police brutality and the deaths that have received more attention of late. The death of Habib Paps Ullah, who died during the course of a stop and search, highlights the potentially lethal results.

There are still worrying numbers of people pursuing justice from the state due to police brutality of many forms. Today is a day for remembering and protesting these brutalities.

Marcia Rigg, United Families & Friends Campaign
Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennett, United Families & Friends Campaign
Wail Qasim, Defend the Right to Protest
Claude Cole, Julian Cole Family Campaign
Diane Abbott MP
Lee Lawrence, son of Cherry Groce
Saqib Deshmukh, Justice for Paps
Malia Bouattia, NUS Black Students Campaign
Janet Alder, Justice for Christopher Alder
Becky Shah, daughter of Inger Shah, Hillsborough Justice Campaign
Jo Orchard, Justice for Thomas Orchard
Kedisha Burrell Brown, Justice for Kingsley Burrell
Liberty Louise, Justice for Leon Briggs
Matt Foot, Justice Alliance
Max Farrar, David Oluwale Association
Suresh Grover, The Monitoring Group
Stafford Scott, Tottenham Rights
Daniel Machover, human rights lawyer
John McDonnell MP
Jenny Jones, London Authority deputy chair of crime and policing
Simon Pook, human rights solicitor
Kojo Kyerewaa, London Campaign Against Police & State Violence
Jules Carey, human rights lawyer
Liz Davies, barrister, vice president Haldane Society
Alfie Meadows, injured protester
Hannah Dee, Defend the Right to Protest
Simon Pook, human rights solicitor
Piers Telemacque, NUS vice president for society and citizenship
Rachel Harger, civil liberties paralegal
David Renton, barrister, author Who Killed Blair Peach?
Russell Fraser, barrister and secretary of Haldane Society
Zarah Sultana, NUS National Executive Council
Lana Adamou, civil liberties solicitor
Abdi-Aziz Suleiman, NUS National Executive Council
Sheila Coleman, Hillsborough Justice Campaign
Hannah Rought-Brooks, barrister, Haldane Society
Zita Holbourne, national co-chair of BARAC
Susan Matthews, parent of injured protester
Nadine El-Enany, lecturer in law, Birkbeck
Jennifer Hilliard, Parents for Real Justice
Christopher Hilliard, acquitted protester
Amy Jowett, injured protester
Shanice McBean, Defend the Right to Protest and arrestee
Zekarias Negussue, NUS National Executive Council
Samayya Afzal, NUS National Executive Council
Halima Sayed, Black Women’s Forum UK
Shakira Martin, NUS National Executive Council

Thanks to all involved in the Ferguson Solidarity Tour – here are the next steps in our campaign

The organisers of the Ferguson Solidarity Tour would like to thank all those who supported, attended and participated in public meetings, events and actions since we first began organising the tour in November last year.

Some 20 events took place in the course of ten days, including community and university meetings, a People’s Parliament session at the House of Commons, a lawyers briefing, a gig for Ferguson, direct action to protest against G4S and solidarity visit to Derry for the Bloody Sunday anniversary march. You can see some of the media coverage here.

The tour helped ongoing efforts to expose and challenge police racism and deaths in custody here in the UK. It enabled an important exchange of ideas between the US #BlackLivesMatter campaign and activists in this country, strengthening links between families and others campaigning for justice.

A huge number of people put in a lot of work to make this happen. We are all excited about the prospects for further international collaboration and action that have emerged.

Next steps

During the tour, a campaign was launched by the family of Julian Cole, a young black man tragically paralysed and left in a vegetative state after police seized him outside a nightclub in Bedfordshire in 2013. The police involved are still on active duty. Julian’s family are calling for their immediate suspension – and for the individual responsible for breaking Julian’s neck to be held to account.

The inquest into the death of Habib “Paps” Ullah during a police search in 2008 took place during the tour. Damon Turner was among those who visited the public gallery to show support. The jury has returned a narrative verdict criticising the police. We urge people to follow the Justice4Paps campaign for more on this case.

We also call on everyone to mobilise for the United Families & Friends Campaign national march on Saturday 31 October, and their national demands,  as well as supporting call-outs from family campaigns local to your area.

Activists in the West Midlands are starting up a community project to monitor police activity with the intention of preventing acts of violence. This initiative, led by Birmingham’s black communities, draws on the experience of similar projects in London, Manchester and elsewhere. We hope that links between these groups are developed and maintained, and that more people will get involved.

