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Understanding UK’s police brutality

Written by Comment

Following the recent death of George Floyd brutally murdered by the police in the US, people have taken matters into their hands to protest against the injustices faced by the black and ethnic minority through social media using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter and further utilise the movement in the street, not merely in America but globally. 

However, this is definitely not the first time in history a black individual has been racially targeted and killed by the hands of the police who are meant to protect. The police would rather kill and conceal themselves within the same institutionalised structures that oppresses and marginalises ethnic and minorities both in the US and UK. Though, it is very clear that our American counterpart has it way worse than we do in the UK, this comparison does not justify or mean to ease off nor erases the history of police brutality and systemic oppression in the UK.

The word systemic racism has been trendy ever since the rise of the #BlackLivesMovement in 2012 when 18-year-old student Trayvon Benjamin Martin, born February 5, 1995, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman a police officer that was advised to not follow the person. According to reports, “The dispatcher asked Zimmerman, who’d called 911 at least four times previously for other incidents if he was following the person. He replies, “Yes.” “OK. We don’t need you to do that,” the dispatcher responded. But Zimmerman followed him anyway. 

This resulted in the death of an unarmed teenager with the police officer being found not guilty in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

According to the  Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the US justice system regarding police misconduct,  “The misconduct covered by Title VI and the OJP (Office of Justice Programs) Program Statute includes, for example, harassment or use of racial slurs, discriminatory arrests, discriminatory traffic stops, coercive sexual conduct, retaliation for filing a complaint with DOJ or participating in the investigation, discriminatory use of force, or refusal by the agency to respond to complaints alleging discriminatory treatment by its officers”

 My experience as a young black man and the everyday experience encountered just looking through these videos is thinking it could have been me, a friend, and a family member both.

Then again it is still you because the people being targeted and murdered are black just like me and that human racism phenomenon is a lived experience that most people will find difficult to relate. Consequently, when #BlackLivesMatter speaks of institutional racism it represents lived experience and injustices faced by black and minority. It does not represent violence and looting like the media frames it to be. This is a movement, trying to fight injustices caused by systemic racism 

But what is systemic racism? Listen, observe and watch the video of George Floyd while he suffers in the hand of the police fighting to grasp upon the very air you take for granted while we breath peacefully enjoying the essence of life that very essence of life that was taken away from him because of the colour of his skin. While his head rub against the concrete until his last moment gasping “I can’t breathe” 

In regards to police cruelty in England, “To date, there have been 1743 deaths in police custody or otherwise following contact with the police in England & Wales since 1990” as confirmed by Inquest. Furthermore,  footage of officers striking a prone man and leaning on his throat during an arrest in Tower Hamlets was shared widely on social media. 

According to Gov.uk on police laws in the UK under the Equality and Diversity Act “Police officers act with fairness and impartiality. They do not discriminate unlawfully or unfairly.” For some reason, these laws do not apply to victims of police brutality.

Sarah Reed, 32 in November 2012 was ruthlessly beaten up by a police officer, with the attack caught on camera she was later found dead in her cell according to The Guardian. Likewise, was the case of Sheku Bayoh, a British-Sierra Leonean man.  According to the Bayoh family’s lawyer, post-mortem evidence suggests that Bayoh died of positional asphyxia after being pinned to the ground by four officers.

Numerous other victims were investigated by Inquest – a British charity that investigates deaths in police and prison custody involving wider issues of state and corporate accountability are in question. According to its data, children in detention – for example, 15-year-old Gareth Myatt were restrained to death by G4S staff in a child prison; Black women who have died after police operations such as Cynthia Jarrett, Cherry Groce, and Joy Gardner were bound and gagged after a police/immigration raid. Black men have been restrained to death by police officers for example, Christopher Alder, Roger Sylvester, Mikey Powell, Sean Rigg, Olaseni Lewis, Kingsley Burrell; and finally Rocky Bennett was restrained by medical staff in a mental health setting (showing the double discrimination faced by Black men suffering mental ill-health.)

Additionally, facts and statistics by Inquest reveal that in 2018/2019 Black people were more than 9 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. Further, 26% of all use of force by police officers between 2018/2019 was on Black and minority ethnic people, 16% of which Black, 6% Asian.

Systemic racism is an ideology that depicts a race, social class, religion, and gender implemented within the power structure.

It reinforces this social norm that is politicised for political gain and allows for the enforcement of racist policies that marginalised and dehumanises certain class and demographic by the system. For example, Samuel Estwick argues, “black people should be prevented from entering the country in order to preserve the race of Britons from stains and contamination”. This is not a fact rather a racist ideology that is still to this day followed by the likes of Tommy Robinson the leader of the English Defence League a far-right extremist reinforces racist ideologies towards ethnic minorities. 

Edward Long popularised the idea that black people are inferior to white people, thus suggesting that slavery and the slave trade were perfectly acceptable institutions. These are the racist structures that are embedded within the hierarchy from the past to the present only difference is people are not as verbal. Obviously, there has been a change compared to the generation before however, this does infer that racism does not exist because clearly it does. As Afua Hirsh in her book on British On Race, identity and belonging she expresses “Britishness has not yet fully rejected its roots in ideological whiteness and the pain that has inflicted on the blackness for someone like me, Britishness contains the threat of exclusion” 

Last modified: 19th June 2020

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