Tottenham Remembers

The day after Black Lives Matter London in Altab Ali Park I went ot another event remembering the anniversary of the shooting of Mark Duggan by police in Tottenham on on 4 August 2011.  Reading the accounts related to his shooting, including the subsequent trial of one of those with him and the inquest, for example on Wikipedia,  it is impossible to tell exactly what took place, but certain that the police lied, contradicted themselves, issued false statements and briefings and attempted to frustrate the inquiries into the case.

It is also clear that the police failure to communicate sensibly with either Duggan’s family or the wider community about the shooting was the spark which set off the riots.

The only possible conclusion seems to me that the police immediately realised that the team who had killed Duggan had done so illegally and had then swung into huge if rather badly coordinated attempts to cover up their actions. Given the published evidence, the jury verdict reached by an 8-1 majority that the killing of Duggan was lawful seems ridiculous – but as so often the police had got away with it.

Certainly for much of the community in Tottenham there was no doubt that this was another extra-judicial murder by police, and he is just another of the list of their people murdered by them, including Cynthia Jarrett, Joy Gardener, Roger Sylvester, and, more recently,  Jermaine Baker, shot in 2015 in Wood Green.

Tottenham remembers Mark Duggan started at the centre of the Broadwater Farm  estate, which became notorious at the time of the 1985 riots, which began after police raided the home there of  Cynthia Jarrett, who died. Her friends and family demanded an inquiry but the neighbourhood rioted and 500 police were sent into forcibly end it. One, PC Keith Blakelock, tripped and fell ot the ground where he was surrounded by a group of people and kicked and stabbed to death.

Police occupied the estate for the next two months with dogs, surveillance equipment and helicopters. Police made 379 arrests and six people were charged with murdering PC Blakelock – and three men were convicted of his murder, but had their conviction s quashed on appeal over irregularities in the police interviews. Two police interviewers were charged with perverting the course of justice and falsifying evidence – but were acquitted.

Police investigations into the murder continued, with a considerable amount of police harassment of some of the suspects and ten men were arrested in 2010. One stood trial in 2013 and was acquitted. He stated he wasn’t present when the murder  took place and did not know who carried it out.

The atmosphere as people gathered for the march was a little tense. The media haven’t treated the estate or its residents fairly over the years and don’t trust them. I felt in a better position than most as a number of the main figures taking part know me and my work over the years, and that I’ve always tried to be fair and state their case accurately.

There were a number of people taking part whose relatives have been killed by police, including Mark Duggan’s aunt and mother, Sean Rigg’s sister Marcia and Jermaine Baker’s mother and other relatives , as well as some Black activists I’ve photographed at other events.

Things did get slightly more difficult at the rally in front of Tottenham Police Station, particularly when some other photographers began to get a little in the way of events and photographers were asked to move back. I had to move and work a little more discretely than usual, but still managed to get my pictures. One man towards the end did object to my presence, but fortunately others told him to ease off, as I was OK.

Policing in this country is often said – particularly by police spokespersons – to be policing by consent, policing which requires the trust and support of the community. I’m not sure that has ever been fully given in any working class communities, who largely regard the police as agents of the bosses and the rich, even if not everyone subscribes to the ACAB view. But certainly trust is at a real low in Tottenham.

Tottenham remembers Mark Duggan


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