By Daniel, Jake, Yasmin in Edinburgh
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2084

Demands for justice in Sheku Bayoh case—this is ‘Scotland’s George Floyd’

The family has been waiting for over seven years for any sort of justice. Now there's a public inquiry
Issue 2084
A crowd of 35 with placards such as "Black Lives matter". Sheku Bayoh's family speak to supporters outside the inquiry

Sheku Bayoh’s family speak to supporters outside the inquiry (Pic: Arthur Nicoll)

Around 200 protesters from across Scotland gathered at Festival Square, Edinburgh, on Tuesday to show support for the family and friends of Sheku Bayoh. They are demanding the truth about what happened to Sheku in Kirkcaldy, Fife, on 3 May 2015 when he died after contact with the police. 

His family says he is “Scotland’s George Floyd”. Now a public inquiry has begun hearings into the police behaviour and whether race played a part in Sheku’s death while police restrained him. The family’s solicitor Aamer Anwar said, “Unlike George Floyd it wasn’t one police officer restraining Sheku but at least seven police officers. And unlike George Floyd’s case, no police officer has ever faced trial for the Sheku’s death in custody.”

As the inquiry opened, Stand Up To Racism supporters, trade unionists and anti-racists took the knee. They were remembering the thousands of black people across the world who have been murdered by police officers—who were then protected by the state.

Students and young people chalked the pavement outside the building with messages of defiance against the system that has denied the family justice for more than seven years.

One local anti-racist activist, Farida, told Socialist Worker, “We can’t let Sheku Bayoh just be another name of the many people of colour murdered by police. People in Scotland who first heard about the Bayoh case through the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement came to understand systemic racism and police violence right here in Scotland.”

In a statement released on behalf of Sheku’s family, Anwar said that his loved ones have waited a “very long time” to hear the truth. Anwar said, “The public inquiry will finally commence seven years and seven days after Sheku Bayoh died in police custody, and two years since the former Lord Advocate advised the Bayoh family that not one police officer would face charges.”

Anwar said there were “repeated attempts to criminalise, stereotype and smear” Sheku. Anwar added, “The first officers on the scene subjected Sheku to CS spray and the use of batons. He was face down on the ground in less than 50 seconds, he was restrained by up to seven officers.

“He was handcuffed and had ankle and leg restraints applied to him. Within minutes he had stopped breathing and then died. His body was covered with over 24 separate lacerations, cuts, bruises, and a broken rib.”

Students in Socialist Worker Student Societies (Swss) from Strathclyde, Glasgow and Edinburgh universities joined the protest. Student protester and Swss member Stephen said, “We have time and energy to help fuel this movement and kick racism off our campuses, streets and workplaces. We can’t forget that the universities in Glasgow are built on the profits derived from slavery.”

At the end of the first day of the inquiry, the family said, “Sheku Bayoh is not by any means the first man to die in police custody. But if anything we hope that if Sheku’s name does not fade from memory, but that one day the name Sheku will leave a legacy his children can be proud of.” It’s vital that anti-racists continue to put pressure on the inquiry to admit the truth.

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