Monday, 31 October 2011

Outrage at deaths in custody march kettled by TSG police - by BMH UK

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:

Mayor's Mentors Scheme - Meeting on 3rd November

Picture from 

City Hall Public Meeting of the Mayors Mentors Scheme
"Time for Action"
03 November · 14:00 - 17:00
Venue: Committee Room 5, City Hall, The Queen's Walk, London, SE1 2AA. View directions
The Time for Action Panel’s question and answer session with
Cllr Steve Reed London␣Council Executive Member for Children’s Services and Skills and Employment;
Lizzie Noel Mayor’s Adviser Social␣Action and Volunteering;
Roger Hadwen Senior␣Policy and Project Officer Community Safety and Ray Lewis Mayor’s Champion for Mentoring.
Please spread the word and attend this important event. This is about our young people's future.
This is the link to the reports from the City Hall Meetings - 'Time for Action' panel:
For background please read:
White Mentoring program for Black boys - by Lee Jasper 
The Mayor, The University and the Mentors - A Tale of Woe - by Paul Lawrence

The Mayor, The University and the Mentors - A Tale of Woe - by Paul Lawrence

Last year summer I reluctantly attended a public meeting held in City Hall by Boris Johnson and his team. The meeting were meant (or so I was told) as an information/consultation meeting to gauge the black communities feelings towards the Mayor’s proposed mentoring program.

The programs remit was clear. 1000 Black men to mentor 1000 black boys. Seven London Boroughs were chosen by virtue of their black crime statistics. Funding of £1.4m was secured and the Mayor claimed he wanted this to be a community led program. He claimed he and his team understood the need for experienced trusted organisations to lead and deliver the program. I know this because I, among others asked the question repeatedly and that was the answer given.

I remember clearly during one such City Hall meeting several brothers expressed deep concerns about working with City Hall and sadly I defending City Hall, by saying that irrespective of their past behaviour toward Blacks in London and irrespective of whether this was purely a political move by Boris to curry favour with the black community (after all he has done nothing else for us) we as black men should seize the opportunity take their money and make a change in our community. For ALL our communities.

So, can anyone explain to me how The University of East London, London Action Trust and some unknown group called Ethos ended up been awarded the program? It is reported that the actual winners of the Mayors selection process, a black consortium containing without questions London’s finest black mentoring organisation and training organisation, were not awarded the contract because they ‘failed on the financial due diligence’ ……….. Well, all the companies in the black consortium continue to trade, but London Action Trust I understand have gone bust and Ethos have disappeared back to the land of nod. Leaving UEL to scrounge around for community partners.

City Hall claim 2100 mentors (note the words black and men have disappeared) have signed up for the program. A program which they would have us believe is on schedule to deliver 1,000 relationships. Now they began in July, that’s 4 months ago and yet only 21 relationships started. I am pretty good at maths so you can trust the following figures. If for every four-month period they double the amount of mentors working it will take them almost 2 years to get to their 1000 target and at least a year more for the last relationship to end. And this figure does not take into account the dropouts. Do you think UEL knows this? Speed of take up of such a program requires thing UEL just does not have, community credibility and community access. Not their fault, just the facts.

Now since the Mayor and his team were warned could we say this was purely as an incompetent selection process, that they had no one better to choose from or is there something else going on?

An emerging viewpoint among the better informed than I, is that this program was never meant to work. Yep you read right. The collapse of London Action Trust was the first sign. City Hall employers are said to have close links to LAT so surely they knew of the state of the organisation. Next the fact that UEL came third…..not second, third, after the interviews, so why choose them, if as you say you want the program to work?

If I didn’t know better I would say UEL were handed a poison chalice. If they fail it is their failure, if they succeed then our Boy Boris has a huge public success on his record.
But let’s drill a little further on this “they never wanted it to work” theory. The white middle classes have been feed a constant diet of tripe pointing all social ills to black kids, our boys in particular. An effective mentoring program targeting 1000 boys would make a huge difference. I suspect Boris and crew don’t what that difference to happen. Why?

Let me tell you why and even I can’t believe I am typing this.
a)    If black boys cleanup their act city hall and UK politicians will have to face the truth, Which is that the UK underclass are the true source of the UKs issue and they my friends are from all races, poor uneducated and living with out hope or opportunity

b)   The huge industry which feeds off our boys would collapse. The prison service, security firms, probation officers, CCTV etc. All scaled back or now focussed on white kids

c)    The Daily Mail having to find some one else to blame for every ill in the UK.

