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'Do not let Mark Duggan's death be in vain'

'SOMBRE': Mark Duggan's funeral cortege makes its way to the church in Wood Green

TAKING A pause from singing a hymn, a middle-aged black woman turned to her friend and said sadly in a low voice: “Why does it take something like this to bring us together? There are so many people here I haven’t seen in years”.

Hers was just one of many faces in the of swell of people of all ages, dressed up, dressed down, who gathered outside the already-packed New Testament of God Church to say a final goodbye to 29-year-old Mark Duggan.

The father-of-four was shot dead by police officers on August 4 when a police sting went tragically wrong; and acted as a catalyst for the riots that broke out in London and cities across Britain.

His death was the latest in a heartbreaking series of “somethings” to happen in this corner of north London: grandmother Cynthia Jarrett, whose death pre-empted the Broadwater Farm riots, died in 1985 having suffered a heart attack when police burst into her home.

Vulnerable adult Roger Sylvester died in 2003 after being improperly restrained by police officers.


PROTEST: A community demonstration in the wake of the Broadwater Farm riots

Now Mark Duggan’s name has been added to that fateful list of Tottenham’s fallen sons and daughters: gunned down in broad daylight.

Initially, the media reported the young man, a popular and well-known figure in his hometown of Tottenham, had fired at police officers. It later emerged he had done no such thing.

Each time tragedy struck, the community has relied on its stoic community soldiers; people like Stafford Scott who helped the Duggan family on Friday by playing the role of chief steward. At his side, Clasford Stirling, who has dedicated his life to keeping youngsters in Broadwater Farm off the streets through sport.

Other familiar faces helped keep the peace: long-standing race activist Lee Jasper and well-respected youth worker Ken Hinds. How sad it seemed that they were standing on the frontline again.

Many in the crowd spoke of wanting to pay their respect as much as stand in solidarity against the actions of police.

One said: “We share the family’s grief. We are all fearful this could happen to our sons, our brothers, our fathers if we don’t show support.”

Armed with flowers, more than one thousand squeezed into pews inside and more lined one of Wood Green’s busiest streets listening to the service on loud speakers.

SERVICE

Mark Duggan's cortege left the family home in Tottenham and travelled through Broadwater Farm to the church in Arcadian Gardens, Wood Green, before a private burial ceremony at a nearby cemetery.

His chrome casket arrived in a glass horse-drawn carriage, flanked by a convoy of more than ten black Mercedes carrying his closest family and friends.

Moving tributes came from his sister Karen Hall and his long-term love Semone Wilson who said: "He was my first real love. We laughed together and cried together. We faced trials and tribulations together. We had our ups and our downs but I always loved him. He gave me four beautiful children."

Bishop Barrington Burrell and Reverend Nims Obunge led the sermon and prayers “capturing everything that was on my mind and brought home exactly why I was there”, one guest told The Voice.

To rapturous applause, Rev Obunge said: “Let mothers and fathers no longer have to come and bury and weep for their children. Today we stand as a community and say no more: this must stop.

“For so long we have said that something is wrong, but it took the death of Mark to show there is something wrong. We pray his death will not be in vain.

“We want his children to be able to say on the day they buried our father it was a new turn in our community…a chance for a future that is ours to hold on to.”


FAMILY: Mark Duggan's partner Semone Wilson comforts two of her children

Describing the mood inside the service, Lee Jasper said: “It was sombre but there was a feeling of hope and it says a lot that so many people felt compelled to come here today.

“The black community is often slow to organise, but when a crisis strikes we will respond – that’s where the optimism comes from.”

Mark Duggan’s family asked the media to respect their privacy, but made it clear from previous interviews that they were upset by the portrayal of their loved one describing him as a family man whose role was a voice of reason to young people who looked up to him.

Merlin Emmanuel, himself catapulted into the public eye in his own quest for answers following the shocking death of his uncle Smiley Culture, said: “Mark Duggan did not deserve to die. If he was carrying a weapon, as has been suggested, he should have been arrested, charged and put in jail – at least then his family could have seen him through the bars.

“But there is a fraternity in the police force who think they can kill at will. It means this young man will never be able to come back.”

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