Sacramento update

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Sacramentan’s welcomed families from the UK to a rally outside their state Capitol building today. Protestors from across the state had been camping outside the Capitol in order to place pressure on Governor Jerry Brown to sign AB 953, a piece of legislation that forces law enforcement to record stops, including information on race and gender. Yesterday Governor Brown signed this legislation into law, giving campaigners a victory to celebrate with the #CaravanForJustice.

‘Folks from the UK are part of my family now, we always say it’s not a family you want to be in, but welcome,’ said Christina Arechiga. Her cousin Ernest Duenez was horrifically shot dead by police officers and she has been a campaigner for justice ever since. Their family took the difficult decision to make the video of Ernest being killed public in order to share his story. After hearing stories that family representatives on the #CaravanForJustice had to tell a collective recognition of the common fight for justice against state brutality began to come into focus. Christina continued, ‘we will not forget the stories you’ve told we will tell them along with our stories, you’re making our fight stronger.’

Marcia Rigg and Kadisha Brown-Burrell both highlighted the strong failings around mental health that led to their brothers’ deaths. Elizabeth Henning-Adam drew on this same concern in sharing the case of her son Bobby Henning, murdered execution style by police during a mental health episode.

She noted about all killings ‘I don’t care if you robbed something. I don’t care if you were drunk in the street. I don’t care if you were high. I don’t care if you were mentally ill. I don’t care what the reasons are, there is no reason to shoot and kill unarmed people in the USA or anywhere in the world. There is no excuse for that.’

We are learning that activists in the US have built a close community of solidarity and support, allowing space to share experiences of police brutality. This trip not only allows us to hear of their struggles, but has shown people in the US how far the issue of state violence extends.

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment were partners for this rally

Oakland Update

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Representatives from UK justice campaigns today participated in a rally for truth and reinvestment in Oakland’s Oscar Grant plaza. They joined US activists from the Ella Baker Centre, American Civil Liberties Union, Anti Police Terror Project and the #BlackLivesMatter Bay Area chapter. Director of Truth and Reinvestment at the Ella Baker Centre, Patrisse Cullors introduced the #CaravanForJustice project, highlighting its demands and practical calls to action.

Historically communities have faced deinvestment in their vital health, educational and social resources whilst public and private funding for punitive aspects of the state increase. This includes the increased militarisation of police departments and the building of more and more carceral facilities. The call for reinvestment demands that funds be diverted from these damaging institutions towards those institutions vital to the life of the community.

We do not need police in order to run our communities. Methods of restorative justice and repair in our communities can be a powerful alternative.

Oakland’s residents take control of their public spaces by lending them names of social significance. The square outside the city’s town hall was dubbed and is now popularly known as Oscar Grant Plaza, in memory of the young man shot dead by a police officer at Fruitvale BART Station on New Years Day 2009. Oscar’s uncle Cephus ‘Uncle Bobby’ Johnson closed up the rally with powerful condemnation of the culture of state violence that took his nephew’s life. But Uncle Bobby also spoke of their victory in having the state bring a prosecution against the officer that shot Oscar that night – a first in California’s history.

Activists were also able to celebrate the victory of having California’s Governor Brown bow to pressure to sign AB-953 into law. The legislation forces police departments in the state to record all stops they perform, including data on race and gender. This followed campaigning from activists across the state, with many personally phoning the Governor’s office to show their support for the bill.

Much of the discussion at the rally focused on further practical action community members could undertake. A representative from the #BlackLivesMatter Bay Area chapter highlighted the role of the ‘Shut Shit Down’ tactic in forcing greater focus and attention on racialized state violence. The Bay Area chapter were also responsible for starting a series of ‘wake-up calls’ to public representatives across the United States after they ushered in Martin Luther King day with a 5AM wake up call outside the house of their mayor.

Going forward those attending the rally were encouraged to download the ACLU’s MobileJustice CA application – which allows recording of law enforcement personnel to be sent directly to the ACLU – and to spread this amongst their communities in order to normalise the practice and take control back from police.

