By Sam Ord
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March by justice campaigns demands action over deaths after police contact

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Campaigners want 'truth, accountability, change and an end to state killings'
Issue 2829
Justice campaigns. Protesters with large banner, 'No more deaths in custody'

Justice campaigns are brought together by the United Families and Friends Campaign march (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Hundreds of bereaved family members, friends and supporters protested in central London on Saturday over deaths after contact with police and state agencies. It was the 24th Annual Remembrance Procession of the United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC).

The families involved have been bereaved by deaths in police and prison custody and mental health settings.

Sharine, whose friend Godrick Osei died after contact with the police in July, told Socialist Worker she was protesting against “police brutality”. “He was only 35 and left behind two young children,” she explained. “He died in Cornwall after calling the police for help.

“He went to an old people’s home where the carers said he wasn’t a threat and put him in a room. After the police came in he was dead.”

The protest marched from Trafalgar Square to Downing Street. Five families from UFFC and justice campaigns handed in a letter calling on Rishi Sunak, home secretary Suella Braverman and mayor of London Sadiq Khan to meet to discuss their demands. 

Melanie Leahy, whose son Matthew Leahy died after seven days in the psychiatric system, told Socialist Worker she’s been “searching since 2012 for justice”.

“I stand with the UFFC,” she added. “We are campaigning for the truth, we had 106,000 people sign our petition for Matthew and it was debated in parliament. We want a statutory public inquiry to question why things were allowed to go so wrong.”

The demonstration was supported by Inquest and Stand Up To Racism among others.

Protesters with placards with the names and faces of loved ones who have been killed

There is anger over the lack of justice (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Speaking to the crowd, Benda Weinberg, a relative of Brian Douglas who died after being hit with a police baton, explained how she was the one to start this annual demonstration 24 years ago.

She told of the horrors their family faced, “You can’t have a funeral—if you do, you do it with body parts missing. Brian was buried without a brain.”

“We realised we weren’t alone,” she added. “We have to take this shit that makes no sense to Number 10.  How long until something changes?”

She summarised, “Police pay lip service and in the next few months there’s another death, and another.”

Janet Alder was spied on by police after her brother, Christopher Alder, died in a police cell with officers making monkey noises around his corpse.

“Each time a death happens all the police learn is how to cover it up. She called on people to “stand with us and fight for justice”.

Outside Downing Street families involved in justice campaigns including Helen Nkama, the mother of Chris Kaba, handed in the letter demanding a meeting. Chris was shot and killed by a cop on 5 September in south London. 

Jefferson Bosela, Chris Kaba’s cousin, said “there was no pursuit, there were no lights, there were no sirens” before he was shot dead by police. He said that after viewing footage of the incident in which Chris died, the family had stepped back because of how traumatic the experience had been.

Jefferson paid tribute to his cousin who “loved life”. He added he believed Rishi Sunak would do “nothing” in response to a letter signed by the families of five people who have died in custody demanding an urgent meeting with him.

Another person handing in the letter was Alfred Omishore, the father of Oladeji Omishore. Oladeji died on 4 June after falling into the River Thames following the repeated use of a stun gun by two police officers on Chelsea Bridge.

Alfred said the family was “appalled” at false narratives being peddled over the death, including that his son had been armed with a screwdriver.

Many speeches outside Downing Street called for transparency in the criminal justice system. Others called for an end to police brutality and a halt to the intimidation of victims’ families. 

Marcia Rigg, sister of Sean Rigg who died while in police custody at the entrance to Brixton police station, and organiser at UFFC said, “Families tirelessly campaign, when they ought to be grieving, for the truth of what happened to their loved one. 

“We have no choice but to publicly challenge the judicial system, sadly at a very high cost to our mental health and well-being, because we do not want any other family to experience the same trauma and years of delays that we have.”

She added, “We are taking this opportunity to inform the newly appointed prime minister of our objectives and demands for truth, justice, accountability, change and an end to state killings.

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