|Picture from UFFC March, October 29th 2001 by Dee Constantine-Simms|
Families and young children kettled by TSG officers
Hundreds of peaceful demonstrators many of whom have personally lost a loved one in custody found themselves surrounded by streams of special Territorial Support Group (TSG) officers on Saturday’s annual march against deaths in custody.
Parents some with babies and young children, whose lives have been touched by the issue of deaths in custody were caught up in the fracas.
‘The disregard for so many vulnerable people in the police’s treatment of those protesting has done nothing but reinforce the perception that the community are not safe at the hands of those who are paid to protect us,’ organisers of Saturday’s protest told Black Mental Health UK.
‘To see so many officers swoop down on such a small group of peaceful protestors with such military precision in what seemed like a matter of seconds turns one heart cold.
From the outset officers had seen that there were many families who had young children with prams among this group, as well as pensioners with walking sticks so it beggars belief to see them behave in such a way,’ an unamed protestor who lost their best friend in police custody just 12 months ago told BMH UK.
Pensioner dragged across Whitehall
The arrest of one peaceful protestor who a team of TSG officers just pulled out from the assembly, but was released hours later without charge, is an indication of the intimidation protestors faced on the day.
During the terrifying incident protestors, saw pensioner and mother of Ricky Bishop Being dragged across the floor at Whitehall by uniformed officers.
This incident which has left many in shaken and in a state of shock has again raised questions over the way the UK’s African Caribbean communities are policed.
The heavy handed approach used against the peaceful assembly has left many with the perception that this incident was meant to inflame rather than diffuse this very sensitive issue.
‘Knowing that the majority of people gathered at this protest have lost loved ones at the hands of the police makes the way people at this peaceful assembly were treated today even more reprehensible,’ organisers of the march the United Friends and Families Campaign said.
Striking terror into the heart of peacful protestors
‘When people are calling for reform of the police and other institutions and then to see waves of officers descending upon you without warning and for what appears to be no apparent reason, not strikes terror into your heart, but also sends out a message that the state is trying to silence the voices speaking out against these injustices,’ a member of the Saturday’s protest told BMH UK.
Commentators who were at this event say that the heavy handed approach applied to the gathering of grieving families, including relatives of Mark Duggan and Demetre Fraser who only weeks earlier have had to bury their loved ones who died after contact with the police is an indication of a very dangerous element that was allowed to determine the way the peaceful protestors are treated when speaking out against the injustices of the state.
Attempt to slience by intimidation?
Many left Saturday’s march to end deaths in custody, traumatised after TSG kettling of families and young children who had gathered for the peaceful protest on Saturday.
‘Never in one’s wildest dreams does one expect to see oneself surrounded by rows of so many menacing looking officers, so there is no way of escape, when you are completely innocent of any crime.
The level of intimidation this created coupled with the knowledge of the deaths that have occurred at the hands of the police, in this year alone send out a painful and disturbing message, not only about what policing has now become in the UK, but also the state of civil liberties of a nation previously viewed as a bastion of human rights and civil liberties,’ another protestor said.
‘Our treatment, while traumatic and completely unjust, has clarified even more why we must continue to campaign against deaths in custody and also police brutality. Saturdays incident has made it clear that there is a need to continue this struggle,’ a member of the Justice for Sean Rigg Campaign told BMH UK.
Organisers of Saturday’s 13th UFFC annual march against deaths in custody have indicated that they plan to make an official complaint about how this incident handled, raising particular concern over the way the presence of so many TSO officers inflamed what, for the past 12 years has been always been nothing more than a peaceful protest calling for an end to deaths in custody.
First published at: www.blackmentalhealth.org.uk