Guys I hope I am wrong, but understand that if I am, then it means that the City Hall selection team are grossly incompetent and merely choose the wrong team and then I must ask, could anyone be that dumb?
Watch this space. This does not end here. Next year is an election year and already Boris is listing this program as one of his successes (yes, I did visit his re-election page).

If you are white, reading this and wondering what this has to do with you, then perhaps you too should be concerned, as YOUR money has just been wasted too. This is not a black issue. Remember what David Starky said, your innocent white kids are corrupted by these black kids, so fixing them is in your interest too. LOL

Paul Lawrence
(Originally published at:!/notes/paul-lawrence/the-mayor-the-university-and-the-mentors-a-tale-of-woe/10150344200282607)

Paul Lawrence
Paul lawrence

City Hall Public Meeting of the Mayors Mentors Scheme "Time for Action"
03 November · 14:00 - 17:00
Venue: Committee Room 5, City Hall, The Queen's Walk, London, SE1 2AA. View directions
The Time for Action Panel’s question␣and answer session with
Cllr Steve␣Reed London␣Council Executive Member for Children’s␣
Services␣and Skills and Employment;
Lizzie Noel Mayor’s Adviser␣ Social␣Action and Volunteering;␣
Roger Hadwen Senior␣Policy and Project Officer Community Safety and Ray Lewis Mayor’s Champion for Mentoring.
Please spread the word and attend this important event. This is about our young people's future.
Lee Jasper.

UFFC March: A stewards perspective

Police provocations at peaceful march against deaths in custody

The march went from Trafalgar Square to Downing Street via the South side of Whitehall, blocking the traffic on that side. There was still traffic driving through the North side. For the speeches we stopped on the South side in front of Downing Street. The police had formed a cordon to protect demonstrators from the traffic that kept flowing on the North side. Even though demonstrators were peaceful and trying to listen to the speeches, a police helicopter remained above for some time. Also during the speeches, the inspector in charge of this cordon ordered his constables to make an unnecessary step forward. Close to the end of the speeches, during the reading of the letter from the families to the Prime Minister, the inspector in charge showed his lack of respect by ordering his constables to make another unnecessary step forward slightly pushing people just when demands about how to improve policing to reduce deaths in custody were read out.
When representatives of the families went to the gate of Downing Street to symbolically attach a letter to the gate (as no one inside Downing Street is willing to accept their letter - as had already happened the previous year) police reinforcements arrived. Many of the other demonstrators than family members of those who died in custody had remained on the South side of Whitehall. Eventually most people went back to the opposite side of the road, and moved the pavement so that Whitehall could be completely re-opened to the traffic. When many more police reinforcements arrived outside the gates for no apparent reason, the many demonstrators who were by now on the pavement on the South side became obviously concerned and crossed Whitehall to support the families. More officers arrived and started to push people back towards the South side. Demonstrators sat on the road to peacefully prevent this further police provocation. Officers then started a kettle. Eventually everyone regrouped on the pavement; everyone except one man who had been arrested (and eventually released alive without charge from Marylebone police station -which custody suite had been opened just for the occasion- later in the evening).
The coalition is building a network for collective action to end deaths in custody and believes:
  • That failure of State officials to ensure the basic right to life is made worse by the failure of the State to prosecute those responsible for custody deaths.
  • That failure to prosecute those responsible for deaths in custody sends the message that the State can act with impunity.
It has a list of eight practical demands:
  1. Replacement of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to ensure open robust transparent and thorough investigations into police deaths in custody by a ‘truly’ independent body from the very outset of the death.
  2. Officers and officials directly involved in custody deaths be suspended until investigations are completed.
  3. Immediate interviewing of officers and all officials concerned with the death.
  4. Officers and officials should never be allowed to ‘collude’ over their evidence and statements of fact.
  5. Full disclosure of information to the families.
  6. Prosecutions should automatically follow ‘unlawful killing’ verdicts at Inquests and officers responsible for those deaths should face criminal charges, even if retired.
  7. Implementation of police body cameras and cameras in all police vehicles in the interests of both the officers and the public.
  8. The end of means testing of families for legal aid. There is a lack of funds for family legal representation at Inquests whilst officers and NHS staff get full legal representation from the public purse – this is unbalanced.
March against deaths in custody - police reinforcements in front of Downing Street

March against deaths in custody - police opposite Downing Street

Footnote: See my earlier post, Deaths in custody, for links to reports and statistics on deaths in custody.
Update 2011-10-30 The letter to David Cameron from by Marcia Rigg and Samantha Rigg-David on behalf of UFFC dated 2011-10-08, as well as Crispin Blunt's letter dated 2010-12-08 are available on the Sean Rigg Justice and Change Campaign website as well as the UFFC press statement dated 2011-10-29.

