Posts Tagged ‘Roger Sylvester’

No More Police Killings, Time For Justice

Friday, October 27th, 2023

No More Police Killings, Time For Justice: On Saturday 27th October 2012 I photographed the 14th annual march by the United Families & Friends Campaign (UFFC), a coalition of people whose family members and friends have died while in the care of police, prisons and in psychiatric detention.

No More Police Killings, Time For Justice
Marcia Rigg holds the list of 3,180 known custody deaths since 1969

Tomorrow, 28th October 2023 the UFFC will again be marching from Trafalgar Square at noon, though the event will be rather overshadowed by a massive march taking place at the same time a short distance away supporting Palestine. I hope to spend some time covering both events.

No More Police Killings, Time For Justice

Back in 2012 I wrote a long post, No More Police Killings, Time For Justice, on My London Diary about the event and little has changed since then, except that the list of those who have died has grown longer. So today I’ll quote some large parts of that article, along with some of the many pictures I took then.

No More Police Killings, Time For Justice

A slow silent march in memory of over 3000 people who have died in suspicious circumstances in custody since 1969 made its way slowly down Whitehall to Downing St, where a rally called for an end to police violence and immunity from prosecution.

No More Police Killings, Time For Justice

Among the families involved in the campaign, many of whom were represented at the protest, were those of Roger Sylvester, Leon Patterson, Rocky Bennett, Alton Manning, Christopher Alder, Brian Douglas, Joy Gardner, Aseta Simms, Ricky Bishop, Paul Jemmott, Harry Stanley, Glenn Howard, Mikey Powell, Jason McPherson, Lloyd Butler, Azelle Rodney, Sean Rigg, Habib Ullah, Olaseni Lewis, David Emmanuel (aka Smiley Culture), Kingsley Burrell, Demetre Fraser, Mark Nunes and Mark Duggan. Every year the list of names of those who have died in custody grows by several hundred – and among the new names this year were Billy Spiller, killed on 5 Nov 2011 and Philmore Mills, killed in Slough on Dec 27, 2011 and Anthony Grainger, killed by police on 3 March 2012. A total of 3.180 whose names are known since 1969, and there are others about which no details are available. Many have died in situations where foul play seems obvious, but not one single police or prison officer has been convicted.

People carry a coffin on which families wrote the names of those killed

There they came to a halt on the southbound roadway and held a rally at which many representatives of the families who are campaigning for justice spoke. Their stories were a horrific indictment of the UK police and justice system, with case after case of mainly fit and healthy men (and their have been some notable women) being detained by police and after a remarkably short time in the hands of the police being dead. Most but not all were black, but there was considerable agreement when one of the speakers said it was not a matter of race but of class; some police felt they could treat working-class people they detained how they liked, and that they could literally get away with murder.

Carole Duggan described the officer who shot her nephew Mark Duggan last year as “a serial killer in a uniform”

Instead the police issue lies to the press – as in the case of Mark Duggan whose shooting which appears to have been an extra-judicial exection – sparked the recent riots, saying that the victims were pointing guns at police or false stories about drugs or gang connections or other stories which give lurid headlines. Often evidence later emerges which means they have to retract these stories – as in the case of the entirely innocent Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes.

Jan Butler, mother of Lloyd Butler who died in a police cel

These and other cases often too see police officers colluding with each other over stories – which again often unravel as more evidence emerges. We’ve seen too the deliberate use of discredited forensic investigators, as after the killing of Ian Tomlinson, as well as in that case and many others the deliberate use of delaying tactics in the investigation. CCTV evidence seems sometimes to mysteriously disappear, police fail to question officers who are the key suspects, and more. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has clearly too often has failed to be independent, often seeming to deliberately avoid or hide the the truth and to aid the police in getting away literally with murder.

No More Police Killings, Time For Justice
Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennet, twin sister of Leon Patterson

In the article I went on to give some details of the cases that family members spoke about, including the cases of Mark Duggan, shot by police in London, Anthony Grainger shot in Warrington, Lloyd Butler who died in a police cell, Kingsley Burrell who died in hospital after police had sectioned him when he called for help, Leon Patterson, battered to death in a police cell in Manchester in 1992, Demetre Fraser, Jason McPherson, Christopher Alder and others. I had to leave while some family members were still waiting to speak.

As I left the rally a small group of EDL members came and began to shout abuse. Police did rapidly respond and lead them away, and stewards from the rally tried hard to stop people chasing them. I reported “I photographed one man abusing a photographer, forcing her to run rapidly backwards as he ran at her, and another with a camera trying to hide his face behind his coat as he was being photographed running away.” I think he had been photographing for the EDL and had assaulted a woman who had photographed him.

