Socialist Worker

Deaths in custody: RMT meeting calls for justice

by Patrick Ward
Issue No. 2294

A meeting organised by the RMT transport workers’ union saw over 100 people come to hear speakers talk about racism, police and the state in London on Monday.

The meeting, We Demand Justice, heard from family members of those who have died in police custody. These included Janet Alder, whose brother Christopher Alder died in Kingston upon Hull in 1998, and Samantha Rigg-David, whose brother Sean Rigg died at Brixton police station in 2008.

Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six and Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four also spoke powerfully about their own wrongful imprisonment and abuse by the state.

CWU union leader Billy Hayes, Wilf Sullivan from the TUC and Weyman Bennett from Unite Against Fascism also spoke. Helen Shaw from the campaign group Inquest chaired the meeting.

The audience was audibly shocked as they heard Janet Alder talk about her brother’s final moments.

“The RMT has given me a breath of fresh air just when I needed it,” she said, speaking about how the union had helped her in the campaign for justice. She also announced a memorial for her brother in Hull, to take place on 1 April.

Samantha Rigg-David told the meeting, “Janet gave me lots of strength. She’s been fighting for 14 years. We’ve only been fighting three and a half.”

She said that since Sean’s death “we’ve had to become investigators” to get to the truth. An inquiry into Sean’s death is set to start in June.

Paddy Hill said that the police force were “rotten from top to bottom”. He accused the government of hypocrisy for invading Libya over human rights issues while ignoring breaches at home.

And Gerry Conlon talked about the torture he suffered from the British state. He added that discrimination was still the same in the police—it just has a different target to the anti-Irish racism he faced in the 1970s.

“When Margaret Thatcher came in she targeted the working class and blacks. Today Muslims are the new Irish,” he said.

Alex Gordon, president of the RMT, praised the rank and file activists in RMT London engineering branch who organised the meeting, which he called part of a “growing campaign for justice”.

Weyman Bennett said, “I come from a working class area. People there aren’t shocked at how the police behave.

“Solidarity and power. We need to put these things together,” he added.

The coming together of trade unionists and the various campaigns is an important step in the fight for justice. A united movement has the power to hit back against the corrupt British state.

Sign the e-petition calling for justice for those who have died in custody at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/26276


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Tue 13 Mar 2012, 18:13 GMT
Issue No. 2294
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