Hundreds gathered in Lambeth Town Hall, south London, on Tuesday night for a memorial meeting on the anniversary of Sean Rigg’s death.
Sean died in Brixton police station on 21 August 2008. He had been arrested hours earlier whilst suffering from mental health issues.
Sean’s sisters Marcia and Samantha came together with many other organisations and campaigners to demand justice and change.
Matilda MacAttram from Black Mental Health UK named black men with mental health problems who had died in police custody or mental health institutions—from David Oluwale through to Sean.
She said, “There is a pattern here. Half of the people that die in custody are mental health service users.”
Both Marcia and Samantha spoke movingly about their brother’s talents as a musician and dancer.
But they were scathing about the Independent Police Complaints Authority (IPCC), which has investigated his death.
Marcia said, “We want equality, equal rights and justice. There must be lessons learnt from Sean’s death. The IPCC is responsible for a catalogue of failures.”
Samantha said, “On Sunday evening we were made aware of police arresting a man who lost consciousness. It just shows you how little the police have learnt.
Weyman Bennett from Unite Against Fascism received a standing ovation what he said, “Something needs to be done for things to change. A policeman has to go to jail for murder.”
He was one of many speakers to call for everyone to attend the United Families and Friends march on Saturday 27 October.
Estelle du Boulay from Newham Monitoring Project, said “We still see victims of racial discrimination by the police not taken seriously. In the complaints system people face wall after wall.”
Glenroy Watson from the RMT transport union raged against the corruption of the system. “We cannot look to the career politicians, they’re not prepared to risk what they have. We need to remove the IPCC. They offer no protection from police officers.
“Campaigning for justice does not sit separately from our trade union work. Demand that your unions support these campaigns.”
The new film Who Polices the Police? was screened, charting the Rigg family’s battle for answers.
The meeting ended and a demonstration formed up outside to march to Brixton police station. It was led by the Rigg family and Mona Dohle, the local woman who had witnessed the violent police arrest in Brixton last Sunday. The march swelled as it took over the road, stopping traffic.
Outside Brixton police station Marcia read out the names of the constables who restrained her brother—Mark Harratt, Richard Glasson, Andrew Birks and Mathew Forward. Sean’s inquest said they used an “unsuitable” level of force.
Mona told the crowd, “The assault was nothing out of the ordinary just that this time there was an organised response from the community.”