Janet Alder – her brother Christopher was killed by police in Hull in 1992

In the article I list the 10 demands contained in a letter the UFFC were to deliver to Downing St at the end of the rally. I don’t think any of them have been met. Although the IPCC – the so-called Independent Police Complaints Commission – was replaced in 2018 by a new Independent Office for Police Conduct, IOPC, which seems equally flawed. It still uses the police to investigate the police and of over 23,000 complaints made about poor policing between 2020-2021, only 18 resulted in a police officer facing a misconduct meeting or hearing.

More text and pictures at No More Police Killings, Time For Justice.

Broadwater Farm & Mark Duggan

Friday, August 4th, 2023

Broadwater Farm & Mark Duggan: Sunday 4th August 2017 was the sixth anniversary of the killing by Metropolitan police officers of Mark Duggan which had led to widespread unrest in Tottenham and other areas. I went to photograph a march from Broadwater Farm to a rally outside Tottenham police station on the anniversary, arriving very early and taking a walk around the estate and the adjoining large park before the march.

Broadwater Farm Estate – Tottenham

Broadwater Farm & Mark Duggan
The Moselle goes underground as it approaches Broadwater Farm

Broadwater Farm Estate became notorious in the 1970s and 80s when poor maintenance and crime in poorly lit ‘deck level’ walkways made it into a sink estate after problems with damp, infestation and electrical faults led to half of its original residents moving out.

Broadwater Farm & Mark Duggan

The estate was built over the River Moselle which flows above ground through the adjoining 20 acres of public park, the Lordship Recreation Ground, and the area had remained as open land because of the flood risk until the estate was built in the 1960s. And though building the housing in blocks above ground floor open car parks solved the flooding problem it created large areas of largely empty and rather intimidating covered space.

Broadwater Farm & Mark Duggan

Things came to a head on the estate in October 1985 after police came to search the home of Cynthia Jarett whose son had been falsely arrested and charged with theft and assault. She died of a heart attack during the search, according to her daughter after being pushed by a police officer. Feelings in the Black community in London were already running high following the shooting in Brixton of Cherry Groce the week earlier during a police search in Brixton which left her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

Broadwater Farm & Mark Duggan

The death on the estate provoked a protest at Tottenham Police Station and various incidents on the estate which blew up into a riot as more and more police came into the estate with firefighters who put out a small fire. Faced by increasing attacks from residents the police withdrew, but two officers failed to escape. PC Richard Coombes was seriously injured and PC Keith Blakelock was beaten and hacked to death.

In the following years there was an intensive regeneration programme which greatly altered the estate, removing the deck level almost completely and making both structural and environmental changes. Some shops were converted into light industrial units to provide local employment and a local team was set up to manage the estate. As I wrote in 2017, “By the 2000s the estate had a long waiting list and had one of the lowest crime rates in London, though it still retains a powerful and blinkering presence in the Met’s demonology.”

More pictures Broadwater Farm Estate.

Tottenham remembers Mark Duggan

People met on Broadwater Farm where Mark Duggan had grown up on the sixth anniversary of his killing to march to a rally at Tottenham Police Station.

As well as the killing of Duggan, the march also protested the police killings of other members of the Tottenham community – Cynthia Jarrett, Joy Gardner, Roger Sylvester and Jermaine Baker as well as the recent deaths in London of Rashan Charles, Darren Cumberbatch and Edson Da Costa.

After Duggan’s death there were various misleading stories put out by the media including the BBC who reported police lies about the event, in particular that Duggan had shot at police first. He hadn’t fired a gun at all, and had almost certainly left it in the cab. The police involved refused to be interviewed in the IPCC investigation and gave conflicting testimonies. Almost certainly the most reliable account of the shooting came from the driver of the cab Duggan was in who said that Duggan got out of the taxi to run away and was immediately shot by police, he “only got 2-3ft from my car when he was shot.” It remains hard to understand the eventual inquest verdict of lawful killing.

At the front of the march was Tottenham community activist Stafford Scott who was also one of the speakers at the rally. At the police station we listen to a local poet and there was a minute of silence to remember those who had been killed.

As well as speeches from members of bereaved families and local activists, there were also speeched from Becky Shah from the Hillsborough campaign and a speaker from the Justice for Grenfell campaign.