Red Alert West Midlands is a 24-hour support service for families affected by deaths/abuses in custody, or concerned about relatives or friends detained in custody. It is due to be launched later this year and is appealing for volunteers.

NUS Black Students Campaign and Defend the Right to Protest will be joining the London Campaign Against Police and State Violence and others to organise against Operation Shield, a new scheme by the mayor that will encourage the Metropolitan Police to use collective punishment against “gang members”. It is set to be piloted in Haringey, Lambeth and Westminster. We encourage people to attend the related meeting on stop and search at Parliament on 17 March organised by StopWatch.

International links

Since returning to the US, Patrisse Cullors and Damon Turner have been performing in “Mouths of the Occupied” – giving voice to black people affected by state violence as part of #BlackFuturesMonth. This week they are also out on the streets again protesting the brutal police killing of Africa – Charley Robinet –  at point blank range on Skid Row in LA.

Rev Sekou is on the mend and was taking part last week in “Moral Monday” protests: national days of civil disobedience against racist policing and discrimination in the voting system, welfare and employment. Tef Poe also met activists when he visited London for BBC Hard Talk interview.

We are committed to broadening these international links, without losing sight of the issues on our own doorstep, and we hope to be able to organise further initiatives and coordinated actions in the near future. In the meantime, if there are events or actions you are organising or ideas you have please contact us at fergusonsolidarityuk@gmail.com.

Last but not least – we need to raise £1,000 to cover outstanding costs of the tour. Please help us to continue this work by making a donation. Click here to go to our secure payments page.

Once again, we thank all who have supported and participated in this tour, at home and abroad.

Long may our mutual links of solidarity continue. Black lives matter.

Ferguson Solidarity Tour initiating organisations

Defend the Right to Protest (@righttoprotest) was launched in response to violent police tactics, arrests and prosecutions of students in 2010. DTRTP is organised by arrested protesters, their families and supporters, with help from student unions, trade unions and other campaign groups. It campaigns against tactics and policies that criminalise dissent, organisers practical support for protesters arrested, bailed, facing charges or imprisoned and helps to build practical solidarity with others affected by police violence and abuses. Subscribe to our monthly news here.

NUS Black Students Campaign (@nusBSC) represents students of African, Asian, Arab and Caribbean descent, at a local and national level, on all issues affecting black students. The campaign focuses on equality in education, black representation, anti-racism and anti-fascism, as well as international peace and justice.

United Families & Friends Campaign (@UFFCampaign) was set up in 1997 by families who had lost loved ones at the hands of the state, to challenge the injustice in the system. It began as a network of black families because disproportionate numbers of black people were dying in police custody. It has now grown to a group that supports all families of victims of custodial deaths.

Find out more about supporting campaigns involved in the tour. 

Follow updates from the movement in the US using links below:

▶ BlackLivesMatter
▶ Hands Up United
▶ 
Ferguson Action
▶ 
This Is The Movement

Tef Poe brings #BlackLivesMatter message to Britain

tefpoe3

Tef Poe, the St Louis-based MC and organiser at the forefront of the protests in Missouri, visited Britain this week to raise awareness of the issues of police violence and racism at the heart of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

On Tuesday this week Tef met with representatives from the Ferguson Solidarity Tour, including Marcia Rigg, co-chair of the United Families & Friends Campaign, and Aji & Conrad Lewis, parents of Seni Lewis, who died aged 23 at police hands in September 2010.

Tef’s organisation Hands Up United has been deeply involved in the demonstrations in Ferguson following the death of Michael Brown. He described how the protest movement arose there and spread across the US.

Tef spoke of the chronic racism of the police in Ferguson and the continuing repression of black people in the area – including the disturbing case of Kimberlee Randle-King, found dead in a St Louis County police cell last September.

He listened to testimony from Marcia, Aji and Conrad about deaths in police custody in the UK. “This is not a local issue, or a national issue – it’s a global system of repression we’re fighting,” Tef said. “We need to draw on each other for solidarity – but also come up with a common strategy.”

