In the midst of these new BLM protests, don’t forget the one that set this country on fire….
When Mark Duggan was killed by the MPS in 2011, we knew immediately that what was being reported about him as a person, the reasons that were stated for his killing, and the way in which the hard stop was conducted was entirely shrouded in lies.
We knew that the police killed him in suspicious circumstances, quite the opposite to what was being rapidly spewed out on the news with reports of Mark having first shot at an officer. As with any death in custody, how can the killers and their friends (cc: mainstream media) be trusted to tell the story?
That day, 4th August 2011, I came home to find my dad mourning for yet another Tottenham native (MD becoming the 4th person in Tottenham, since 1985); killed at the hands of the Metropolitan Police Force, with no relief in sight.
This time, it was someone he had held in his hands when they were a baby. A child of Broadwater Farm, where the first Tottenham riots occurred following the death of Cynthia Jarrett, whilst in police custody, in 1985.
After Tottenham burnt in 2011, following the protests-turned-riots due to the outrage surrounding Mark’s killing, the real work began to seek justice on behalf of a grief-stricken Duggan family. Supported by Tottenham Rights (grassroots community group), lawyers from Birnberg Peirce, and other active members of the community, the family of Mark Duggan – his mother, siblings, aunt, ex-partner and children – were all able to start the process, via traditional legal and lesser formal, non-legal means.
WHAT DOES JUSTICE CAMPAIGNING ACTUALLY LOOK LIKE?
Family campaigns (for deaths in custody) specifically apply pressure on those who need to be held account. In this case it was for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC now, the IPOC) to investigate the police's conduct and – hopefully – pin down any wrongdoing to open up further legal avenues. These are some of the specific issues which needed to be addressed in the case of Mark Duggan:
- Untrue statements made in the media, immediately after the shooting in Tottenham before his family was even notified of his death, needed to be retracted.
- Apologies from media outlets, MPS and IPCC for releasing incorrect information and manipulated imagery immediately in the wake of Mark’s death
- The family to be informed directly by the Met that Mark has been killed
- A direct apology to the family from the Met police
- An inquest to be called by the IPCC to investigate and conclude whether the killing of Mark was lawful, or not.
- Transparency about why Mark was being followed in the first place – how intelligence was gathered, how the hard stop was decided on etc.
- An unlawful killing verdict in a public inquiry based on our knowledge that Mark was unlikely to have been holding a gun at the time that his minicab was stopped
- Policy changes surrounding armed policing specifically targeting Black communities (i.e. trident – now disbanded)
And much, much more. These are just some of the things that crop up when a death in custody occurs, it is of course wholly dependent on the circumstances.
At this time, pressure was being applied to local police officers of different seniority, local councillors, MPs, coroners, lawyers etc to respond to our queries and to support the family in their quest for justice.
The IPCC was kept under rigorous scrutiny, as they investigated the police in this case - being called out for any mishaps as they arose in the information being received by the family’s lawyers.
Meanwhile in the community, meetings were held. Legal assistance was garnered for those who had been arrested during the riots. In fact, the Guardian (alongside LSE) led the largest research project into the riots, collecting data on WHY people were rioting, giving tangible evidence to the public’s opinion that Mark’s death was unjustified and, without any challenges, would be a threat to all.
The investigation into Mark’s death was inevitably botched prior to the inquest, at many levels; from problems with potential evidence contamination at the scene of his death, to officers making statements in the same room at the same time, to officers not being openly identified during the proceedings, and so on.
After 2.5 years of painstaking leg work by the family, community and lawyers, after arrests and prison sentences for the riots, after the family’s grief had grown and acquired even more loss since Mark passed… A “lawful” killing verdict was returned in the inquest in January 2014.
Jury members had come to the conclusion that the killing was lawful, despite believing Mark to be unarmed at the time. Many, many other discrepancies came up from the very beginning of this case. But this one stung the most for obvious reasons. Once again, another family was left with the sentiments of “no justice, just us…”
WHAT NEXT? (THERE IS ALWAYS ANOTHER AVENUE)
Fast forward to 2019 and the family of Mark Duggan received an out-of-court financial settlement from the Metropolitan Police, though the Met refuse to accept liability for Mark’s death. So, of course, we all ask the question; what exactly are they paying for, if what they did was legal?
When they killed Mark, they said that he was a gun-wielding gangster, one of the biggest in Europe, who shot at an officer after his cab was stopped on a busy one-way system in Tottenham.
Last year, the family were presented with a 3D, digital reconstruction of the shooting of Mark Duggan on the 4th August 2011 by an investigative human rights group, based at Goldsmiths University, called Forensic Architecture. Using statements from the officers, footage from a witness and a process called photogrammetry they created a full-length, accurate depiction of the events on 4th August. It was screened in Tottenham Town Hall where the community had the chance to see it all; a real moment in our history that Mark’s mother attended, despite the sensitivity of the footage.
This digital reconstruction allows us to see the real-time experience of Mark, in those moments leading up to the shooting and following through to the very end result, his death.
The twenty-three minute video gives us – the people, the communities, the Black mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who fear daily life in this country – all of the tangible confirmation that we need, about what we knew, what we saw and what we felt, when we first found out that Mark had died. But beyond anything else, it helped the family to get their financial settlement.
This is a truly remarkable moment for all of the families who are forced to go through the often foul and difficult process of holding the state (who should in fact be serving them) to account. Especially so, when there is no clear eye witness footage.
But this incredible piece of work from our comrades at Forensic Architecture will hopefully bolster the confidence of families, and wider communities, in the fact that narratives can be changed; there is indeed power amongst the people; and, our resilience and fight is worth pushing forward with because the truth is out there somewhere.
By Kamara Scott