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Police violence writ large on UN Anti-Racism Day

Campaign pushes for answers on why men died following custody

ANTI-RACIST activists joined a guerrilla protest throughout Britain today against police violence and discrimination, marking the International Day for the Elimination of Racism.

Organised by campaign group Our Future Now (OFN), activists covertly pasted up posters on the streets of London, Brighton, Cambridge, Cardiff, Nottingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Stirling, Wendover and Leeds. 

The posters, which appeared on bus stops and billboards, call for justice for Mohamud Hassan, 24, and Mouayed Bashir, 29, two young black men who died this year after coming into contact with police.

Both deaths are being investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct. They are but two of the 1,780 that have taken place in police custody or following contact with police in England and Wales since 1990.

The poster action came as protests continued over the killing of Sarah Everard — a Metropolitan Police officer  has been charged with her murder — and the Tory government’s Police, Crime & Sentencing Bill, which threatens a massive expansion of police powers.

An OFN activist said: “Police violence in the UK is out of control, and the government’s solution is to give them even more powers to brutalise anyone they deem fit.

“The horrific deaths of Mohamud and Mouayed, and the deafening silence from public institutions subsequently, is a reminder of the inevitable injustices that result when issues of systemic racism go undiscussed and unresolved.”

The protests today followed huge online demonstrations on Saturday to mark UN Anti-Racism Day.

 Neil Terry)
Anti-racists in Manchester protest agains the Police Crackdown Bill (Pic: Neil Terry)

A major rally hosted by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) and the TUC featured speakers including Labour MP Diane Abbott, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady and former Wales goalkeeper Neville Southall, who is now a vocal campaigner on human rights.

Activists from around the world also spoke, with US-based members of United Against Hate emphasising the importance of sending “solidarity, peace and love to all the international movements against racism and fascism.”

SUTR co-convener Sabby Dhalu said: “UN Anti-Racism Day is a chance for all those who value diversity to assert that we want a society which seeks to eliminate racism, Islamophobia, anti-semitism and fascism.”

She said that “the millions who supported the Black Lives Matter movement will have been appalled by the British government’s current agenda.”

SUTR co-convener Weyman Bennett said: “In Britain our government has presided over a murderous catastrophe in its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“The disproportionate deaths among black and ethnic-minority communities is horrifyingly stark. 

“UN Anti-Racism Day and the co-ordinated action by many countries and movements comes at an intense, deeply polarised moment for anti-racists across the globe. 

“We need to come together in a powerful show of anti-racist strength and unity in an important day for building a world against racism and fascism.”

Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy said: “UN Anti-Racism Day reminds us that we don’t just need to get back to normal, we need a new normal.

“Before the pandemic, ‘normal’ meant rising levels of racism and inequality. Let’s dismantle structural racism and build a better society based on justice and equality.”

Ms O’Grady said: “Coronavirus has shone a light on the structural racism in our workplaces and society at large.

“This crisis has to be a turning point. Ministers must stop turning a blind eye and tackle the systemic racism that holds back BME [black and minority-ethnic] people at work and beyond.”

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