Spate of black deaths in custody; public meeting on 26 October 2011

Keeping in view the “spate of incidents where young black men have lost their lives at the hands of the police”, a public meeting on the issue of black deaths in custody is scheduled to be held on Wednesday 26 October 2011.         

The meeting will be held at the London School of Economics Students Union (LSE SU), from 6.30-9.00pm.    

Organised by Black Mental Health UK in association with the LSE SU, the public meeting is free to attend but requires delegates to register online. It marks the first steps to establish what action the community can take to ensure that this issue becomes a matter of priority for the present Government.

Government figures show that a disproportionate number of deaths following contact with the police are of black people. Almost half the deaths of people in police custody are mental health service users, and deaths of those detained under the Mental Health Act account for 62 per cent of all deaths in state custody.

The organisers says the shooting of Mark Duggan by police marks men in August, triggered the most serious scenes of civil unrest that have been across the country in a generation. Within weeks of Duggan’s death three other men also lost their lives in police custody in situations which could have been avoided.

With the deaths of Reggae icon Smiley Culture, Kingsley Burrell-Brown and Demetre Fraser are still at the forefront of the community’s consciousness, and the issue of deaths in custody is now increasingly being viewed as an issue of national concern.

Matilda MacAttram, director of Black Mental Health UK said: ‘All the data shows that black men and people who use mental health services are the most likely to lose their lives while in custody. The recent spate of tragedies we have seen makes it clear that this problem will not go away by itself.

This public meeting aims to put this issue back on the political agenda in order to ensure that other vulnerable people do not continue to lose their lives in circumstances, which could easily be avoided.’

Sherelle Davids, anti-racism officer at LSE Student Union said: ‘We are holding this meeting the address the continuous deaths of black citizens in police custody. It is an issue that it is easy to shy away from, but after this summer’s events we can no longer ignore this injustice. People should attend this event to hear first hand from the families who have been affected, so that we can build unity around raising the prolife of this issue.’

Marcia Rigg from the Sean Rigg Justice and Change campaign said: ‘I am speaking at this event because sadly my brother was part of that ratio of using mental health services and also being a black man. I live and breathe it and feel that the issue of black deaths in custody needs to be highlighted.

There is over whelming evidence of the higher numbers of black deaths and yet the families are stifled from gaining justice. We have been struggling for decades, it not just black people in the 70’s who have had to deal with this. We are now seeing our children being killed; it is too much for the community to bear and it be left unsaid. We have to unite together to put a stop to this by telling our story and highlighting this issue.’

The Speakers include: Matilda MacAttram – director of Black Mental Health UK; Helen Shaw – co-Director, Inquest; Samantha Rigg –David, Sean Rigg Justice and Change Campaign; Marica Rigg – Sean Rigg Justice and Change Campaign; Steve Pope – editor to The Voice Newspaper; Lee Jasper – Race Equality Campaigner; Ken Ferro – co-director of the film Injustice; Frederick Clarke – director Mighty Men of Valour and Olu Alake – president of 100 Black Men of London




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