I remember when the Black Lives Matter movement grew on social media, everyone was condemning police brutality and really opening everyones eyes to what actually happens to people of colour when they’re approached by the people who are supposed to protect them. I remember speaking about it in university to people as well and everyone just brushed it off as an ‘American issue’. Saying the UK is fine and we don’t have that problem when that’s simply just not the case.
Back in 2011 we had our riots, they were widespread and fuelled by the middle class, but most arrests were people of colour. I live in Birmingham but my brother was in London during this and both my mother and I were seriously worried for him and my cousin. Both are black men who sometimes wear hoodies, and we knew they wouldn’t be rioting, but we were worried the police would stop them because they ‘fit the profile’ of a rioter. This is a daily worry whenever anything happens in the news, or police presence increases – the people who get stopped and searched are the ones with the highest level of melanin.
The UK has a disgusting history of police brutality, racial profiling and murder by the hands of coppers, but the main difference between us and America is that the UK is scarily good at hiding this fact. They’re soo good at it, people living here even deny it. Police brutality happens everywhere, and it’s also heavily racialised in the UK.
Maurice Macleod compiled a small list on instances where Black people have died in police custody in the UK:
- “Cherry Groce, who in 1985 was left paralysed after being hit by a police bullet when they came to her home looking for her son.
- Joy Gardner, who died after a struggle with police who came to her home in 1993 to serve a deportation order.
- Roger Sylvester, who died in 1999 after a struggle with police
- Frank Ogboru, who died in 2006 after police used CS gas and restrained him
- Sean Rigg who died in 2008 at the entrance to Brixton police station
- David Emmanuel (reggae artist Smiley Culture), who allegedly stab himself in the chest during a police operation at his home in 2011.
- Mark Duggan, shot dead by armed police in Tottenham in 2011
- Sarah Reed, who was apparently found dead in her prison cell at the start of this year
- Mzee Mohammed, who died in Liverpool police custody last month”
That’s just a small list, but they’re all still people, and the years range from 1985 to the present day. Yet it’s still something that’s largely ignored by the British public.
We see tragedies like Grenfell that hit BAME communities hard, and not many big outlets make the connection between the support they get from their governments to the colour of their skin. Many are still homeless, and the flats themselves were built inefficiently. Black lives matter in the UK too, and we really need to open people’s eyes to it. We need to stop seeing police brutality as an American issue, and we need to recognise that the systematic racism in place is ending people’s lives!