After having a great time at the Afropunk London festival last weekend, I followed my usual ritual before going to bed on Saturday night: checking to see what I had missed on Instagram during the day.
I came across the clip of CCTV footage that appeared to show a Metropolitan police officer attempting to restrain 20-year-old Rashan Charles from east London, who shortly afterwards took his last breath. I was stunned and confused. I closed the app with a heavy heart and said a prayer for Rashan and his family.Not for the police officers or the shopkeepers who'd soon be fending off the mob of usual suspects?
When I saw the statement from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) the next morning, reporting that it had “obtained evidence which indicates an object was removed from [Rashan’s] throat at the scene”, I instantly thought of Edson Da Costa.
Just four weeks ago, 25-year-old Edson, also from east London, died after contact with the police. The IPPC also said that “the pathologist removed a number of packages from Mr Da Costa’s throat”.Did you start to see a pattern?
I am a local councillor in Newham and the deaths of two young black men in east London in a matter of weeks is a cause for concern, to put it mildly.Because it's not enough? So many drug dealers, so little time...
Whatever the packages or objects that were removed from Rashan’s and Edson’s throats were, is there is a safe way to do this? Is there a protocol? Is there a different protocol at an airport if someone is suspected of smuggling something? Does and should the same protocol apply to officers on the beat?No. Yes. No. No. There. Cleared that up.
Were the circumstances the same as those of Edson’s death? If so, have the Met been recently given sufficient training and guidance to properly and safely assess the danger a person is in and be able to remove objects from someone’s throat?Who cares?
If these cases were drugs-related, is this symptomatic of a wider drugs problem in east London? If so, why are drugs still a problem in 2017? Since 2010 we’ve seen central government cuts to local authorities’ budgets on an unprecedented scale, year after year. This has resulted in cuts to non-statutory services such as youth and drug prevention services.You could flood the council coffers with gold from the Treasury, and people would still take drugs!
Part of the anger following this death, expressed by some at a vigil on Monday, is the suspicion that excessive force was used because of the colour of his skin. We know that black men are more likely to be treated harshly by the criminal justice system, at the stages of arrest, charging, prosecution and imprisonment. Would witness statements and accounts from arrests of non-black people in similar circumstances mirror how we saw Rashan being treated in the video?Yes. Because the police would be duty bound to try to stop anyone swallowing evidence, be they black, white, brown or yellow.
These questions are by no means accusations.No. No, of course they aren't.
There is still a lot more the police need to do to rebuild trust with community groups, beginning by being more representative of the society they represent.So we should recruit police from the drug-dealing, resisting arrest community?
This is why, instead of being able to quietly mourn the death of yet another young man from our community and paying respect to his family, many are angry and suspicious of the police.No, they are angry at the police because they are low-information morons who've been taught to believe that the world owes them a living 'cos they is black.
Taught that by idiots like you, who see a situation like this not as an opportunity to educate your voters about the dangers of illegal activities, but as a way of advancing your own career:
Seyi Akiwowo has been a Labour councillor in Newham, east London, since 2014. She is a fellow at the Royal Society and also writes and speaks on diversity in politics, and social and economic inclusion, as well as methods to improve civic and political participation of underrepresented groupsYou know what would 'improve civic participation' in your neck of the woods, Seyi? It'd be when the voters wise up and stop electing people like you.