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Thousands march for Smiley Culture

“DIRTY BABYLON!” snarled the crowd in time to the reggae beat. It was a line from a 1980s Smiley Culture hit: “Cockney say Ol’ Bill, we say Dirty Babylon”. How appropriate.

The death of Smiley Culture in police custody is yet another suspicious death at the hand of the Met. Little wonder it has angered the black community across south London. Over two thousand turned out on 16 April in the largest black-led demonstration in years.

According to the police, on 15 March officers 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. The police initially claimed that Smiley had stabbed himself through the heart with a knife so big that it clean came out of him the other side.

Smiley’s family and friends know the singer’s death fits a pattern: 400 dead in police custody over the last decade, not one officer convicted. As one protester put it, “Smiley just happens to be the most well-known man to have died in police custody.”

That’s why so many other campaigners for victims of the police were out for Smiley: Kingsley Burrell Brown, Sean Rigg, Habib “Paps” Ullah and more. The march called for justice for all those who have died or suffered at the hands of the police – black or white, Smiley Culture or Ian Tomlinson.

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