Will actions such as this address black deaths in police custody?

On Thursday, 4 August, 29 year-old Mark Duggan was shot dead by police as they attempted to arrest him in Tottenham whilst he was in a minicab. Following a peaceful demonstration by his family and supporters violence erupted as youths torched buildings and looted shops. The key question which must be asked however is will this riot and has this riot addressed black deaths in police custody?

Twenty-nine year old Mark Duggan was killed in Ferry Lane, Tottenham Hale by police officers working for Operation Trident which investigates gun crime in the black community. Three shots were fired and one bullet was found lodged in a police radio.

According to a BBC report (Mark Duggan shooting: Bullets results ‘within 24 hours‘: 8 August 2011) the Independent Police Complaint Commission (IPCC) has refused to comment on a Guardian article (Doubts emerge over Duggan shooting as London burns: Sandra Laville, Paul Lewis, Vikram Dodd and Caroline Davies: August 2011) claiming that the bullet found lodged in the police radio was from a police gun, not Duggan’s.

According to a Guardian report (Mark Duggan handgun tests show conversion into lethal weapon: Sandra Laville: 8 August) Duggan was carrying a handgun, but a C019 firearms officer who was at the secene told Sky News that he never claimed that Duggan had shot at him.

The contradicting evidence and lack of communication from the police to the Duggan family led to the peaceful demonstration for the truth.

Duggan’s fiancee admitted that he was known to the police but denied that he was ever in prison. She also denied he was a gangster as portrayed in the media but said “If he did have a gun – which I don’t know – Mark would run. Mark is a runner. He would run rather than firing and that’s coming from the bottom of my heart.” This suggests that she was aware of his criminal activities. The Guardian (Mark Duggan: profile of Tottenham police shooting victim: 8 August 2011) says that Duggan wore a t-shirt with the words ‘Star Gang’ across the front on his face-book page. The Guardian also says that The Voice newspaper linked Duggan to the Star Gang in north London which had been responsible for at least three deaths in the past few years.

The argument here is not whether Duggan was the criminal portrayed by sections of the media, it is his suspicious death at the hands of police which is a common oocurance within the black community. In my article Black deaths in police custody: We should never forget I covered the suspicious deaths of British reggae singer Smiley Culture real name David Emmanuel after a police raid of his home and the death of Kingsley Burrell Brown in police custody.

The statistics from the IPCC’s own report titled, “Deaths in or following police custody: An examination of the cases 1998/99 – 2008/09” is disturbing. It was found that 68% of people who died in police custody were arrested for non violent offences. There was a breach of police procedure in 27% of cases and that people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds were more likely to be restrained whilst in police custody than whites.

Zephaniah Samuels (IPCC report highlights need for action over deaths in police custody: 3 December 2010: Black Mental Health UK) said, “This report shows that over one-third of cases in which a Black detainee died occurred in circumstances in which police actions may have been a factor, this rises to almost one-half if the cases of accidental death where the police were present compared with only 4% of cases where the detainee was White.”

Black lives are in danger when it comes to police arrests and this is a series issue which needs to be addressed but was not addressed by the looting youths who went on a rampage for what appears to be their own selfish consumerist needs rather than the subject raised by the Duggan family and other black lives that has been lost in police custody.

Rioting youths in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham and Bristol looted Debenham stores and other shops on the high street. Tesco was looted in Bethnal Green. In Croydon, south London a big fire consumed Reeves furniture store. A bus was set alight in Peckham. A bakery was also set alight. Children as young as 14 were seen by local people looting local shops.

None of this has anything to do with black deaths in police custody, nor will these actions address black deaths in police custody. The mainstream media will focus on the violence and looting and by the time all this dies down the message will have been lost to the public.

All those involved in the looting arson has let down the Duggan family and the countless number of black people who have died in police custody.

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