Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2250

Campaigners march in London last month against deaths in custody  (Pic: Smallman )

Campaigners march in London last month against deaths in custody  (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Hold police to account

I write regarding the very serious issue of deaths in custody and the importance of increasing public awareness (Don’t fall for cops’ story on Smiley, 30 April).

More and more families are up against a state system that repeatedly lets them down and insults them further with lies, conspiracies and long drawn-out investigations.

Too many deaths occur too often, but they are seldom highlighted in the media.

Families have campaigned tirelessly and many have fought endless legal battles for over 30 years, to no avail.

Evidently, there is a wall of silence from those in authority.

Should police—or anyone for that matter—be allowed to get away with murder? No.

Officers who kill should be accountable for their actions like any other member of the public. They are not above the law.

I lost my brother Sean Rigg in Brixton police station almost three years ago, in August 2008.

The circumstances leading up to his death and the events afterwards are very concerning.

The family conducted their own investigation and have been vigorously campaigning ever since and await an inquest, scheduled for some time in 2012.

Since April 2004, deaths in custody have been investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). But the majority of families have never been able to depend on it.

Clearly, the IPCC is a toothless organisation and is not fit for purpose.

My personal experience with the IPCC affords no doubt in my mind that it is merely there to stagnate the investigation.

There have been numerous legal reviews, parliamentary reports and inquiries—yet there are basic issues outstanding. For example:

  1. The need for open, transparent, robust and genuine investigations.
  2. Officers should be interviewed immediately and should not to be allowed to collude. They should be made accountable for their wrongdoing like any member of the public.
  3. Cameras need to be installed in all police vehicles in the interests of both the officers and the public.

    Cameras are in taxis, buses, trains, on the street, but not police vehicles. Why?

  4. Families should not have to pay to find out how their loved one died at the hands of the state. The state have a duty of care.

    Whilst officers get full non-means tested legal representation from the public purse families are being scrupulously means‑tested and asked to contribute from their income and life savings for representation at inquest.

I support the campaign for Smiley Culture and all families who have lost a loved one in custody.

Our unity will continue to be our strength. No Justice. No Peace.

Marcia Rigg, Sean Rigg Justice and Change Campaign

Kettling ruling is significant

I was disappointed to see that Socialist Worker only gave a few lines to the significant judgment last month on the police tactics used during the G20 protests at Bishopsgate in April 2009 ( Police use of kettling 'unlawful', 23 April).

As one of the claimants who brought the case against the Metropolitan police, I consider both the case itself and the ruling—which has placed greater restrictions on kettling as a tactic—to be of great importance.

More than this, I was saddened by the emphasis (one line out of three) given to the possibility of compensation for those kettled.

We did not take out the case to get damages—it was to hold the police to account.

Their self-perceived immunity has to be challenged.

As protests against the Con‑Dem cuts mount, police will take ever more extreme actions. A victory against the police is a victory for protesters throughout the country.

Josh Moos, London

Health hazards

I was pleased to see councillor Michael Lavalette taking on damp and mould in Preston ( Socialist fighter wins backing across Preston , 23 April).

Damp and mould are recognised as health hazards by the World Health Organisation and the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, introduced by the 2004 Housing Act.

Under this, local authorities must keep housing conditions in their area under review, and take appropriate action when hazards are determined.

Council environmental health officers can serve statutory notices where the hazards are assessed as “category one”.

This is, however, a long‑winded legal process, with no guarantee of success. By acting together against their landlords and generating pressure from below, the Preston tenants are more likely to succeed.

Nasser, Housing worker in east London

The fight for Kurdish civil rights in Turkey

The Kurdish Freedom Movement in Turkey has started a campaign of mass civil disobedience—with sit‑ins, occupations, marches and boycotts.

It was inspired by the US Civil Rights Movement and the Egyptian revolution.

But campaigners have been met by the full force of the racist Turkish state. Thousands have been imprisoned. Twelve Kurdish candidates were barred from taking part in June’s election.

Kurds took to the streets for three days of rage, and battled with police and army. One young man was shot dead. After this, most candidates were reinstated.

