Over 500 protesters held an angry march through central London last Saturday as part of the campaign against police violence.
The protesters turned the tables on the police by “kettling” New Scotland Yard. They surrounded the police headquarters and refused to let anyone in or out, just like the infamous tactics police use against demonstrations.
The protest was organised by the United Campaign Against Police Violence (UCAPV), a new campaign launched on the wave of anger at the death of bystander Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests. It demands the right to protest, the disbanding of the Territorial Support Group riot police, and justice for all those who died in police custody.
Since the 1960s more than 1,000 people have died in police custody – and many of their families and friends were on the protest, demanding justice. No police officer has ever been successfully prosecuted for causing a death in custody.
Sean Rigg died in police custody in Brixton last year. Samantha Rigg-David, his sister, spoke from the platform. She said, “My brother was fit and healthy. Tell me how he comes to die in a very short space of time after coming into contact with the police.
“The IPCC... at the very least they’re incompetent. But we’re starting to believe now that they’re in cahoots with the police.”
Ricky Bishop died in police custody in 2001 – at the same police station as Sean Rigg. His mother, Doreen, said, “As long as I live I won’t stop saying the British police are a bunch of terrorists sponsored by the British government.”
Ricky’s sister said, “They’re trying to put us in our place. It’s not about race, it’s about class. It’s about everyone getting together and doing what’s right.”
The UCAPV is now supported by the PCS civil service trade union, and the London region of the RMT transport union.
PCS activist Andy Lawson said, “I work at a Job centre in Tottenham. People there are sick and tired of themselves and their families being harassed by the police.
“Thirty years ago the police killed Blair Peach. 25 years ago they were used against our class in the Miners’ Strike. And 20 years ago they let 96 people die at Hillsborough.”
Pat O'Brien, from the RMT transport union, added, “Most trade unionists are well aware of the hostility against any demonstrations of a left wing nature, like the 1972 criminalisation of the Shrewsbury building workers, where strikers were sent to prison.”
Martin Smith from the Socialist Workers Party said, “There’s one law for the rich and one law for the poor. If the police ever bothered to go to parliament and arrest the corrupt MPs, would they push them over on the floor? No.
“So why did they push Ian Tomlinson on the floor and brutalise him? Because they hate working class people.”
All sorts of political and campaigning groups backed the march, including the Green Party, the Stop the War Coalition and several students’ unions.
And as the protest passed by the Tamil protest in Parliament Square – still protesting against the massacres in Sri Lanka after more than a month – despite violent attempts by police to stop it – the two groups of protesters clapped and cheered each other in solidarity.
Green Party activist John Hunt witnessed police violence at the Heathrow climate camp two years ago. He said, “I reported numerous incidents, but the police denied it all. Four copies of their own video footage were lost by police during the complaint.”
Shazia, a sixth form student from south London, said, “I was on the Gaza demonstration on 10 January. I loved the unity and diversity of the different groups and people there, but the police treated us all like criminals.”
Chris Nineham of the Stop the War Coalition, said, “In recent months the police have attacked many of our protests. They have raided the homes of people who came on our demonstrations in solidarity with Gaza.
“This is a very important demonstration, because the attempt to criminalise protest and intimidate protesters must be stopped.”
The next protest against police violence will be outside the London offices of the IPCC on Friday 10 July