Update 2011-10-30 Lee Jasper, head steward for the march, wrote United Friends and Family: Annual Deaths in Custody March Attacked by Police. (I was a volunteer steward, for the first time, at this march.)

Update 2011-10-30 Adam Elliott-Cooper wrote in Ceasefire Magazine Breaking News ‘Deaths in Custody’ March Attacked by Police.

Update 2011-10-30 Peter Marshall illustrated and wrote on Demotix Families Protest Deaths in British Police Custody.

(Originally published at

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Open letter from UFFC to the Prime Minister re: deaths in state custody

Telephone: 07770 432 439

By Fax & By Post – 020 7925 0918

And By Hand

The Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP
The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London                                                                                       FOR PUBLICATION
SW1A 2AA                         EMBARGOED UNTIL 6AM 29 OCTOBER 2011

28 October 2011

Dear Prime Minister

Deaths in State Custody

We write to you from the United Family and Friends Campaign (UFFC), the coalition of family campaigns who have lost loved ones as a result of violence or neglect of state officials charged within their care. These include the police, prison and immigration officers and NHS staff.

This Saturday, 29 October, will mark the UFFC’s 13th annual remembrance procession and we will march to Downing Street from Trafalgar Square. For the record, this is the 13th annual letter to the head of the government from UFFC since its inception in the late 90’s when it was formed to demand justice for those who have died in state custody in suspicious and controversial circumstances. On no occasion has the government engaged in a process of meaningful dialogue following the delivery of the letters.

Please see attached Press Statement from some members of the families.

It is widely accepted that the spark of this summers disturbances was because of the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan by police in Tottenham. This was in culmination of a number of high profile deaths including that of David Emmanuel, Demetre Fraser and Kingsley Burrell and all these deaths continue unabated. So has the anger. It is therefore now MOST URGENT if not imperative that you and your cabinet now put the issue of deaths in custody as a priority on your political agenda and be seen to be doing as such.

In the last year it has become clear in a number of cases that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) are not independent of the police. In February 2010, your Home Affairs Select Committee’s Inquiry by the Rt. Hon Keith Vaz MP found that the work of the IPCC failed to inspire public confidence in their handling of complaints against the police.  Not surprisingly, amongst other things, this is due to its employment of ex-police officers and biased assertions by the IPCC that the police can do no wrong.  Repeated recommendations made by them are repeatedly not acted upon.   The IPCC are therefore no longer fit for purpose.

In Crispin Blunt MP’s (unhelpful) letter of 8 December 2010 (copy enclosed) in reply to our letter to you of 30 October 2010, he claims that “all deaths are deeply regretted". What “deep regret” does Blunt and/or the government really have towards families of those killed by the state?  Families waiting years for inquests into their loved ones death does not show regret.  Families being perpetually lied to does not show regret.  Officers not made accountable for wrongful doing and deceit does not show regret.  Families compelled to contribute large sums for legal representation at Inquests, while state officials receive full funding from the taxpayers’ purse, does not show regret.

Past precedents show that the judicial system has not afforded any meaningful and/or no justice whatsoever to grieving families, hence the reason for our continued peaceful protests for redress following denials of basic human right to life of our loved ones. There is a strategy of long drawn out investigations, which go on for years in order to wear families down. We have relentlessly used the judicial process system to no avail.

We demand the following actions:

1.         Replacement of the IPCC to ensure open robust transparent and thorough investigations into police deaths in custody by a ‘truly’ independent body from the very outset of the death.

2.         Officers and officials directly involved in custody deaths to be suspended until investigations are completed.

3.         Immediate interviewing of officers and all officials concerned with the death.

4.         Officers and officials should never be allowed to ‘collude’ over their evidence and statements of fact.

5.         Full disclosure of information to the families.

6.         Prosecutions should automatically follow ‘unlawful killing’ verdicts at Inquests and officers responsible for those deaths should face criminal charges, even if retired.

