There was anger, there were tears and it was standing room only in the Karibu Centre. Not everyone knew Smiley Culture, the reggae artist who died last week during a police operation to arrest him at his home, but everyone knew his music.He was a musician? Oh, well, clearly a normal, non-psycho type. Just like Phil Spector.
Now he is dead, in questionable circumstances.Really? What sort of ‘questionable circumstances’ are those, then?
The authorities say Smiley, who faced drugs charges, stabbed himself through the heart while officers conducting a fresh drugs search were in another room.Yes, and..?
His relatives insist that is highly unlikely.But it’s perfectly likely that the cops decided to stab him to death, right? A two-bit coke offender?
When cop-killers and child-molestors no longer fall down the station steps?
They intend to fight this all the way and they'll have help. Hello again Lee Jasper.Oh, gawd!
Remember Lee Jasper? He was a streetwise race activist, then equalities director during Ken Livingstone's London mayoralty.Indeed. And then we remember why he isn’t any of those things any more.
He was hurried from office by hotly contested allegations – personal and professional – relentlessly pursued by the Evening Standard.Yup, it was the media that did for him. Poor Jasper, just can’t catch a break, can he?
Smiley's relatives contacted Jasper, and he chaired that community meeting at the Karibu.Because nothing says ‘We just want the truth!’ like hiring a known race-provocateur, does it?
It looked like something out of the 1980s I told him the following morning. But surely things are different now; black officers, black investigators on the police complaints body; all the things you campaigned for. Why are we back to this?‘Because it’s a great paying gig!’ Jasper didn’t say…
"There was small-scale, incremental progress," he concedes. "We don't have the horror of black men being murdered and the police doing nothing. But it's a mixed bag. Look at the deaths in custody; look at stop and search, up by 70%."
You really can't trust the system, Jasper says. Not without community pressure to keep it honest – it's likely to be a three- to five-year battle. "But Smiley's relatives are extraordinary in their strength and dignity. They are certainly not naive."If you’re eliminating the possibility that they aren’t naïve in hiring you to ‘get at the truth’, then they are complicit in whatever follows, right?
On their own heads be it, then…
So here comes a campaign, similar to those before, but boosted now by social media. Stand by for leaflets, meetings, the poignancy of a funeral. Testimony in favour of Smiley Culture; headlines spun against. And expect to hear quite a bit more from Lee Jasper.I think we’ve already heard enough…