The campaign has four demands:

  • Stop military and political operations against the Kurds.
  • For education in the Kurdish mother tongue and for constitutional guarantees for its use in the public sphere.
  • Removing the 10 percent voting threshold which obstructs the political representation of Kurdish people.
  • The release of all political prisoners.

Tens of thousands of political prisoners are on an indefinite hunger strike to support the campaign and protest against state repression.

Extraordinarily, these historic events have hardly received any coverage in the British press.

Mark Campbell, London

US Civil War was self-emancipation

It is great that you’ve carried an article celebrating the American Civil War as a truly revolutionary event (War against slavery , 23 April).

I wish to make a small point though. The emphasis should always be on the self-activity of former slaves in their emancipation.

You say “Slavery was overthrown in the US because of the actions of millions of ordinary people—black and white—who took part in a revolutionary war against the South”.

This is a sweeping and not entirely accurate statement.

It flies in the face of a well-established historiography, starting with WEB Du Bois’ book, Black Reconstruction.

The book concentrates on the agency of former slaves in the liberation process, both during the Civil War and in postwar Reconstruction.

The Civil War can hardly be thought of as a revolution without former slaves taking on their masters using a range of activities.

These included land seizures, active support for the Union side, withholding labour, and—crucially—leaving the plantations in a massive exodus behind Union army lines.

Joe Kelly, Toronto, Canada

Fantastic Yunus victory

How fantastic and uplifting to read of Yunus Bakhsh’s tribunal victory ( Judge orders trust to reinstate Yunus Bakhsh , 30 April).

What a travesty that this passionate, caring man had to spend the past five years fighting the institutions that he dedicated so much time and devotion to.

Shame on the people in our NHS and in our union for their despicable actions.

What a testament to Yunus that he fought on and got the justice he so rightly deserves.

Solidarity, Yunus. You are an inspiration.

Jan Lowarch, Stockport

Tribunal of triumph

Congratulations to Yunus Bakhsh.

I support claimants at employment tribunals. You fight, you argue, and you repeatedly see the basic hostility of a system which repeatedly puts bosses’ interests before those of workers.

Socialist Worker rightly points out that only around one in 8,000 unfair dismissal claims ends in an order for reinstatement.

This is a moment of triumph which will be celebrated throughout the workers’ movement.

David Renton, Barrister, London

Our society is royally divided

The whole royal wedding spectacle should make us think about how divided our society is. It’s no cause for celebration.

Job losses are increasing and people face cuts to vital services. That makes the sheer cost of William and Kate’s wedding all the more alarming.

The money would be better spent creating jobs for ordinary people.

But the monarchy is also very elitist and anti-democratic.

Despite the emphasis on Kate Middleton’s “ordinary” background, this is a system that excludes working people.

The only cuts we should tolerate are to the royal family.

Graeme Kemp, Shropshire

Postmodern paralysis

I really enjoyed Estelle Cooch’s article on postmodernism ( An antidote to postmodernism , 16 April).

Estelle is right—postmodernism paralyses thought, and therefore action, to change our world for the better.

Maybe that is the point. But now the game is up.

Revolution is back on the agenda.

Kathryn Rimmington, Portsmouth

Sectarianism is profitable

Your recent article on the Old Firm and sectarianism is correct to point out that the death threat to Celtic manager Neil Lennon’s life is not about football tribalism (Socialist Worker, 30 April).

However, the backdrop to the recent controversy has to be understood in the context of the state of Scottish football.

The game in Scotland depends on these matches to generate TV revenue. This season has seen a record seven Old Firm games.

After the third game in February, the Daily Record had a headline declaring, “It’s War”.

Politicians always try to claim the higher ground on this issue.

Instead of calling the clubs to summits for rather minor skuffles on the football field, they should be telling the media to stop the irresponsible headlines.

Mark Porciani, Glasgow

Spain: striking confidence

During a recent holiday to Spain I spent a day in Granada.

I was inspired by the level of political activity and the effect of last year’s general strike.

People were angry—but proud of the fightback they and their unions started.

We need to argue for a general strike in Britain. Listening to our Spanish brothers and sisters, the confidence and joy afterwards is worth the work of arguing for it.

Sam Bogg, Portsmouth

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Article information

Tue 3 May 2011, 18:14 BST
Issue No. 2250
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