7.         Implementation of police body cameras and cameras in all police vehicles in the interests of both the officers and the public.

8.         The end of means testing of families for legal aid.  There is a lack of funds for family legal representation at Inquests whilst officers and NHS staff get full legal representation from the public purse – this is unbalanced.

It is evident that the judicial system against those who commit crimes requires urgent attention. We respectfully request that you engage in a meeting with us personally to address the issues outlined in this letter, to which please acknowledge receipt.

Please note that this is an open letter in the interests of the public.  All our rights are reserved.

Yours faithfully

Marcia Rigg and Samantha Rigg-David
Joint Chair
On behalf of UFFC

United Friends and Family: Annual Deaths in Custody March Attacked by Police.

Hostile and threatening policing at the march (Picture by Dee Constantine-Simms)

For 13 years the families of those who have tragically suffered the death of a loved one in custody have gathered together to make their annual sojourn from Trafalgar square to 10 Downing Street. Dressed in black they make their march silently with no placards or chanting as they hand in their letter on behalf of the families requesting that the Prime minister hear their cries for justice. They have done so without incident or arrest during that time.

At this year’s event the families represented all communities, races and faiths. From deportee Jimmy Mubenga’s wife to student Alfie Meadows mum, who marched along with the families of Ian Tomlinson, Mark Duggan, Roger Sylvester, Sean Rigg and Smiley Culture to name but a few.

I was the head steward for the march and at around 1pm 500 of us set off from the square in good order. It was a dignified affair in line with the families’ wishes. All were dressed in black. It was a wonderful sight to see with many family campaigns proudly carrying their colourful banners emblazed with the names of loved ones and demands for justice. We made our way slowly and silently the short distance from Trafalgar square to Downing Street where we then held a rally on the closed north bound section of Whitehall.

Many family campaigns were represented (Picture by Dee Constantine-Simms)

After a round of poignant and heart rending speeches from family members, a delegation of families went to symbolically deliver a letter to the Prime Minister David Cameron. The families simply wanted to pin a letter to the gates of Downing Street as they had done every year previously.

The policing then changed dramatically with helicopters flying overhead and senior officer going into what I can only describe as panic mode. They demanded the families withdrew from Downing Street and that the entire road was cleared. Despite repeated attempts by me to talk sense to the officers concerned about the sensitivities of the situation and the need for restraint on their part, as soon as the families approached Downing Street the police deployed lines of additional officers. Those who were not part of the delegation and who had remained on the opposite side of the road surged forward as police began lining up in front of the families.

This was a serious tactical error on the part of the police. I had repeatedly warned them that if they deployed police to prevent the families delivering the letter to the PM then it would be seen as a deeply proactive act. They simply brushed that advice aside.

They then started to try and arrest demonstrators and move us physically off the road by forcibly confronting the demonstrators many of whom had now sat down in the road demanding that our right to protest peacefully and deliver our letter was respected. It seemed to me that the police were intent on causing a confrontation.

As the police cleared Whitehall, families were subject to extremely heavy-handed policing with elderly mothers, grandmothers and children being physically dragged or forced across the street.

Neville, a black man famous for his You Tube condemnation of Boris Johnson post riot broom in hand walkabout in Clapham was clearly targeted by the police and arrested. I believe Neville was recognised and targeted by the police for arrest. Family members were arrested and then  unarrested under urgent protest.

Officers then waded straight through the remaining seated members of the demonstrators and attempted to begin their kettling tactics by seeking to surround the demonstration.

It was at that point we decided that the police were clearly intent on provoking serious violence and with the bereaved families becoming increasingly distressed we decided to withdraw under extreme duress.

I have been Head Steward for lots of marches over many years. I took 5000 people and a huge sound system to New Scotland Yard in March of this year to protest about the death of Smiley Culture. The policing was text-book and the demonstration passed without arrest or incident.

This year as we approached 10 Downing Street there was a deeply hostile and threatening tone to the policing of the United Friends and Family demonstration.

The point that immediately struck me was that the police were now treating us not as a traffic management problem but as a serious public order problem. I got the distinct impression that the best practice policing of the past had been abandoned for a new and much more muscular aggressive policing style.

Senior officers on the ground were themselves complaining to me that they did not want to deploy extra officers at Downing Street but were being overridden by orders from New Scotland Yard to clear Whitehall.