UK activists had shared the stories of their struggles to gain justice for loved ones killed at the hands of the police and were invited to dinner with Uncle Bobby and ACLU organisers to continue the conversation.

#CaravanForJustice

The #CaravanForJustice will mobilize low-income communities of color against law enforcement violence, train them in how to respond when incidents of brutality occur, and highlight the stories and strength of victims and survivors of state violence. To create prosperous, thriving communities, we must acknowledge how our countries’ long history of criminalizing and incarcerating communities of color has led us to this state of emergency, and reinvest in opportunities for those very communities.

Need for Rapid Response to Law Enforcement Violence:

  • We are in a state of emergency right now with law enforcement violence increasing at an alarming rate against black and brown communities. In the past year, 729 people have been killed by US police and 27 were black and unarmed.
  • Every 28 hours, a black person is killed by law enforcement, security guards, and vigilantes.
  • Justice Teams will be local rapid response networks, building infrastructure to support victims and survivors of law enforcement violence, and teaching communities how to effectively respond when police brutality occurs.
  • There are efforts to combat police violence at the policy level, such as body camera legislation and policies aimed at demilitarizing police. However, communities need to be empowered to take action themselves when state violence occurs.
  • People who have been directly impacted by law enforcement violence should feel equipped with the knowledge and power to make demands, lead campaigns, and take action to prevent police brutality in their communities.
  • When police violence occurs in communities, too often, the response of law enforcement is to send in the National Guard or further militarize the police. We need to equip communities to respond and demand support for the people who have suffered abuse at the hands of law enforcement.

Global Issue and Cross-Racial Issue:

  • Police violence impacts communities across the globe and must not be seen as a disparate issue from country to country. While the details of each instance of brutality may differ, the common themes remain the same: people in power demonize already vulnerable community members to justify their unlawful use of force.
  • The similarities between the stories of Mark Duggan, Sean Rigg, Leon Patterson, and Kingley Burrell and those of Mike Brown, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, and too many other victims of law enforcement violence in the U.S. make clear that this is a global problem.
  • Across the world, police criminalize poverty and those with mental health problems—we must change this punishment first approach to every social problem.
  • Victims and survivors of state violence must connect with each other to learn how to respond effectively and eradicate this problem.
  • Police violence is a multi-racial problem, and one that affects both black and brown communities, especially in California.
  • In California, 126 people have been killed by police this year, and 66 come from black and brown communities.

Truth and Reinvestment:

  • To eradicate state violence, both on the streets and inside of jails, we need to move resources away from policing and punishment and toward reinvestment in communities, especially low-income communities of color.
  • As we work to end mass incarceration and state violence, we must grapple with this country’s long history of organized violence and systemic oppression of people of color.
  • We cannot overcome racial injustices without an institutional examination of this country’s long history of racism and oppression, which has involved forced labor, segregation, disparate opportunity, and organized state violence against black and brown people.
  • We must acknowledge how the actions of racist institutions, both past and present, have led us to a society in which people of color are brutalized, criminalized, and incarcerated.
  • This punishment regime has penetrated every aspect of society – from our communities and schools where children first come into contact with police, to hospitals where women are being drug tested and arrested in the delivery room, to the barriers to housing, employment, education, and civic engagement that formerly incarcerated people must face after they have finished serving their sentences.
  • It is time to break our addition to policing and punishment.
  • We must demand accountability for every stolen life while working to transform our society into one in which accountability is not synonymous with punishment. 

Community safety:

  • Policing has never been about public safety, it is rooted in social control.
  • To understand modern-day policing, we must understand the origins of police—going back to slave patrols where white men policed the lives of enslaved Africans. Their purpose was to instill fear in enslaved African populations by controlling their ability to move.
  • The problem is not one of spontaneous rage from individual officers, but rather a culture and training of law enforcement that further marginalizes, criminalizes, and dehumanizes communities that do not fit in the current model of power that exists in this country.
  • True community safety will be achieved by reinvesting resources in employment, healthcare, education, and restorative justice initiatives.

