SEKOU SPEAKS: Ferguson Solidarity Tour comes to the UK

The Reverend Osagyefo Sekou – a leading organiser of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, to demand justice for Michael Brown – will be visiting the UK in January for a solidarity tour. He will speak alongside Carole Duggan, Marcia Rigg, Janet Alder and other campaigners and activists around the issue of deaths in custody.

We hope this tour will help amplify solidarity for families and protesters in Ferguson and across the US. We also want to renew support for those here in Britain who have suffered injustice at the hands of the state and are fighting to end the culture of impunity that protects the police.

Rev Sekou will be in Britain from 23 to 30 January 2015. The tour will cover Brixton, Tottenham, Birmingham, Manchester, Brighton and other cities. We will publish more details on this site as they become available. See below for statements from campaigners in support of the tour, from Marcia Rigg, Carole Duggan and the Reverend Sekou, together with our launch statement and a biography of Rev Sekou.

fergusonheader

The Ferguson Solidarity Tour has been initiated by: Defend the Right to Protest, United Families & Friends Campaign, NUS Black Students Campaign. Supporters include: Justice for Mark Duggan, Justice for Leon Briggs, Sean Rigg Justice & Change Campaign, Justice for Christopher Alder, Justice for Kingsley Burrell Brown, Justice for Thomas Orchard, Julian Webster Campaign, Birmingham Strong Justice 4 AllFriends of Mikey Powell, INQUEST, RMT Black Solidarity Committee, 4WardEverUK, Youth Project Moss Side, GBC Manchester, Black and Ethnic Minorities Association, rs21, UCLU BME Students Network, HysteriaKCL Intersectional Feminist Society, KCL African & Caribbean Society, KCL Action Palestine, KCL Ethnic Minority Association,BARAC, I Too Am Sussex, School of Global Studies – Sussex University and others tba.

We are keen to work with other campaigns, trade unions and activists in organising and funding the tour – get in touch to get involved. You can email us at fergusonsolidarityUK@gmail.com

About Reverend Sekou

The Reverend Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou is an organiser, author, film maker, pastor and member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation — the oldest interfaith peace organisation in the US.

A graduate of Soldan High School in St Louis, Missouri, Sekou has deep ties to the region around Ferguson. He experienced racism and violation by police when growing up there, and has written about his experiences.

Sekou has spent the past three months in Ferguson participating in the protests to demand justice for Michael Brown. He has helped train over 800 activists in nonviolent civil disobedience techniques, and has been arrested twice for acts of civil disobedience on protests.

Rev Sekou is currently scholar in residence at Stanford University’s King Institute. His record of protesting against police racism ranges from organising protests over the police beating of Rodney King to visiting Britain in the wake of Mark Duggan’s death at police hands. He is active on wide range of related social justice issues, including Palestinian rights, climate change, homophobia and sexism.

Quotes from Rev Sekou

Eric Garner matters, St Louis American, 10 December 2014:

Black lives matter. Black lives should have mattered before they were gunned down or choked to death, both to the officers charged with protecting and serving them and to a judicial system that has exposed itself as involved in a deadly chokehold of its own.

Riot as the language of the unheard, Democracy Now!, 25 November 2014:

I went to high school here. I remember being told by my mother and my sister not to go through Ferguson. I remember police sticking their hands in our underwear, accusing us of being drug dealers. And the rage that we have seen today is a reflection of the alienation that young people feel.

The clergy’s place is with the protesters, Al Jazeera, 23 November 2014:

We are called to be protesters — at once outraged and disciplined. By placing our bodies on the cross of a militarized police, deep infrastructural racial bias and a system that profits from human misery, a new way of being and seeing America and all its promise is being born.

There will be at least one riot, Huffington Post, 10 July 2013:

Riots initiated by people of colour in Western societies are typified by three factors: young alienated ethnic community, a history of police brutality, and a biased criminal justice system in which othered bodies do not receive fair treatment. Riots are a response to the unrequited ideals of their nation.

