By Isabel Ringrose
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Family and supporters demand justice for Sheku Bayoh outside inquiry

Sheku Bayoh died in 2015 handcuffed in hospital with over 24 lacerations, cuts and bruises after being restrained by six police officers
Issue 2809
The family and solicitor Aamer Anwar in front of a crowd of Sheku Bayoh supporters

The family and solicitor Aamer Anwar in front of a crowd of Sheku Bayoh supporters

Over 200 anti-racists gathered outside the Sheku Bayoh Inquiry in Edinburgh on Thursday to call for justice.

The inquiry is now considering whether racism played a part in Sheku’s death after pressure from the Bayoh family and anti-racists. He died after contact with the police in the streets of Kirkcaldy, near Fife, in 2015.

The vigil was called by the Justice for Sheku Bayoh campaign, Stand Up To Racism (SUTR), the Scottish TUC union federation and the Scottish TUC Black Workers’ Committee.

Rania from SUTR Edinburgh told Socialist Worker, “This is one of the biggest events for Sheku we’ve organised. It means we’re reaching new activists and the campaign is growing. Everyone came to show their support and find out how they can get involved in the future.”

Trade unions backing the vigil included the UCU, Unison, Unite, RMT, PCS, and striking education workers from the EIS.

Edinburgh and Aberdeen university students from the Palestine encampments also joined the action. Rania said, “Our protest today will help put pressure on the inquiry. 

“During the summer the inquiry will start to slow down, and it will end in the autumn. At the some point next year it will release a report with recommendations and conclusions.”

The Bayoh family believes one of the reasons Sheku died is racism in the police.

“The police showed up and used so much violence against him,” Rania said. “We have to ask, if Sheku wasn’t black, would it have happened like this? 

“We also have to ask why it took nine years since his death to get to court. We’re struggling to get the people responsible for his death to be in custody.

“The inquiry has shown how the different arms of the state hid evidence and lied. It’s scary to think how many more they keep.”

Sheku’s sister Kadi told the vigil that the state “failed us at every stage of the process” and that the “ugly head of institutional racism and stereotyping kept appearing”.

Rania added, “Kadi says that this fight isn’t just about Sheku but everyone in the country. Justice is for everyone. We want black people to stop dying in police custody and feel equal and feel safe in Scotland.”

The Bayoh’s lawyer Aamer Anwar said this stage of the inquiry is a “critical chapter”. “After two years the Bayoh family feels vindicated,” he said. “They always knew that the Crown and the Police Independent Review Commissioner (PRIC) failed to investigate race. 

“They both ignored the evidence of racism, they presented the wrong facts, they obstructed, they instructed the wrong experts and then they failed to prosecute.

“The Bayoh family holds the Crown Office ultimately responsible for the betrayal of justice.”

Rania added that anti-racists will be back to protest—and that the fight isn’t over after the inquiry. “When it ends, it’s very important we continue to put more pressure on the government and police and show up for Sheku’s family,” she explained.

“Kadi said today that the turnout gives the family strength to get through this—so we will definitely mobilise again. 

“The most important thing is also to build awareness about the case itself – everyone in Scotland needs to know. Even if the inquiry comes out with the right result, we have to push hard to hold everyone responsible to account and get real justice.”

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