Among those present was Myrna Simpson, the mother of Joy Gardner who died after being restrained by police who raided her home. Three officers were tried for her manslaughter but acquitted.

The crowd spread out into the street with a large group of mainly young men on the opposite side of the street.

More pictures and captions on My London Diary at Tottenham remembers Mark Duggan.

March against police racism 2000

Sunday, January 22nd, 2023

March against police racism

One of the earliest protests I put on My London Diary was a march in Wood Green to Tottenham Police Station organised by Movement For Justice on 22nd January 2000, and two years ago I posted come of the black and white images from this on this site in a post Marching For Justice.

March against police racism

At the time as well as working on black and white film I was also taking pictures with a consumer digital camera, the Fuji 2.2 Mp MX-2700. It had a fixed 35mm equivalent lens and was probably the best consumer digital of the time, though obviously rather limited.

March against police racism

The protest was organised by the Movement for Justice and the Lindo Campaign. Delroy Lindo started a campaign ofter his friend Winston Silcott was wrongly imprisoned for the murder of PC Keith Blakelock during the 1985 Broadwater Farm riots. The Winston Silcott Defence Campaign played an important part getting Silcott acquitted and released. Silcott had been convicted with two other men despite not being anywhere near where the murder took place.

Two police officers were later tried for fabricating evidence but were acquitted, despite the evidence against them. They had picked on Silcott because of his record and fabricated confessions by the three men.

Silcott was chosen because of his record and because the police could find no evidence over the murder of one of their officers. Six years earlier he had been acquitted in another murder trial and sentenced to six months after a nightclub brawl. When Blakelock was savagely killed he was on bail on another murder charge, for which he spent 18 years in jail after the jury did not believe that he had killed a night club bouncer in self-defence.

Later Silcott, much to the obvious disgust of the BBC and many politicians was awarded £17,000 compensation for wrongful conviction and a further £50,000 in an out-of-court settlement of his civil case for malicious prosecution.

Lindo and his wife were harassed by police after they began to campaign over the imprisonment of Silcott and other cases including the killing of Roger Sylvester and the harassment of Duwayne Brooks, a friend of Stephen Lawrence who had been with him when he was murdered in 1993. Instead of treating him as a witness, they treated him as a suspect and he suffered severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

Police arrested Brooks after he took part in an anti-racist march against the British National Party following the murder. and he was charged but the judge dismissed the case. Later he sued the Met Police and was awarded £100,000 compensation. The treatment of Brooks and the parents and other friends of Stephen Lawrence played an important role in the Macpherson report that concluded the Metropolitan Police Force was “institutionally racist“.

Roger Sylvester lived in Tottenham and worked for a drop-in mental health centre. He had suffered some mental health problems himself some years earlier and in January 1999 was detained outside of his home, under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983. Eight police officers restrained him “for his own safety” and took him to St Ann’s Hospital were he was further restrained, going limp after 20 minutes. An inquest jury found his death was caused by being restrained for too long in the wrong position, without sufficient medical attention, but their verdict was overturned and a judge replaced it with an open verdict.

Recent event have shown that the force remained a safe space for racists, misogynists and rapists, although of course many police officers are trying hard to do an honest and necessary job. It remains to be seen if the current head of London’s Metropolitan Police Service, Sir Mark Rowley, will be any more successful than his predecessors in turning the force around.

Back on the original post about the event there are six pictures, four in black and white and two colour. I took many more in black and white but very few have been digitised.

United Friends & Families March

Saturday, October 30th, 2021

Today at noon in London, the the United Families & Friends Campaign (UFFC), a coalition of those affected by deaths in police, prison and psychiatric custody, is holding its annual march from Trafalgar Square along Whitehall to a rally opposite Downing St as it has on the last Saturday in October since 1999. In 2010 the march was also on 30th October and I published a lengthy post about it with many photographs on My London Diary. Here is the text in full (with some minor corrections) and a few of the pictures.

United Friends & Families March

Trafalgar Square to Downing St, London. Saturday 30 Oct 2010

Marcia Rigg-Samuel, sister of Sean Rigg, killed by police in Brixton, tries to deliver a letter at Downing St
more pictures

The United Friends and Families of those who have died in suspicious circumstances in police custody, prisons and secure mental institutions marched slowly in silence down Whitehall to Downing St, where police refused to allow them to deliver a letter to the Prime Minister, David Cameron.

It’s impossible to be sure how many of the suspicious deaths in police custody, prisons and secure mental institutions (and there are around 200 a year) have been as a result of lack of care, the use of excessive force and brutality, but certainly the answer is far too many.

