Guardian News and Media/London
The parents of two black men who died after being apprehended by the police have vowed to pursue justice for their sons amid growing calls for the officers involved to be disciplined More than 100 people gathered outside Stoke Newington police station in east London yesterday afternoon to show their anger towards the Metropolitan police.
Rashan Charles, 20, died last weekend after being restrained by officers in nearby Dalston, while Edson Da Costa, 25, from East Ham, died after contact with the police five weeks earlier.
The fathers of the men, Esa Charles and Ginario Da Costa, addressed the vigil promising to “continue to fight for justice” not only for their two sons but for all those who have died in police custody. Charles also made a fresh plea for “peace on the streets” following outbreaks of violent disorder in Hackney on Friday night.
Da Costa told the Charles family they “know what they are going through”, adding: “My son also suffered at the hands of the police and, like Rashan, is no longer with us today.”
The emergence of video footage of Charles being violently restrained on the floor of a shop in Dalston, and claims that Da Costa became unconscious while in police custody, have prompted many to ask why no officers have been arrested or suspended.
The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, attended yesterday’s peaceful vigil, which was in her constituency.
She said the deaths had caused considerable disquiet. “There are questions to be answered.
I will not rest until those questions are answered,” she said.
The Islington Labour councillor Rakhia Islmail pressed for an inquiry to be launched into why black men were continuing to die without the apparent censuring of the police officers involved. “Young black people are dying for no reason and we need to know why these young men are dying,” she said.
Although the anger of many in the crowd was evident, the vigil’s organisers, the pressure group Stand Up To Racism, appealed for calm following Friday night’s disorder, during which demonstrators blocked off Kingsland Road with wheelie bins, mattresses and debris, and riot police were pelted with fireworks and glass bottles.
Weyman Bennett from Stand Up To Racism said: “The police are meant to be trained to carry out safe restraint. But the Charles and Da Costa cases show something is going badly wrong.”
Stafford Scott, co-ordinator of the Tottenham Rights group, which has campaigned against policing oppression in the area since the Broadwater Farm riot of 1985, said he understood the frustration but that rioting was not the solution. “Taking to the streets does not give you justice, burning down your own homes, burning down your neighbourhood is not going to give you justice.”
Scott said the family had found the best legal support they can and were now asking the community to “support them in their struggle” but with “peace on the streets”. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating both deaths.
Footage on social media appeared to show at least one police officer attempting to restrain Charles on the floor of a shop at 1.45am, close to where Friday’s protest was held.
Da Costa died on 21 June, six days after he was detained by police during a traffic stop.
Campaigners claim Da Costa’s neck was broken and that he was “brutally beaten” after the car, containing three people, was halted in Woodcocks, Beckton.
The Met said a 17-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm during Friday night’s disorder, while an officer, who suffered an eye injury, remained fit for duty.
Detective Superintendent Claire Crawley said: “The disorder of last night was separate from the peaceful protest at Stoke Newington police station.
“Thankfully, nobody was seriously injured, but there was inconvenience to local residents and road users and damage caused to vehicles, a cash machine and a number of windows.
We will always support the right to lawful protest but behaviour such as that seen last night cannot be tolerated.”
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