Socialist Worker

Vigil for Sean Rigg: anger at deaths in police custody

Issue No. 2216

Sean Rigg’s family with the list of the 2,500 people who have died in custody since 1969	Pic: Socialist Worker

Sean Rigg’s family with the list of the 2,500 people who have died in custody since 1969 Pic: Socialist Worker

A powerful and emotional vigil to commemorate the second anniversary of the death of Sean Rigg in Brixton police station took place last Saturday.

As some 100 people gathered, a banner with the names of over 2,500 people who have died in state custody since 1969 was draped over the front of the station.

United Campaign Against Police Violence supporters carried a coffin symbolising those who have lost their lives.

Members and supporters of the Rigg family entered the police station with the coffin and demanded that a senior police officer come and explain Sean’s death. None was forthcoming.

Campaigners asked the desk officer if they had anyone in the cells they wanted to put in the coffin.

After 15 minutes, to shouts of “no justice, no peace”, they left to attend a public meeting.

The atmosphere was electric, as representatives from campaigns of those who died at the hands of the police spoke.

Ricky Bishop died in Brixton police station in 1992. His mother Doreen said, “They’re still harming young black men in Brixton. I won’t go away.

“We want equal rights and justice. We’ll be here till the end.”

Habib “Paps” Ullah died in 2008 during a police stop and search in High Wycombe.

“I thought we were in isolation when my brother died,” said Zia. “It’s only after I met other families that I saw how institutionalised this is.”


Many of the families are outraged at how police have treated their loved ones—but also by what happens afterwards.

Brenda Weinberg, whose brother Brian Douglas died after being held by police, said, “They beat you down. This is what the system is designed to do.”

Samantha Patterson, sister of Jason McPherson who died in police custody in Notting Hill in 2007, recalled his inquest.

“You watch a video of them killing your brother. You see officers there all smug, and you know your brother’s just been killed,” she said.

The meeting agreed to hold a national demonstration in October and to put forward a process of people’s courts to bring out the truth.

The inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPPC) into Sean Rigg’s death ended in February, but the findings have not been released. Nor has CCTV footage which the police originally said did not exist, but shows what happened to Sean.

Sean’s sister Marcia asked the meeting, “Is the chief inspector here? It doesn’t matter. I’ll see him in court.

“The CCTV will be seen by all and then everyone will know why I had to do what I did. Shame on this country and shame on this state.”

Samantha Rigg added, “We’re campaigning in parliament and we’re campaigning on the streets. The IPCC look through rose‑tinted glasses. It seems to be the families’ jobs to do their job.

“Sean was a radical. His blood is crying out from the ground.”

Sean Rigg, a healthy 40 year old, died after being arrested by police in 2008.

Sean was put in the back of a police van and driven to Brixton police station, where upon arrival he was slipping in and out of consciousness.

He was left in the van for up to 10 minutes, then in an open cage area in the backyard of the station, where he died.

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Article information

Tue 24 Aug 2010, 17:30 BST
Issue No. 2216
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