Since 1999, the ‘United Friends and Families’ of some of those who have died have held an annual slow silent funeral march from Trafalgar Square down Whitehall to Downing St. It attracted particular attention in 2008 when the mother and other family members of Jean Charles de Menezes were among those taking part. This year’s event was rather smaller, and received little attention from the mainstream media.

A number of family members spoke with great feeling opposite Downing St, and then the group, by now around a hundred strong, moved across the road to fix flowers to the gates and attempt to deliver a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron. It seemed an unnecessary and pointless snub that the police refused to take the letter and that nobody from No 10 was apparently prepared to come and receive it.

Earlier there had been an argument with the police who had objected to the rally occupying one of the two southbound lanes of Whitehall, but was allowed to go ahead by the officer in charge after those present had refused to move. In previous years the police have usually seemed anxious to avoid confrontation, although in 2008 they insisted on searching all the bouquets before allowing them to be laid on the gates of Downing St.

Jason McPherson’s grandmother speaking opposite Downing St

Speakers at the rally opposite Downing St included Stephanie, the twin sister of Leon Patterson, Rupert Sylvester, the father of Roger Sylvester, Ricky Bishop’s sister Rhonda and mother Doreen, Samantha, sister of Jason McPherson and his grandmother, Susan Alexander, the mother of Azelle Rodney, and finally the two sisters of Sean Rigg.

What the families want is simple. Justice. And to know the truth about what happened. What emerged again and again was a shameful history of delay, evasion and covering up by the police, with the collusion of the IPCC, the Crown Prosecution Service and even at times judges, working together to ensure that justice fails to be done. The press have been fed lies – as in the de Menezes case, security cameras have suddenly been found not to have been working, CCTV tapes have been lost or doctored, officers involved have not been questioned until many months after the events, witness statements have been dismissed as ‘unreliable’. Deliberate delays are used as a tactic to prevent the truth coming out, and these also have allowed officers involved to collude in their cover-ups.

Overwhelmingly the victims in these cases are black, but one of the banners on the march reminded us that it affects the whole of our community, with a banner asking why 18 year old Sarah Campbell died in Styal Prison in 2003. Many of us present remembered and sadly miss her mother, Pauline Campbell; after her daughter’s tragic death she devoted herself single-mindedly to campaigning for justice, not just for Sarah but for other victims and to improve the system. Eventually she forced an admission from the authorities that their lack of care had caused Sarah’s death, but she became another victim of injustice when she committed suicide on her daughters grave.

Stephanie LightfootBennett, speaks about the police murder of her twin Leon Patterson

Leon Patterson was arrested in Stockport in 1992 and kept in a police cell for some days despite being in need of hospital treatment. He was found dead in his cell with a fractured skull and severe injuries, his blood covering the walls of the cell and his genitals mutilated, and in such a bad state that she failed to recognise him. The family challenged the initial inquest verdict which found his injuries to be self-inflicted, but there was no legal aid available for them. Fortunately the charity INQUEST supported them and a second inquest in April 1993 returned a verdict of unlawful killing, although this was quashed on appeal by the police on the grounds that the coroner had misdirected the jury on the law.

Roger Sylvester died in 1999 after being arrested by the Met. An inquest jury in October 2003 returned a verdict of unlawful killing, but the verdict was later quashed in the High Court, because the judge claimed the coroner’s summing up had confused the jury. The judge refused to order another inquest and said that no jury in a criminal case would be likely to convict any of the officers concerned of manslaughter.

Ricky Bishop was stopped, arrested and taken to Brixton police station on 22 Nov 2001, where he was assaulted and brutalised by police officers, leading to a heart attack. After that the police called a paramedic and he was taken to hospital and died. The family say that the police withheld vital evidence from the inquest and that the jury were not given a proper choice of verdicts at the inquest.

Samantha, sister of Jason McPherson

Jason McPherson died in hospital after being taken there from Notting Hill Police station after having been arrested on suspicion of drug offences on 18 Jan 2007. Police believed he had a wrap of cocaine in his mouth and had used considerable and arguably excessive force on his head and chest to try to get him to open his mouth. A jury at the inquest in January 2010 came to a unanimous ‘narrative verdict’, saying that the procedures were not properly implemented and that “it did not appear Jason was given the opportunity to remove the drugs voluntarily through talking down (tactical communication).”

