People across West Yorkshire and beyond have reacted with fury to the police shooting of Mohammed Yassar Yaqub.
Cops shot Yassar dead as he sat in a car on the M62 motorway near Huddersfield on Monday evening. In a statement West Yorkshire Police said the killing was part of a “pre-planned policing operation”.
Hundreds of people joined a vigil last night, Wednesday, to remember Yassar at the spot he was killed. His parents joined the vigil and his father, Mohammed, said his son was “killed unlawfully”. It followed a demonstration in Bradford the previous evening, where protesters blocked roads and held up traffic.
Martin Jones from Kirklees Stand Up To Racism told Socialist Worker, "The atmosphere was quiet and subdued. But underneath there was a great deal of anger and many questions about the police action.
“Some people asked why the police were not using body cameras in what was a pre-planned operation. Some asked if police were deliberately targeting Yassar because he was acquitted of serious charges some years ago."
Nearly 900 people joined a Facebook group, Justice 4 Mohammed Yassar Yaqub, in less than 18 hours following the killing. Many explained to Socialist Worker why they are so angry.
Faisal Mahmood said, “They say it was a planned operation. Was it planned to shoot him while he was in the vehicle? It doesn't make any sense - how can they shoot without seeing a gun? It’s murder.”
Raja Roop agreed. “It seems like the police murdered him,” he said. “Otherwise they would have released more information a lot sooner. It seems like they will attempt to cover it up.”
Chris Coon added, “If it was pre planned why swoop when daylight is gone? He couldn’t get out of the car even if he wanted. They had it boxed where the door couldn't open.”
The mainstream media, including the Guardian, immediately carried anonymous reports that Yassar was a drug dealer. It echoes the way that the media denounced Mark Duggan as a “gangster” soon after police killed him in Tottenham, north London, in 2011.
Right wing rags jumped on Yassar's previous trial for attempted murder - which collapsed in court. The judge Geoffrey Marson QC threw out the prosecution case against Yasser.
He described the identification evidence in the case as “being dangerous and it cannot safely, in my view, be left to the jury even if there is some evidence capable of supporting his identification.”
Yassar was never convicted of the crime - but that hasn't stopped the charge being used to paint him as a dangerous criminal.
Many people dispute or reject some of the more lurid stories that have appeared in the press about Yassar. As Martin put it, “It was remarkable that so many people attended given the alarmist stories the police were feeding the media about guns and drug dealing." But whatever the truth, police hope that attacking his character will justify the killing.
“What was the need to shoot?” Asked Nesli Gul Rosa. “Shot not once, not twice but three times. Yasser and his family did not deserve this.”
Staciie Murphy agreed. “They could have easily arrested him with no problem. There was no reason to shoot. His mum and dad have lost their only son. His kids have lost their dad.”
Cops have claimed they were following Yassar because he was armed. The day after the killing news “emerged” in the press that police had found a non police issue firearm in the car Yassar was killed in.
Yet they had chosen to follow him for miles before stopping the car.
Nesli said, “If you got a tip off saying the man had a gun I am pretty sure police would have stopped him when he was in Bradford. If they say they were in so much danger, why not stop him there? Why stop in Huddersfield? He would have carried a gun for over 15-20 minutes.”
Chloe Auty said, “I didn’t know the guy but I'm invested in seeking justice. I’m disgusted and scared that the police have the power to brutally kill a man with so little reason.”