What was the New Scotland Yard Commissioner Hogan Howe thinking to allow that kind of “zero tolerance” public order policing on a march made up of distraught families of the bereaved? Men women and children were on the march. It was solemn silent and dignified .I believe what we witnessed yesterday should be seen in the light of the August riots and the Occupation at St Pauls and represents a regressive and dangerous style of policing for London.

Such a fundamental and radical change in policing style must have been agreed by the new Commissioner Hogan Howe, Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority Kit Malthouse and Mayor Boris Johnson.

That a march such as this could be treated like a crowd of football hooligans is a clear and unambiguous signal that the democratic right to protest will be neatly contained where possible, aggressively challenged where not and violently confronted whenever and wherever the police think they can get away with it. I believe that the policing of the Families march is the canary in the coalmine, signalling a much more offensive, aggressive and potentially unlawful policing style.

There was simply no need for the kind of policing approach we saw yesterday. That the families of those who have died in custody can be treated in this way is an outrage both the Mayor and the Commissioner have given a green light to: a very different style of bully boy aggressive, zero tolerance in your face policing that was totally disproportionate given the tone and tenor of our march.

As news of the appalling treatment of these families at this demonstration becomes more widely known so will the level of public furore and anger at their terrible treatment increase. In one fell swoop Commissioner Hogan Howe has attacked all of the families of those who have died in police custody. With police black community relations in London and parts of the UK already at historic new lows this will make an already bad situation much worse. Commissioner Hogan Howe has made a serious if not critical error. He has already been given his nickname after yesterday’s aggressive debacle: Commissioner Hulk Hogan Howe.

The police attack on family members and peaceful demonstrators was simply unforgiveable. Both the Commissioner Hogan Howe and the Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority and the Mayor of London should apologise to the families of those who have died in police custody for the disgraceful behaviour of the police yesterday. If they are politically astute they will do so quickly and without delay.

One thing is for sure the United Friends and Family Campaign will be pressing the case for both a full public apology and for all charges to be dropped against those who were arrested for nothing more than seeking to demonstrate peacefully in the name of justice.

Lee Jasper

No Justice No Peace! (Picture by Dee Constantine-Simms)

Friday, 28 October 2011

A Taste of Liberia Festival ( UK ) 2011

Jerry Eujay Boweh
A message from the organisers:

A Taste of Liberia Festival ( UK ) 2011

We will very much appreciate it, if you could help to promote this event for us. We need support to uplift and maintain the spirit of positive thinking. Liberia is Africa's Oldest Republic but yet lacks the Cultural and community presence in UK and poses even more difficulties for the UNITY and integration and point of contact for other Cultural and Ethical links and CELEBRATIONS. 
We are pleased to present the events for the UK's first ever Liberian festival - A Taste of Liberia Festival ( UK ) 2011.  The aim of these events is to raise awareness of Liberia and its rich culture and history. The festival will also act as a platform for Liberian Artists and create opportunities for great discussion.

A Taste of Liberia Festival - a celebration of our past present  and future

Venue - The Wilditch  Community Centre, Battersea SW11 5BB   11am - 4pm    29th October 2011

A range of  activities for the whole family. The activities will include workshops,  film screening, discussion and debate, cookery, cultural dancing and many more. Organisations will also be hosting stalls  and selling items in the Marketplace. Items on Liberia will be on sale.
Entrance is £7.00 including raffle ticket.
For more information contact 0798 356 4645 or 0796 471 8422

Liberian Artists in Concert 

Venue - Music & Vision - Arch 269 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton SW9 8SE    8pm til late  October 30th 2011

A mixture of bands and popular Artists will be playing their own music as well as Liberian favourites. 
Drinks will be on sale.
Tickets £8.00
For further information contact  0798 356 4645 or 0796 471 8422
You can also follow us using
We look forward to seeing you all. Please feel free to circulate this to all those within your networks. We also welcome enquiries about stalls and sponsorship or volunteers  for any of the events.
Kau Belleh & Jerry Boweh ( organizers)

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Annual UFFC march against deaths in custody

Annual UFFC march against deaths in custody [1.5217391304348]

Hoping for Change.

Eighteen people have died in this year in police custody so far. Over the past five years (up to the end of 2010) there have been a total of 117 deaths in police custody, according to INQUEST. It is clear from these statistics that custody deaths remains an important issue that the public should take note of in the UK today.