Azelle Rodney was killed by police in April 2005 after a car in which he was travelling was rammed and stopped by the Met in Barnet. Rodney was not armed, although the officer who fired the shots at close range was sure he was. Various misleading statements from police sources were widely published by the press. An inquiry into the case opened formally earlier this month and there is to be a hearing in the Royal Courts of Justice starting next week.

Marcia Rigg-Samuel, sister of Sean Rigg, who went into Brixton Police station in August 2008 a physically healthy man but was dead a short time later, killed by the actions of a small group of officers, led the procession down Whitehall from Trafalgar Square. She stood beside her sister, Samantha Rigg-David, the last of the families to speak, and then read the letter from the families to Prime Minister David Cameron. The inquest on Sean Rigg, adjourned in 2008, is not now expected until 2012.

The families then moved across the road to the gates to Downing Street, demanding that police open them so they could deliver their letter. Police refused, and a small group of armed police joined the armed officers already present. After considerable amount of angry shouting as the police continued to refuse to allow access or even to take in the letter – a few of the group were allowed to sellotape the flowers, a photo of Sean Rigg and the letter to the gates. The noisy demonstration at the gates was still continuing when I left.
more pictures

UFFC Annual Rally & Procession

Wednesday, October 27th, 2021

Next Saturday, 30th September 2021, I hope to be photographing this years United Families and Friends Campaign annual remembrance procession. Meeting from noon in Trafalgar Square, at 1pm they will march in silent procession along Whitehall, followed by a noisy protest outside Downing Street.

Janet Alder, the sister of Christopher, killed by police in Hull in 1998

The United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) mission is to work collaboratively as a network of independent campaigns to address common issues and concerns related to deaths and abuse in police, penal, mental health and immigration detention; and to organise events and activities that promote awareness and support for affected families across the UK. “

Marcia RIgg, whose brother Sean was killed in Brixton Police station in 2008

This procession has taken place on the last Saturday of October every year since 1999 to “to remember loved ones who have died in custody” and the UFFC invite all to “Come and support the families of those who have died at the hands of police, prison and secure medical units in the United Kingdom.”

Among the victims are Christopher Alder, Ibrahim Sey, Joy Gardner, Roger Sylvester, Seni Lewis, Adrian McDonald, Darren Cumberbatch, Rashan Charles, Sean Rigg, Jack Susianta, Sheku Bayoh, Mikey Powell, Paul Coker and Cameron Whelan, and many others whose families are among those involved in organising the event.

Seni Lewis, killed in 2010

The invitation to attend states “The UFFC annual procession is supported by: Black Lives Matter UK, 4WardEverUK, Migrant Media, INQUEST, UNISON, RMT, FBU, UNITE, Tottenham Rights, Sisters Uncut, London Campaign Against Police & State Violence, LARAG, Newham Monitoring Project (NMP), Pan African Society Community Forum, Institute of Race Relations, Edge Fund, National Union of Students and DTRTP.”

I’ve photographed this event, and been deeply moved by it, most years since I first heard about it in 2003. The pictures with this post are all from nine years ago in 2012 when the protest was on 27th October.

The procession ends with a rally opposite Downing St where family members speak

That year as in all years there were new names to add to the list of 3,180 known custody deaths since 1969, chosen as the date when David Oluwale was killed – and two officers convicted of several assault charges. Since then many of those over three thousand have died in situations where foul play seems obvious, but a Full Fact investigation has found only one single police or prison officer has been convicted of murder or manslaughter or assault related to a death in custody – Sergeant Alwyn Sawyer, convicted in 1986 for the manslaughter of Henry Foley. A few other police officers have been prosecuted but the cases against them have collapsed or they have been found not guilty.

Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennet whose twin Leon Patterson was beaten to death by Manchester Police in 1992

Clearly police and others have difficult jobs, but there needs to be transparency and an intention, still sadly lacking, to get at the truth. The immediate response of the police is still normally to deliberately mislead about the circumstances and to cover up on behalf of the officers involved. It has taken years of dogged and dedicated action by family members, often having to do work the police should have done, overcoming obstacles put in their way for a few families to get to the truth about how their family members died – and sometimes to get inquest verdicts which reflect this. But still not to get justice.

Jan Butler holding a photograph of her son Lloyd, who died in a police cell

As the invitation to the event ends “We look forward to seeing you – No Justice No Peace“. No Justice No Peace is a sentiment that will fill Whitehall on Saturday, echoing from the offices which line the street, but which as in previous years will sadly fall on the deaf ears of our establishment.

More from 2012 at No More Police Killings, Time For Justice.