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Police killing of Dalian Atkinson was ‘legalised murder’

This article is over 5 years, 11 months old
Dalian Atkinson’s family faces a long fight for justice after his killing, writes Dave Sewell
Issue 2518
Black Lives Matter activists march through central London last month
Black Lives Matter activists march through central London last month (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The police who killed former Aston Villa footballer Dalian Atkinson face a criminal investigation, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) watchdog announced last Friday.

Dalian was repeatedly shot on Monday of last week with a Taser—a “non-lethal” weapon known to be deadly. His nephew Fabian Atkinson called it “legalised murder”.

“What it boils down to is one man killing another man,” he said. “Everybody sugarcoats it but they shouldn’t. The police killed him. The story is murder.”

Two officers have been informed that they face criminal investigations and have been served gross misconduct notices.

In a statement Dalian’s family said, “We are determined to get justice for him, which means getting to the truth.”

They face a long fight. The IPCC was set up in 2000 to address the perception of an unaccountable police force, not to get justice for victims of police killings.

The system is stacked against families seeking the truth, as many told a memorial event for Sean Rigg in Brixton, south London, last Sunday.

Sean died in the cage of Brixton police station in 2008. A shambolic initial IPCC investigation let the cops off the hook. Marcia Rigg, Sean’s sister, said “they made blunder after blunder”.

His family and others campaigned to get the IPCC decision overturned and win an apology and change in procedures from the tame watchdog.

Their fight continues. Two officers are expected to stand trial this year.

This month the Rigg family will find out if they can launch criminal procedures against another officer. They were able to overturn the officer’s attempt to resign without serving his full notice.

The Riggs were also instrumental in getting prime minister Theresa May to launch an independent review into deaths in custody when she was home secretary. It is due to report back in the coming months.

But eight years after Sean’s death there is still no justice in sight.


Around 300 people, most of them black, joined an event held to mark the eighth anniversary. Many of them were involved in their own fights for justice.

Kadisha Brown-Burrell’s brother Kingsley died in custody in Birmingham in 2011.

She told the meeting that when Kingsley was first taken into custody, “I said, if anything happens to my brother they’ve got me to answer to.

“And here I am five years later.”

Supporters were set to protest in Birmingham on Friday, and put pressure on the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

The CPS is still deciding whether or not to pursue police over Kingsley’s death or drop the case due to insufficient evidence.

Ajibole Lewis is preparing for an inquest next January into the death of her son Olaseni in 2010. He died after up to 11 cops restrained him. He was seeking help as a voluntary patient at a Croydon mental hospital in south London.

Black men with mental health problems are by far the group most likely to die after contact with police.

If a member of the public kills someone they go on trial.

If a police officer kills someone they don’t, at least until there has been an inquest and a series of other investigations.

Rupert Sylvester slammed this double standard.

His son Roger Sylvester died after being violently restrained by police in 1999—17 years ago.

An inquest jury gave a verdict of unlawful killing in 2003. Police officers got this overturned the following year.

Rupert said, “A fish rots from the head, and that’s where this comes from—from the institutions.

“We have to rally and demonstrate for the truth to come out.”

Number of deaths is steadily rising

The need for the Black Lives Matter movement has been tragically proved during the last two weeks.

The number of people dying after coming into contact with the police is steadily rising—and the toothless IPCC watchdog is powerless to stop it.

An IPCC report this month showed that the number who had died in 2015-16 had risen by 63 percent in the last five years.

The last year recorded a 37 percent spike.

A wholly disproportionate number of these deaths are of black people. On Tuesday of last week Abdi Salam Nassir fell to his death after police were called to his home in the Easton area of Bristol.

An officer “concerned with his welfare” walked him up to his eighth-floor flat.


Shortly afterwards Abdi fell from a window to his death.

Last week the inquest into the death of a man who fell from a London hotel returned a verdict that he intentionally killed himself.

The man was being prosecuted for assaulting a police officer during a “psychotic episode”. A letter arrived at his home days after his death informing him that the case against him had been dropped.

Both incidents highlight the role of the police.

The IPCC has proven itself to be incapable of delivering justice for the families of those killed after coming into contact with the police.

The police’s function is to maintain class rule and stifle working class resistance, not deal with complex personal issues.

And no changes to the IPCC’s structure will change the role it plays.

Alistair Farrow 

Anti-racist activists are right to be at Notting Hill

The daily Mail newspaper gleefully took up the annual drive to criminalise people attending north west London’s Notting Hill Carnival this year.

“Anarchists are set to stage protests at next weekend’s Notting Hill Carnival,” it said. It was an attempt to trivialise the Black Lives Matter movement.

In the north London boroughs of Barnet and Harrow alone there have been at least 15 police raids in the run-up to the carnival. They want to stop people joining in with the anti-racist spirit of a carnival organised by black Marxist Claudia Jones in 1959. It was a festival of resistance in the wake of the Notting Hill riot of 1958.

Black Lives Matter activists will rightly be at Carnival this year.


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