Justice for Smiley Culture
Today I’m up in Westminster Magistrates Court for my pre-hearing about the UK Uncut Fortnum & Mason protest on the 26th of March. But I’ve been advised not to write about that.
So instead, I thought I’d write about another recent case. When the police arrest lots of activists, we are quite good at getting media coverage. In many cases, we are friends with the journalists who write about them. Of course, they are right to write about them. The crack down on protest is a serious abuse of the justice system. But as someone with so much privilege it’s no surprise that a number of the main journalists who write about these things are personal friends of mine.
Most abuses of police power are not against protesters. And most don’t get nearly as much coverage. This isn’t the fault of the journalists who do their best to cover injustice. It is the fault of the unjust way our society is structured.
Specifically, a vastly disproportionate number of these abuses are perpetrated against black and Asian people. So in court today, under my suit, I will be wearing the T-shirt I was given at Illford Police Station when they took all of my clothes. Only now, it has written on it the words: “Justice for Smiley Culture”.
If you aren’t familiar with the case of the death of Smiley Culture, then I recommend that you google it, or that you check out the campaign’s Facebook page. The reggae singer had a group of police officers drop round his house in March this year – 11 days before we were arrested. By the time they left, he was dead – stabbed through the heart. The officers claim he did this to himself whilst making a cup of tea. The case has become symbolic of the many, and disproportionate number of, black men who die whilst in police custody.
In fact 2011 has already seen more black or Asian people die in police custody than the total number in 2010. Of course it is impossible in most specific cases to prove particular violence, and the excuses in some cases will be true. But when time after time, healthy men have ‘sudden medical conditions’ whilst in police custody – when people who have called for help because they and their 5 year old son are being harassed, rapidly wind up dead, when bizarre story after bizarre story is used to explain a spate of deaths, and when these stories are disproportionately about people from a particular section of our community who have always suffered in so many ways at the hands of our police forces, it is time to see the broader picture.
As protesters we face discrimination from the police occasionally. For some people this harassment is a daily struggle. For some it is more serious still.
Thanks to everyone who has sent messages of support for today. Keep fighting the cuts, and let’s remember who it is who suffers the rough end of police discrimination not just now and then, but every day.