United in sorrow and anger

Janet Alder, whose son Christopher Alder was killed by police in 1998 in Hull leads the annual procession of families and friends of those who have died in  police, prison and psychiatric custody from Trafalgar Square on its way to a rally at Downing St. And at the right is Marcia Rigg who has led the determined campaign to find out the truth of how and why her brother Sean Rigg was killed in 2008 by police in Brixton Police Station.

Marcia Rigg

We now know more about the deaths of these two men, deaths which official inquiries by the IPCC  were determined to sweep under the carpet and drown in the long grass of deliberately slow investigation because in these and a few other of the over 3,000 known deaths in custody since 1969, whose names were recorded on a poster carried in the march the families have campaigned long and hard to find the truth – which officialdom has done its best to hide.

Unusually four police officers were tried for manslaughter over Christopher Alder’s death, but were acquitted on the orders of the judge. In 2011 the government was forced to formally apologise to Alder’s family by the European Court of Human Rights and to admit that they had failed to carry out an effective and independent inquiry into the case. This perhaps explains some of Theresa May’s obsession to ensure European courts have no jurisdiction in the UK.

The United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) has brought together many of these bereaved families, providing mutual support and advice. You can find out more about many of the cases on the 4WardEver Campaign UK web site.

Doreen Jjuuko, mother of Ricky Bishop, killed in Brixton Police Station in November 2001 holds flowers. Behind her is the banner for Rebecca Overy, who died because of a lack of care in her transition from an adolescent to an adult mental health hospital and whose family are fighting for a change in the law ‘Rebecca’s Law’ to prevent future deaths.

This year police held up the start of the march while a march by Vegans for Animal Rights went past on its way to Parliament Square, and the UFFC were held up in Parliament Square for longer than usual before starting on their slow, silent progress down Whitehall. There were frequent short stops and as they neared Downing St the silence was broken by noisy chanting for justice.

At the memorial to the women of World War II there was a short rally and a minute of silence in memory of the victims followed by some loud chanting and short speeches, before the marchers moved on the few yards for their main rally on Whitehall opposite Downing St.

Here there were more speeches by family members of the various campaigns to get justice over deaths who come together in the UFFC. Some are people who I’ve heard speak many times before, still fighting to get justice for deaths many years ago, but every year there are new deaths and new injustices.

Marcia Rigg holds the letter they will take to Theresa May

After a number of speeches a deputation went into Downing St with a letter for Theresa May, but given that as Home Secretary she led the deceit and covering up of these deaths for six years it seems unlikely she will take any action to either prevent them or see that those responsible for them are brought to justice.

There are far too many pictures of the protest to post here, and you can see them and read more at Families United against Custody Deaths.  I didn’t find taking pictures easy during some of the speeches, as this was a highly emotional event, and several times I had to stop to clean my glasses and wipe my eyes. When the deputation went into Downing St I felt too tired and went home.


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My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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