See also:

Statements from family campaigners

Marcia Rigg, Sean Rigg Justice & Change Campaign:

Marcia Rigg“The fight for truth and justice for the family of Michael Brown and the community in Ferguson is not just their struggle. It is a collective struggle with families and communities around the world over deaths in custody and at the hands of the police. No family should ever have to face our fight: an injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Keep on fighting on in peace and solidarity: Ferguson, you are not alone.”

Carole Duggan, Justice for Mark Duggan:

Carole Duggan“Michael Brown’s death mirrors that of Mark: Mark had his hands up when he was murdered by police. The media waged a systematic smear campaign against Mark in the wake of his death. Mark no longer has a voice so it is up to his family, community and friends to tell the world who he really was and what really happened to him. We are now challenging the practice of police conferring with each other and challenging the perverse inquest verdict into Mark’s death. Justice is not given freely to our people – we have to fight for everything we get.”

Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennett, chair of UFFC:

Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennett“The United Families & Friends Campaign (UFFC) is a coalition of families in Britain whose loved ones have died at the hands of state officials. We have been fighting for justice, change and accountability for over 15 years. No state official has ever been convicted in Britain.  We sincerely welcome Rev Sekou to join us in unity here in Britain. We join in solidarity with the people of Ferguson, New York and across the United States to protest together peacefully.”

Reverend Osagyefo Sekou:

Rev Osagyefo Sekou“From Tottenham to Ferguson it seems that black lives do not matter. Nevertheless we are in a historic moment where young people of colour refuse to bow down. Ferguson, like the London rebellions of 2011, is part of a global uprising against all forms of tyranny – and global democracy is better for it. I am returning to Britain having spent time with the indomitable people of Broadwater Farm, writing their story and sharing their pain. It was my time in Tottenham that affirmed my commitment to ending police brutality.”

Jo Orchard, sister of Thomas Orchard 

JoOrchard_thumb“I look at the uprising in Ferguson and see a community standing in great numbers against the injustice of police brutality and the deaths that are its tragic consequence. People are being killed by the police here in the UK too: my younger brother Thomas being one of them. The officers responsible for these deaths are not being held to account. But I feel hope and pride that people are standing up for what is right, even if they are not directly affected. A corrupt system can only change when those who are not affected become as outraged as those who are.”

 Janet Alder, Justice for Christopher Alder campaign:

JanetAlder_thumb“The Justice for Christopher Alder campaign stands shoulder to shoulder with the families of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and all those killed by the police in the US. Christopher Alder died an Inhumane and agonising death at the feet of five police officers. In both Britain and the US, black men die at the hands of the police in disproportionate numbers. This is a concern for both black and white — cases of white deaths are treated in the same way. We must stand in unity and stop the acceptance of police brutality.”

Kadisha Brown-Burrell, sister of Kingsley Burrell:

kadisha_thumb“I am the sister of Kingsley Burrell who died in police custody in March 2011. We are miles from the truth some three and a half years later. Since Kingsley died I have been campaigning to highlight the injustice of investigations into deaths at the hands of the police. Kingsley’s inquest begins in April this year after numerous delays and issues with legal aid. All we want is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth: no justice, no peace.”

Liberty Louise, Justice for Leon Briggs

justice4Leon_thumb“For those that know the injustice that continues to prevail: We cannot turn away from our brothers and sisters. We know how corrupt and inhumane the system is in its treatment of our people and its disregard to families seeking. We stand with those in Ferguson and will continue to fight for justice for all, until our demands are heard and acted upon. We stand – and forward we move together.”

4WardEver UK and the Mikey Powell Campaign

MikeyPowell_thumb“The decision of the grand jury in the Michael Brown case comes as no surprise to us. It came on the anniversary of Sean Bell’s death in 2006 when New York police fired 50 bullets into the car he was travelling in on his stag night. There were calls for and promises of reform then, yet we are still seeing this pattern of killings, largely of African-American men, across the US. President Barack Obama has admitted that “there are still issues of race and inequality” in the US and promised to address them. Campaigners in the US and worldwide should hold him to that promise.”

[thanks to Peter Marshall and Steve Eason for pictures]

Ferguson Solidarity Tour launch statement

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.”