As recently as 22 August 2011 Jacob Michael, a 25-year-old mixed-race man from Widnes, Cheshire, died after an unprovoked altercation with police in which he was assaulted with pepper spray and beaten with batons. Michael’s parents believe their son died on the way to the police station. Requests for medical attention were ignored. No officers from the Cheshire police force have been suspended over the incident.

This death, similar to others, sheds light on the recurring problem of a lax oversight of police conduct and a lack of inquiry into potentially wrongful deaths.

On Saturday 29 October 2011 the annual march against custody deaths will be held at 12:30 pm, beginning with a silent procession from Trafalgar Square down Whitehall followed by a protest outside Downing Street. The march and protest is organised by the United Families & Friends Campaign (UFFC) in memory of those who have died in police custody.

Head Steward of the event, Lee Jasper, said he hopes the rally will,
“Initiate a national campaign to push deaths in custody onto the national agenda so the Prime Minister can understand the national importance of shining a bright light on an area that continues to cause tragedy and anger and poison community relations.”

He added,
“The phenomenon of deaths in custody shows no respect to race, class, or religion, and everyone can be affected. As we saw in the case of Mark Duggan there can be profound effects [to custody deaths] not just in areas like Tottenham but the country as a whole."
Jasper stated the issue of custody deaths can be mediated by,
“an independent public inquiry, a reform of the coroner’s inquest system, radical reform of legal aid, changes to the police disciplinary procedure and finally, fundamental reform at the Independent Police Complaints Commission to restore public confidence.”

Jasper is asking volunteers who wish to participate in the march and protest to arrive at 11:30 am on the south side of Trafalgar Square on 29 October.

Oksana Trofimenko and Danny Mucinskas

(First published at OBV:

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Demo re: the coalition government's response to the riots - Thursday 27th October

Please come along to support this demonstration at the Smith Square Debate. I intend to ensure that they are left in no doubt about the anger felt in our communities.
Lee Jasper

Venue: Local Government Association, Smith Square, London SW1P 3HZ

All information below is from


Smith Square Debate: Moving on from the riots – a leadership challenge

London - 27 October 2011

The riots in London and parts of England in the summer showed the best and worst of society – violence, looting and damage to people and property but also a huge spontaneous clean-up operation by residents who were determined to take their streets back.

As we have time to reflect on what happened, we ask what's the role for local government leaders in these events?  How can councillors have a tangible impact on helping their communities recover from these serious instances of civil disturbance?  How can they assist with ensuring that they do not happen again?  And what needs to change about the way government seeks to solve some of the underlying social problems that blight communities?  These are just some of the questions due to be considered at this Smith Square Debate, where attendees will hear in an informal setting from a range of political speakers, before being invited to share their thoughts and question those positions being voiced.
Each panel guest will be invited to make a contribution for 5 – 7 minutes before opening up the debate to the audience.

Who should attend

  • council leaders
  • chief executives and officers
  • councillors
  • journalists
  • researchers
  • opinion-formers
  • civil Servants and voluntary and private sector representatives.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Rt Hon Tessa Jowell MP (Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, Shadow Minister for London and the Olympics) 
  • Brian Paddick, former Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service, and Liberal Democrat candidate for London Mayor 
  • Cllr Alan Rudge, Cabinet Member for Equalities and Human Resources, Birmingham City Council
  • Lord Adebowale, Cross Bench Peer, LGA Vice President, Chief Executive, Turning Point
Chair:  Chris Eakin, BBC 
Registration and refreshments will take place from 5.30pm, the debate will start at 6.00pm and will be followed by an informal drinks reception where attendees can network and continue their discussions in an informal setting.

How to book

Please refer to our terms and conditions of booking.
Please complete the online booking form on this page or complete the downloadable booking form.
Download the record of attendance flyer
Further information
For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities please contact:
Richard Mole
telephone: 020 7664 3157

For any other queries please contact

The Events team
telephone: 020 7664 3131

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Stewards needed: UFFC Annual Remembrance Procession Against Deaths in Custody - 29th October, London

I have been asked by the United Friends and Family Campaign to be Head Steward and provide stewards for the memorial annual march in relation to deaths in custody due to take place on Sat 29th.
Please email me if you can help: 
(please put  UFFC in the email subject heading.)
The Annual Remembrance Procession Against Deaths in Custody is organised by the United Families & Friends Campaign
All information below is from the event page set up by UFFC:

Silent Procession along Whitehall followed by Noisy Protest at Downing Street!

