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Justice for Smiley – Justice for all who have died in police custody!

The death of Smiley Culture while in police custody has struck a chord that has resonated deeply across south London and Britain’s black community. Even the Evening Standard says thousands will march on 16 April in “the largest black community-led demonstration in years”. Jeremy Drinkall reports

As we reported a month ago, the police inexplicably allowed Smiley, a reggae star from the 1980s, to go on his own into his kitchen to “make a cup of tea” – even though he was under arrest at the time and officers were next door.

As Merlin Emmanuel, Smiley’s nephew, told a thousand-strong packed meeting in Brixton Town Hall:

“Under section 18, the police have a duty of care to look after suspects in their custody and keep him or her safe, therefore the protocol and the stand procedure should be, and is, to handcuff the suspect… The police failed miserably to enforce these simple procedures and, as a consequence, my uncle David Emmanuel, also known as Smiley Culture, is dead.”

Even worse – though unfortunately par for the course where the police are concerned – “anonymous” tip-offs to the press claimed that Smiley stabbed himself through the heart with a knife so big that it clean came out of him the other side. Who could have made this claim if not the cops, yet, to this day, no one has come forward and apologised for this attempt to prejudice the investigation.

Neither the family, friends nor, for that matter, large parts of the black community have any faith in the “independent” police commission inquiry. Over 400 people have died in police custody in the last 10 years, yet not a single officer has been charged with any offence.

In fact, you have to go back to 1969 to find a police officer successfully prosecuted over a black person’s death in custody. Anyone who has followed the inquiry into policing of the G20 and the equally tragic death of Ian Tomlinson will understand that the police are not equal under the law – which is why some of them act as if they are above it.

It is great that the family and the organisers have deliberately called for the demo to respect the lives of, and call for justice for all those who have died in police custody. Unless we can show a determined, united and militant response, more victims of police violence and cover-up will follow.

The cuts and mass unemployment hit black people – especially women and the young – harder than most. Unemployment among young black men stands officially at 50%; in reality, says Lee Jasper of Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts (Barac): “If you take into account the number of young black people not in the system for example because they are not claiming any benefits, I think you will find the vast majority of black unemployment approaching 70 per cent.”

They are angry. Their futures have been sold to the banks. They will fight back. No wonder the police are preparing to crack heads and David Cameron is making speeches denouncing immigrants for “refusing to integrate” and being “too many”.

No-one should have to tolerate a racist Britain, where the police can kill and lie and get away with it – time and time and time again. Instead ordinary working class Britons – of every colour, migrant or born here – should stand shoulder to shoulder and demand:

  • Justice for Smiley! Justice for every person who has died in police custody
  • No more cover-ups. For a community inquiry into Smiley’s death.
  • For the right of self-defence against police brutality and provocation.

Demonstrate on 16 April
Assemble South Bank Club, 124-130 Wandsworth Road
March to New Scotland Yard
For more details click here

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