THE NEW WORKER

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 4th August 2017


Black deaths fire anger against police

MORE THAN 100 people gathered in the rain outside Stoke Newington police station in north-east London last Saturday to call for justice after the deaths of two local young black men, Rashan Charles and Edson Da Costa, at the hands of the police.

Rashan Charles had been arrested in a shop on suspicion of drug offences. A police officer had wrestled him to the ground and pinned him there where he became unconscious; the officer was aided by a heavy member of the public who sat on Rashan. Rashan was taken to hospital but died there later. Police claim he had tried to swallow something and had choked. The whole event was caught on CCTV.

Edson Da Costa died on 21st June, six days after being detained by police during a traffic stop in Beckton. No cause of death has yet been established for the young father.

Both deaths are now being investigated by the ‘Independent’ Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which mean police will give no information about either until the inquiries are complete.

On Friday evening angry supporters of the Black Lives Matter campaign and Stand up to Racism had joined in a protest that ended in a riot in nearby Dalston.

Videos on social media showed police officers walking backwards as objects were thrown at them. Several wheelie bins were set alight and mattresses thrown on top of the burning pile. Shop windows were also smashed, littering the streets with glass, with those involved described by an eyewitness as “very, very angry”.

Two people were injured and one arrested after demonstrators blocked off Kingsland Road.

Saturday’s event outside Stoke Newington police station was calmer as the bereaved families called for a peaceful protest. Speakers included Diane Abbott, the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, as well as the bereaved parents.

Stafford Scott, coordinator of the Tottenham Rights group, which has campaigned against oppressive policing in the area since the Broadwater Farm riot of 1985, called for peace. He insisted: “We understand your anger. We understand your frustration. Don’t feel that the family don’t feel the frustration and the anger too.

“Burning down your own homes, burning down your neighbourhood, is not going to give you justice.”

He said that black people’s deaths were not afforded the same treatment on the news as those of white people: “We have our children killed in front of video cameras, in front of our faces, we get no empathy.”

He said the family had legal support and asked the community to be “dignified when they expect us to be wild. Challenge the stereotypes. Don’t let outside agitators tell you what to do.”

Rashan’s father, Esa Charles, and Edson Da Costa’s father, Ginario, were also there to speak. Esa Charles made a fresh plea for “peace on the streets” and Ginario da Costa told the crowd: “First of all, our condolences to Rashan’s family. We know what they are going through because my son has suffered at the hands of the police and also like Rashan he’s no longer with us today.”

Diane Abbott said: “I have been in contact with the police from the beginning but I thought it important to come here today to publicly show my support as a member of the community, as a mother, and as your Member of Parliament.

“I agree with what Stafford has said about the importance of peace on the streets. Violence is not the answer.

“But I am here to assure the parents and assure the community that I will stand by the parents in their search for the truth. Most of us will have seen the video and there are questions to be answered. I will not rest until those questions are answered.”

Islington Labour councillor Rakhia Islmail pressed for an inquiry to be launched into why black men were continuing to die without the apparent censuring of the police officers involved. “Young black people are dying for no reason and we need to know why these young men are dying,” she said.

Weyman Bennett from Stand Up To Racism said: “The police are meant to be trained to carry out safe restraint. But the Charles and Da Costa cases show something is going badly wrong.”

Meanwhile official figures released last Tuesday show that the Metropolitan Police Force is using force disproportionately against black people.

Black people account for 13 per cent of London’s population but were on receiving end of 36 per cent of uses of force by police officers in three months to June.