“My son was killed in the hands of police”

The death of Rashan Charles in police custody has led to the largest anti-police protest in Hackney for some years, and the first large black protest since the riots of 2011, writes Charlie Hore.

Several hundred people rallied outside Stoke Newington police station on Monday 24 July in an angry protest after the death of Rashan Charles at the weekend.

Rashan was followed by police into a shop on Kingsland Road in Hackney early on Saturday morning after the cops tried to stop a car. Video footage from a security camera then shows a uniformed cop throw him to the ground, and a struggle continues for several minutes – the uniformed cop is helped by a second man, believed to be plain-clothes police. Soon after that Rashan was ill enough to be taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later.

At the protest, called by Hackney Stand Up to Racism, Rashan’s father spoke movingly of his son and their loss. The father and cousin of Edson da Costa also spoke – Edson died last month after cops in Newham used force and CS spray while arresting him.

Other speakers – community, union and political activists – reminded the crowd of the bitter history of black deaths in police custody in Hackney. Several also made connections between these events and the Grenfell Tower fire, where many of the victims were black.

Statistics show protesters are right to raise issues about police racism. National figures last autumn showed that black people are six times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. Only 12 percent of cops in the Met are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, while 40 percent of people in London are from BME communities.

As the crowd grew to around 500, people decided to march to the shop in Dalston where Rashan was killed. Chanting “No justice no peace! Fuck the police!” and “Murderers!”, the march took over both sides of the road, stopping traffic and drawing widespread support as it passed through central Hackney.

After more speeches at a rally, most people marched back to the police station, though substantial numbers stayed around the shop. The police were very subdued, and withdrew entirely as the march reached Dalston.

This was the largest protest against the police for a number of years in Hackney, and the first large black protest since the riots of 2011. There’s clearly very deep anger about racist policing, and a readiness to stand up and fight back. We’re not going to let them brush Rashan’s death under the carpet.

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