The United Families and Friends Campaign is a coalition of families and friends of those that have died in the custody of police and prison officers as well as those who are killed in secure psychiatric hospitals. It includes the families of Roger Sylvester, Leon Patterson, Rocky Bennett, Alton Manning, Christopher Alder, Brian Douglas, Joy Gardner, Aseta Simms, Ricky Bishop, Paul Jemmott, Harry Stanley, Glenn Howard,...
Mikey Powell, Jason Mcpherson and Sean Rigg to name but a few. Together we are building a network for collective action to end deaths in custody.

What we believe
• That failure of State officials to ensure the basic right to life is made worse by the failure of the State to ever prosecute those responsible for custody deaths.

• That the failure to prosecute those responsible for deaths in custody sends the message that the State can act with impunity.

What We Demand
• Deaths in police custody must be investigated by a body that is genuinely independent of the police.

• Prison deaths must be subject to a system of properly funded investigation that is completely independent of the Prison Service.

• Officers involved in custody deaths be suspended until investigations are completed.

• Prosecutions should automatically follow 'unlawful killing' verdicts at inquests.

• Police forces are made accountable to the communities that they serve.

• Immediate Legal Aid and full disclosure of information be made to the relatives of the victims for investigations, inquests and subsequent prosecutions.

• Officers responsible for deaths should face criminal charges, even if retired.

• CCTV to be placed in the back of all police vehicles


Please check these links for further details:

No Justice No Peace!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Black youth unemployment: No jobs, little hope

Black youth unemployment: No jobs, little hope [1.5217391304348]

Recent youth unemployment figures provide a stark reminder of the huge difficulties facing all young people during this financial crisis, but none more so than young Black people. Recent figures show 50 percent of Black people aged 16-24 years are unemployed compared with 20 percent White people.

In many areas, the anger and desperation of young people unable to enter into education and unable to find employment are reaching boiling point. The levels of unemployment are criminal and I use that word purposefully to reject the description of all those involved in our summer riots as “purely criminal” by the Prime Minister David Cameron.

Unemployment, public sector cuts, the vindictive ideological nature of this Government in abolishing the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) to the poorest families in the land have all contributed to a general climate where young people feel trapped and abandoned. Government does still not understand the level of anger in the poorest communities and the damage this has caused.

Around 41 percent of riots suspects live in areas in the bottom 10 percent of England in terms of deprivation according to recent analysis by The Guardian.

With youth unemployment standing at over one million, this represents the worst economic period for young people since the 1990s. During that period we saw a huge rise in racist attacks - this was the decade when Stephen Lawrence, Roland Adams and Rahuella Aramesh amongst others were victims of extreme racist violence and murders. Secondly, it saw an explosion of crack cocaine in London’s Black communities and in its wake came armed criminality on a huge scale.

Thirdly, we saw increase in mental illness, depression and long term sickness as the awful reality of long-term unemployment and poverty took its toll.

It is without doubt that long-term unemployment will devastate whole communities. In some areas of London, youth unemployment is already above 50% and rising. There is a real need for Government to set out a new vision with promise of a future that young people can believe in and aspire to.

Failure to do so will come at the cost of sacrificing the whole future of an entire generation. That is a price we as a country can ill afford. There has to be light at the end of the tunnel and right now that light is quickly fading.

Lee Jasper

Lib Dems must face up to critics on race - by Councillor Lester Holloway

Lee Jasper has launched a broadside against what he says are the coalition government’s lack of grasp on race equality. My Lib Dem party colleagues might find this hard to accept, but this such criticism could prove to be merely the hors d’oeuvres if the core issues are not addressed by ministers.

Writing on his blog in an article titled “coalition government fails to engage with black communities”, the veteran race equality campaigner singles out the Lib Dem minister for race equality, Andrew Stunnell, whom he accuses of having “no interest [towards] the issue of race.” I think this personal criticism is harsh, Stunnell has always seemed one of the more conscientious ministers to me, but the evidence Jasper points to about a complete lack of progress on race equality is damning.

I warned that our party appeared to lack any policies to make an impact on tackling race inequality before last years’ general election. Despite a mountain of research about unequal outcomes across education, health, criminal justice, and every other area of public life, a booklet written by now-Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone contained just two proposals worthy of mention: name-blank job applications and mandatory
pay audits. The name-blank policy has already been hailed as “a success” without any data to back that self-congratulation up.

