THE STENCH of institutional racism across the police was obvious last week after two incidents in Manchester and north London. Local people in Camden are furious at the death of Kebba Jobe, originally from Gambia, on Saturday 12 May. He died after officers stopped him at Camden Lock. Around 300 people joined an angry march through Camden last Saturday demanding a full investigation of how he died.
In Manchester the police banned Unite Against Fascism's carnival against the British National Party on Sunday. Police claims that they will "root out racism" mean nothing to the grieving family of Kebba Jobe. Kebba's cousin Ibrahima Sey died in 1996 after police arrested him and sprayed him with CS gas.
The inquest jury ruled Ibrahima had been unlawfully killed. Not one officer has been prosecuted. Tounday Grant was one of the family members at last Saturday's demonstration.
He told Socialist Worker, "I saw Kebba at around 2pm on Saturday. I'm a truck driver and I was working at the time. I shouted to him, 'When I finish let's go for a drink.' When I got back to work I got a call to say something had happened to him. I went to the police station and an officer said Kebba was dead. All the time you hear about the police arresting the wrong people. I think they targeted him because he was black, a Rasta man. Ibrahima was his cousin. They went to school together. Now they are both dead."
Brian Theophile is one of the witnesses who has come forward after Kebba's death. Brian still bears the scars on his wrists from when he was handcuffed during an arrest recently. He spoke of how officers restrained him to the point where he had difficulty breathing.
He said, "They say they are just doing their job. But what they're doing to us is harassment, and people are angry." Kebba's wife, Jacky, who is white, joined the march with their eight year old daughter. They have already gone through a battle to stop Kebba being deported to Gambia after Ibrahima was killed.
Jacky is stunned at Kebba's death. She told Socialist Worker, "When I was phoned early in the afternoon I could not believe it. There was no need for him to die like this." The marchers were furious at the heavy police presence on their march for Kebba Jobe.
At one point the demonstrators came to a halt and refused to go on until the ranks of police left the front of the march. Alicia, a local activist, spoke at the rally at the end of the march outside Holmes Road police station, where the officers who arrested Kebba are stationed. "We hear that police in the West Midlands have acted swiftly and are making every effort after one of the officers was shot," she said. "We can only look on in dismay at the lack of effort here after Kebba's death. We want to see the same vigour here. Police have paid tribute to the officer who died. No one is doing that for Kebba Jobe. The press have branded him a drug dealer."
"I urge Tony Blair and the black leadership to do something. Where are they?" said a member of Ibrahima Sey's family to loud applause. "Why aren't Diane Abbott and David Lammy here? We need to go to MPs and Tony Blair, and say people are dying and nothing is done about it."
Liz Wheatley, the local Respect candidate, spoke at the rally. She criticised the police and pledged her support for the campaign for justice for Kebba.
Police ban anti-racist carnival
MANCHESTER police showed last week their determination to stop an anti-racist carnival going ahead in the city. Unite Against Fascism wanted the event to mobilise opposition to the British National Party (BNP) in the run-up to the 10 June election.
Some 8,000 young people attended Unite's carnival in Sunderland on 3 May, and 3,000 came to the Unite event last Sunday in Ponders End, north London. Manchester police could not stomach the prospect of many thousands more black, white and Asian people gathering together in the city.
So the police bullied venue after venue to force them to pull out of holding the Unite carnival just six days before it was due to go ahead. The Manchester force has already been exposed in the recent BBC documentary The Secret Policeman.
The programme showed officers openly boasting of their racist views and attacks on black and Asian people, and their support for the BNP. "The police reaction was incredible," said Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism. There was a wide range of support for the carnival from the council to church leaders and trade unionists. We had a venue, the Castlefield Basin, which is a purpose-built outdoor arena. But the police opposed this in the most aggressive manner possible. At one point they told us the whole idea of the carnival in Manchester made them shudder. They made us feel that the BNP are respectable here, and we are not. So they approached the council and said the event could not go ahead. They claimed they had a 'dossier' that showed there would be trouble. The council advised us to go for a fully licenced venue. So we went to the Manchester Evening News arena. They agreed. But again the police opposed it on the grounds that there would be trouble. Thanks to the sterling work of one of the headline acts, Badly Drawn Boy, and the promoter Paul Samuels, we will not be driven out of the north west. We will hold the gig in Liverpool, which all the agencies there agreed to straight away. "We will not be deterred from high profile campaigning around the election."
Unite Against Fascism is a mass organisation sponsored by every major trade union and MPs from every party. It will continue its campaign to oppose the BNP, despite all the help the Nazis are getting from the Manchester police.
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