 

Tour ends Thursday night with gig featuring real8 and Akala

Akala

The Ferguson Solidarity Tour draws to a close tomorrow (Thursday 5 February) with a special event at SOAS Students Union in central London. Los Angeles-based Damon Turner aka real8, who has represented the #BlackLivesMatter movement for the final dates of the tour, joins rapper and poet Akala for a night of music and discussion to help fund the tour.

Facebook event

The SOAS gig kicks off at 7pm at the union bar, Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0XG. Entrance is free but we’re asking for a suggested donation of £4. Proceeds will go towards the costs of the tour.

Patrisse Cullors has now returned to the US – but not before joining protesters against G4S to highlight the death of Jimmy Mubenga at the hands of private immigration guards. You can read coverage of her visit here:

We are appealing for supporters of the tour to join a solidarity delegation at the second inquest into the death of Habib Paps Ullah. It is currently taking place at the Coroner’s Service, 29 Windsor End, Beaconsfield, Bucks HP9 2JJ. There are more details on Facebook – contact us for details of transport from London.

Damon Turner aka real8 joins solidarity tour for final leg

Damon Turner aka real8

We are very pleased to announce that Damon Turner, aka real8 from GREEDY City, is joining the Ferguson Solidarity Tour for its final few dates. Damon will speak alongside Patrisse Cullors today in Edinburgh and Glasgow, before moving on to Oxford on Tuesday, Leeds on Wednesday, then returning to London for a special event at SOAS on Thursday.

Damon Turner is a cultural worker, freedom fighter, and hiphop artist. He is founder of the GREEDY City collective and an active member of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Damon uses his art to protest against racism, and has been on the front lines of the movement in Ferguson and Los Angeles.

We’d like to thank Patrisse Cullors for all her tireless work speaking to meetings up and down the country about #BlackLivesMatter and the issue of deaths in custody in the US. Unfortunately she has to fly home on Tuesday and won’t be able to make the final few dates on the tour. Reverend Sekou, whom Patrisse stepped in to replace at the last minute, is now out of hospital and and at home recovering.

Patrisse Cullors steps in to lead Ferguson Solidarity Tour

Patrisse Cullors

We are very sorry to announce that the Reverend Osagyefo Sekou was taken seriously ill yesterday and rushed to hospital, literally hours before he was due to board his plane to London for the Ferguson Solidarity Tour.

The organisers of the tour would like to thank the Reverend for the work he has put in and wish him a speedy recovery. We hope to bring him to the UK at a later date once he is back to full health.

We are indebted to Patrisse Cullors, who has very kindly agreed to fill in for Rev Sekou at extremely short notice. Patrisse is an artist, organiser and co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter who has been centrally involved in support and solidarity work for demonstrators in Ferguson and St Louis.

Patrisse will be arriving in the UK on Sunday in time for the Tottenham meeting. For today’s Brixton meeting we have lined up Ashley Yates, a Missouri-based activist involved in coordinating protests on the ground in Ferguson. She will be addressing the meeting via a Skype video link.

Patrisse says: “In the UK you have a black presence that is part of a colonial past and comprised of immigrants, in contrast to the blatant slave history in the US. You also have ‘colour’ that is more than just black in terms of the giant colonial past. But you still have systemic oppression, and state sanctioned violence plays a role in each of our contexts. We are in a historical moment where we can make great shifts inside and outside US borders to ensure that #BlackLivesMatter around the world.”

Today’s Luton meeting has, regrettably, been cancelled. There may be further minor changes to the schedule we had planned. We apologise again to all concerned – especially those in Luton and Brixton – for these last minute changes and express our gratitude to Patrisse, Ashley and Rev Sekou’s team for all their help over the last 24 hours.

UPDATE: Ferguson tour extended to Leeds, Oxford, Glasgow

The Ferguson Solidarity Tour featuring US civil rights activist Rev Sekou and justice campaigners from Britain has been extended by a few days to Wednesday 4 February. New meetings added include Glasgow, Edinburgh, Oxford and Leeds.

▶ full tour schedule

The tour now includes a meeting at the Houses of Parliament with Diane Abbott MP and Adrienne Kambana, widow of Jimmy Mubenga. It ends in Leeds for an event hosted by the David Oluwale Association. In 1971 two police officers were cleared of David Oluwale’s manslaughter, but imprisoned for assaulting him: the first and last time that police officers in this country have been successfully prosecuted in relation to a death in custody.

We have also produced a press release about the tour – please download and distribute: [PDF]