The Friends of Mikey Powell campaign held a commemorative event on the third anniversary of his death in police custody. A hundred people heard an update on the campaign from Mikey’s cousin, Tippa Naphtali.
In September 2003 the police were called to a disturbance at the family house in Lozells, Birmingham, where a distressed Mikey Powell had smashed a window.
Tippa explained, “Mikey was knocked over by a police car, sprayed with CS gas, handcuffed and restrained on the floor. Mikey wasn’t taken to hospital. Instead he was taken to Thornhill Road police station in a state of semi consciousness or unconsciousness. Within two hours of being arrested he was dead.
“Ten police officers faced trial in relation to Mikey’s death. The case lasted 13 weeks.
“All ten officers were acquitted on all counts. Now that’s a familiar story. We’ve heard it before. There are families here tonight who’ve been through it before.
“But tonight we want to concentrate on Mikey. We’re not just here to grieve at the parting of a family man, a righteous man, a law abiding man. We are here to celebrate his life.”
This was followed by poetry from Makola Mayambika and music from Yaz Alexander, The Tribunes and Princess Emmanuelle.
The event was also a launch for the new Injustice CD, which will be reviewed in next week’s Socialist Worker.
This is to help raise funds for a follow up to Injustice - the film that details cases where people have died in police custody. It had been intended to show the film, but the original venue had pulled out after a phone call from the police.
Tippa told Socialist Worker. “Now the campaign is widening. We are running a website - www.4wardever.org - to offer a place for families to find out about other campaigns and get help to publicise their own cases.”
The campaign is also involved in establishing the Family Advisory Support Trust aimed at assisting those affected by deaths, mental or physical abuse in police, prison or mental health institutions, and to campaign locally for reform.
Tippa is worried by police procedures regarding people with mental health problems, “Mikey should have been taken to a designated ‘place of safety’. But in Birmingham this means a police station rather than a hospital. Cuts in health funding have made the situation worse.
“In some parts of the country the police will not attend an incident involving a person who appears to have mental health problems without being accompanied by a mental health professional.
“The Police Federation complained at the £7 million cost of the investigation and trial. If money had been invested in health support then that would never have arisen.
He added, “We intend to go on being a pain in the arse to the police and wherever there is injustice. We are run by families for families and we are not going away.”
Go to www.4wardever.org for more on Mikey Powell and related campaigns.
For more on the Injustice film go to www.injusticefilm.co.uk