Over 100 people met in east London to launch the Justice4Edson campaign last night, Thursday. Edson Da Costa died after being stopped by police in June. He is one of a number of black men who have recently died after contact with the cops.
Edson’s father Ginario was at the meeting along with many relatives and friends. Esa Charles, the father of Rashan Charles who died after being manhandled by a cop in July, was also there.
Edson’s cousin Yasmin spoke to the meeting. “Every day I wake up he’s the first thing I think of,” she said. “I can’t express the bond we had. I came to this country with him. And now I have to bury him.
“You have moments with a person and you picture so much more with them. And when it gets taken away like this, you stop and question everything.
“I’m angry. I’m upset. I want justice. And I won’t stop until I get justice.”
The campaign plans to lobby London mayor Sadiq Khan to demand that the officers involved in stopping Edson are suspended.
The meeting heard from Carson Arthur from the Stop Watch group and Kevin Blowe from Inquest. They spoke about the racism of the police and the lies the cops tell to try and minimise deaths in custody.
Janet spoke to the Da Costa family members in the audience. “The IPCC are there as pure damage limitation,” she said. “They’re there to protect the police and the system. Don’t be under any illusions—these people are going to lie to you. Don’t trust them.
“They can’t bring you justice. You’ve got to fight for it every step of the way.”
Following Edson’s death several newspaper reports said he died after trying to swallow “packages”. The implication was that he was a drug dealer—and that somehow this mitigated the way cops treated him.
Janet said, “The police are the first people who put out the narrative and everybody runs with it. The murderers are putting out the story.
“But it’s not about what we’ve done-I’ve not been an angel—it’s about what they’ve done. That’s where the focus has to be all the time.
“They’ve murdered your loved one—you don’t have to bow down to these people.”
Christopher Alder died in a Hull police station in April 1998, struggling for breath on the floor while several cops stood watching. Some made monkey noises. Janet said she believed he was struggling to breathe after being sprayed with CS gas.
An inquest delivered a verdict of unlawful killing. Yet no officer has been prosecuted over Christopher’s death.
But Janet warned, “Now they’ve brought in a narrative verdict and everybody’s jumping on it as if it’s fantastic. Well it’s not. The only way you’re going to get a criminal charge is if you get an unlawful killing verdict.
“So if you get a narrative verdict, which is usually all the ingredients of an unlawful killing verdict, get your solicitors to challenge that in the High Court.”
There were shouts of “truth” from the audience when Janet said, “These people think that they’re better than us. This country thinks more about property and money than it does about human life.”
Marcia said the way police treat families of those who die in custody “is the biggest insult they can give you”. “You can’t get any answers,” she said. And she pointed to how the cops’ defence takes priority over families.
“As soon as your loved one dies in custody they call in the officers’ lawyers and the IPCC. They employ ex police officers. They will get rid of evidence. They will get rid of police notebooks. They will get rid of CCTV.”
She described how five CID officers attended Sean’s autopsy, yet the family had not been allowed to see him to identify him. And she spoke of how officers lied about Sean’s condition after he arrived at Brixton police station.
“He was brought out of the van in a collapsed state,” she said. “They stood him up and said he stood up by himself. No he did not – the CCTV shows it.
“As long as a police officer says, ‘This is what I believe,’ that’s all he has to say.”
An inquest into Sean’s death delivered a narrative verdict. Marcia told the meeting how her family had to pay legal costs while “officers get automatic funding from our money”.
She described how the cops will try and escape justice. “Officers will attempt to retire, because once they retire you can’t touch them,” she said.
“That is their get out of jail card. One of the officers in Sean’s case retired to become a priest in the Church of England.”
The meeting was honest about the challenges ahead. But it was also a show of strength and a signal that people are prepared to take them on.
Janet said, “We’ve got to fight and we’ve got to stick together. Divide and they rule. Stick together and they’re worried.”