And no wonder… the latest Labour Force survey shows rates of disproportionate black unemployment going up, not down. The TUC has warned there is a “bleak future” for black workers, and the gap between black and white employment rates shows no sign of becoming fairer. Even the government’s own advisor on these issues, Iqbal Wahhab, agrees.

And as for mandatory pay audits – well, that idea just got dropped.
So what has the coalition government done to make life any fairer for black communities facing discrimination? Pending any evidence to suggest that name-blank job applications are having any positive impact, or are even being widely used, I would sadly have to conclude: “nothing much”.

My colleagues will argue – with some merit – that black communities will have benefited from certain Lib Dem policies along with the rest of society. Given the fact that black communities are disproportionately on lower incomes, they may have even benefited positively from the rising threshold for income tax, a key Lib Dem pledge.

But the impact on ethnicity has not been measured, as far as I’m aware. Any positive impact is based on assumptions, primarily the assumption that this policy will everyone equally. Needless to say, it is this very mindset that has blinded policymakers in previous generations to the possibility of the unfair outcomes we see today.

It is my own assumption that the Tory-driven housing benefit and employment support allowance (incapacity benefit) welfare changes are likely to have a negative impact on black communities. With the Department for Work and Pension’s Ethnic Minority Taskforce predicting a disproportionate rise in black unemployment throughout this economic downturn, it is a reasonable bet that there will be an even bigger employment gap between black and white communities will be at the next election compared to May 2010.

If this comes to pass, it will be because the coalition has failed to put in place any serious policies to combat race discrimination. Labour introduced many initiatives aimed at tackling the issues leading to a high watermark of the Stephen Lawrence report and the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, only to dismantle them piece-by-piece as the fashion for lumping all equalities subjects together took hold.
Critics such as Diane Abbott MP and Lord Herman Ouseley warned Labour then that their strategy would turn the clock back three or four decades on race.

Sadly this coalition is continuing with a colourblind approach that is guaranteed to ensure levels of race inequality at best remain the same.
In his latest blog, Jasper writes:
“I would have expected the Minster for Race, Stunell and the Minister for Equalities Lynne Featherstone MP and would have had the foresight to recognise the political importance of black and ethnic minority community’s voices being heard in Government. Both have shunned black communities and despite their Ministerial responsibilities have, through ignorance and inaction, conspired to effectively exclude black community organisations from influencing Government policy.
“Both are Lib Dem Ministers who to their discredit remain the only mainstream party not to have black MPs in their Parliamentary party. The Lib Dem track record on promoting race equality and engagement with black communities is frankly abysmal. This despite the rhetoric of Deputy PM Nick Clegg and Vince Cable in opposition who promised that race equality was central to their vision of a fair and inclusive multicultural Britain.”
Jasper may not be a natural Lib Dem supporter but it would be foolish to dismiss him. It was my party who volunteered to take on the mantle of ‘race equality’ on behalf of the coalition, when it was patently obvious to me that they had no real grasp of what was involved to make a difference in this area. And this after an alliance of anti-racist groups had launched a Black Manifesto, giving an insight into the kinds of policies that would be required to take race equality seriously.

Last March I wrote: “The Liberal Democrats could, and should, offer so much more. Electorally, it makes perfect sense for them to be the most radical on race.” This was more in hope than expectation. The coalition agreement said hardly anything substantial about equality, and on race virtually nothing at all, aside from a promise to offer “internships” in Whitehall departments, and a mentoring scheme for aspiring businesspeople. Both policies were risible in their poverty of aspiration.

Sadly, hardly anything has improved in this area since the day that paper was published, hence Jasper’s frustration. His critique – and mine – might sting now but it could be but a tingle compared to the reaction from black communities in the future unless the Lib Dems get serious about tackling race inequality. It is not too late to rescue the situation. There is enough expertise inside the party to devise excellent policies, and enough experts outside the party to give them a polished sheen.

My party needs to stop curling up defensively at internal and external critics who chide the party for its’ lack of ideas to create a more equal society between ‘races’. They should realise that these critics can, in an instant, become the party’s greatest allies should the Lib Dems decide they want to radically overhaul its’ approach to race equality to achieve something tangible by the next general election.
If the political will is there, and ministers are receptive enough to privately admit they may know less about race equality than those who have spent a lifetime striving for it, we can yet go to the polls with a record to sell to black communities.

By Lester Holloway
(First published at: