Hundreds of people gathered at the historic Altab Ali park in East London yesterday, as part of a series of demonstrations led by the Black Lives Matter movement across the country, writes Khadiza Shahid.
To commemorate the fifth anniversary of the death of Mark Duggan, who was shot by police in Tottenham in 2011, demonstrators staged a nationwide “shutdown” blocking traffic on the M4 towards Heathrow airport, in Birmingham, Nottingham and Manchester.
Protesters also led a day of action at Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel with chants of “No Justice, No Peace” as the names of victims who died in police custody including Sean Rigg, Leon Patterson, and Sarah Reed were called out. Faruk Ali, Habib “Paps” Ullah, Mzee Mohammed and Sheku Bayoh are among the victims who are Muslim.
The demonstration was organised at Altab Ali Park, which was named after a young Bangladeshi worker who was racially murdered at the park in 1978. His murder sparked an uprising demanding the government to address racism in east London.
Protesters claim there have been 1,562 deaths in police custody in England and Wales since 1990 but zero convictions. Black people are 37 time more likely to be stopped and searched by the police, 44% more likely to be held under the Mental Health Act, and also 3 times more likely to be unemployed than white people.
Kadija Sesay, the cousin of Sheku Bayoh who died after being detained by more than nine police officers in Scotland last year, told the crowd “All lives matter including black lives. There needs to be a political will to bring accountability.”
The crowd also heard from the NUS President Malia Bouattia. Bouattia declared her solidarity with Black Lives Matter, as a movement that is important for both ethnic minorities, migrants and Muslims alike.
Bouattia stated “Prevent is part of the same system of oppression, clamping down on people’s voices against the status quo. It is an anti-people agenda, if you will. None of the government policies are doing people any good. State control and violence expands to Prevent, immigration policy and the criminal justice system. We include all of those.”