UK Families to join California #CaravanForJustice for “global conversation” on deaths in custody

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3-10th October https://www.facebook.com/events/950750004971268/
Follow updates on this website
Twitter #CaravanForJustice

Following on from the Ferguson Solidarity tour earlier this year, family members and campaigners are travelling to join #BlackLivesMatter activists in California for a #CaravanForJustice tour of the state in early October. Together they will meet with families whose loved ones have died as a result of police contact in the US in a bid to spark a “global conversation on deaths in custody”.

Those making the journey include Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennett whose twin brother Leon Patterson died after six days in custody in 1992, Marcia Rigg sister of Sean Rigg who died on the floor of Brixton police station 2008, Shaun Hall, Mark Duggan’s brother who was shot dead in 2011 and Kadisha Burrell Brown whose brother died the same year after being restrained for a prolonged period of time by police -a jury inquest earlier this year found police force and neglect contributed to Kingsley’s death. Campaigners from NUS Black Students and Defend the Right to Protest will also be joining the solidarity tour.

By participating in this justice tour, families from the UK hope to draw links between racial injustice in the US and their own personal losses of loved ones in custody. Not only are their many similarities between killings on both sides of the Atlantic but campaigners feel the importance of remedying this epidemic at an international level.

1518 people have died in custody in England and Wales since 1990, yet not a single officer involved has been convicted. The Black and Minority Ethnic community account for 152 of these deaths and represent a disproportionate number of cases considered controversial or involving the use of force.

An IPCC report earlier this year showed a big increase in police custody deaths from 11 in 2013/14 to 17 2014/15.

Patrisse Cullors a co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter and Campaign Director at the Ella Baker centre which is organising the tour said: “Britain has done a great job painting itself as the humanitarian, with the U.S. being the torturer. But that is not true. We have Mike Brown, no justice. We have Eric Garner, no justice. Here we see the same: Mark Duggan, Sean Rigg. The list is vast.”

Patrisse will also be travelling to the UK for the United Families and Friends annual memorial procession on 31st October. We encourage everyone to join the march this year to join families in their demand for truth, justice and accountability.

Full details on the facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/767259753384723/

“On the 04th August 2011 in Ferry Lane Estate Tottenham, my brother ShaunHallMark Duggan was horrifically shot dead by the police, they later set out to smear and explain their actions by claiming with no proof whatsoever that Mark was indeed one of the most dangerous gangsters in Europe! We move forward determined to find justice and aim to let the authorities know that there will be no peace without justice. We aim to share our experiences as well as learn the experience of others both sides of the Atlantic.” Shaun Hall, brother of Mark Wayne Duggan

MarciRigg CREDIT Peter MarshallDeaths and violence in state custody is a public outcry both in the US and in the UK. As Dr Martin Luther King Jr said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It is therefore vital for families like mine to join in solidarity with others, to share experiences and discuss strategies that can bring about change on both sides of the Atlantic.” Marcia Rigg, sister of Sean Rigg
 
“United families and friends was set up to fight for justice, change and StephaniLightFootBennettaccountability. Of 4800 deaths in custody since 1968, no state official has ever been convicted. From the UK to the US we are joining together to ensure that families voices will be heard.” Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennett, sister of Leon Patterson

Kadisah and brother Kingsley Burrell Brown“I am travelling to the US to join the justice tour against police brutality to start to build an international alliance to address this horrific issue. My brother Kingsley Burrell died at the hands of the police after calling for their help. The alarming use of lethal and indiscriminate force by police dealing with black ethnic minorities is something that seems to be emulated by state officials here in the UK as well as the US and I want to unite with others to stop this injustice.” Kadisha Brown-Burrell, sister of Kingsley Burrell
 

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

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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.”