The recent Mike Brown & Eric Garner verdicts may have shocked Britain but for all the talk of our multi-cultural society, the UK is also guilty of denying it’s Black Citizens equal justice.
By Trevon Paris Muhammad (@TrevonPMuhammad)
Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise after Trayvon Martin & Mike Brown but when the police officers captured on camera choking the life out of Eric Garner were found innocent of any wrong-doing, whatever marsh the term “Post-racial America” was founded upon, gave way in spectacular fashion.
The old self-defence argument used to justify the murders of Trayvon & Mike holds no weight here. Millions have witnessed this murder throughout the world. Millions have seen more than five officers viciously force an asthmatic unarmed man to the ground using a chokehold banned by the New York Police Department for over 20 years and most hauntingly, millions have witnessed Eric Garner’s final words “I can’t breathe”, muttered 11 times before his death.
Such is the disregard for Black life throughout the American justice system; it seems even Camera footage isn’t enough to ensure justice for victims. Though these cases have rightly been at the forefront of the British press, few if any UK media sources have highlighted the fact that that Britain itself continues to starve its Black citizens of equality under the law.
Over the years, numerous Black men and women have died at the hands of the police in highly suspicious circumstances but these cases are often under-reported.
In 2011, Demetre Frasier died after police officers visited him for what should have been a routine tag check in Birmingham. Instead he allegedly jumped from the 11th floor balcony of the high rise blocks where he was temporarily staying and killed himself. His family have disputed the claim citing neighbour reports of a loud commotion on the morning of his death.
According to Mr Frasier’s mother little information has been uncovered from the IPCC investigation and no police officers have been charged.
That same year Amateur rugby player, Jacob Michael, 25, died in 2011, in Cheshire police station after being assaulted with batons by as many as 11 police officers according to neighbours while being arrested on suspicion of affray. 45 minutes after calling the police to report that he had been threatened, Mr Michael died in their custody.
In 2009, Sean Riggs, died topless in the outdoor caged area of Brixton Police station’s custody suite after being left unresponsive for 35 minutes on the ground. Prior to being taken into custody, Mr Riggs who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia had been handcuffed and restrained by Police officers for 8 minutes.
Though the testimony of two of the officers at the scene were found to contradict CCTV footage and an inquest concluded officers used “unsuitable force” – none of the officers involved have faced prosecution.
11 years prior, Falkland’s war veteran Christopher Alder died in similar circumstances in Hull Police station. CCTV footage showed officers making monkey noises and ridiculing the 38 year old as he died in a pool of his own blood on the station floor, with his trousers around his ankles.
The police officers in question were ultimately exonerated of manslaughter and four of the five officers in question were granted early retirements on stress-related medical grounds. They received lump sum payments of between £44,000 and £66,000 as well as pensions while the family of Mr Alder received a Government compensation pay out of £22,000.
In 2006, an attempt to re-open the case by one of his sons was rejected by the home secretary and in 2011; his body was discovered at a mortuary in Hull. It was revealed that a 77 year old woman had been buried in his place.
There are countless other examples of similar injustice. Since 1990, 1501 people have died in police custody. In that time frame not one officer has been convicted a death in their custody.
While police brutality and killings are perhaps the most shocking and obvious displays of racism, statistics suggest that the justice systems in both America and Britain are guilty of racial discrimination.
In the UK, Black offenders are 44% more likely than white offenders to be sentenced to prison for driving offences, 38% more likely to be imprisoned for public disorder or possession of a weapon and 27% more likely for drugs possession. A 2012 report produced by the Ministry of Justice found the average sentence given to Caucasian criminals was seven months shorter than those given to Afro-Caribbean offenders who commit the same or similar offences.
Then there’s stop and search. Black people in the UK are up to 28 times more likely to be stopped and searched than their white people and 6.3 times more likely to be searched for drugs despite being half as likely to be use drugs as their white counterparts.
Despite the best attempts of the press to paint the on-going injustices across the Atlantic as alien – the harsh truth is the UK isn’t much further ahead. Though open racial hostility may be less socially acceptable in today’s “Prim and Proper” British culture – the mind-set behind it is evident in the clear racial disparities across the Justice, employment & health care institutions.
For all the talk of our multi-cultural society and Britain’s increasing diversity; it is clear that for Black people in the UK, just as in the United States, equality and justice remain elusive dreams.