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Public urged to support deaths in custody meeting

MEETING: Sean Rigg with his sisters Samantha and Marcia

THE SISTER of a talented musician who died in police custody has urged the black community to support a public meeting about the issue.

Marcia Rigg, whose brother Sean died in August 2008 after being restrained by officers and taken to Brixton Police station said she would also be speaking at the meeting.

CASES

Organised by pressure group Black Mental Health UK (BMHUK) and the London School of Economics Students Union, the event comes in the wake of a number of recent cases where young black men have lost their lives while in police custody.

The meeting will examine ways in which concerned members of the black community can get the Government to take the issue seriously.

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 people using mental health services and also a black man. I live and breathe it and feel that the issue of black deaths in custody needs to be highlighted.”

She added: “There is overwhelming evidence of the higher numbers of black deaths (in custody) and yet the families are stifled from gaining justice. We have been struggling for decades, it’s not just black people in the 70s who have had to deal with this. We are now seeing our children being killed. It is too much for the community to bear. We have to unite together to put a stop to this by telling our story and highlighting this issue.”

ARREST

Rigg died after being arrested on suspicion of public order offences and allegedly assaulting a police officer. The police had been called by members of the public who were concerned about the way the talented musician had been acting on Atkins Road in Brixton, south London.


VIGIL: Friends and supporters of the Rigg family gather outside Brixton police station to remember Sean

Officers reportedly restrained him and took him to Brixton police station in a police van. However shortly after arriving there Rigg was said to have collapsed and stopped breathing. He died at King’s College hospital, south London, shortly afterwards.

Already this year there have been a number of controversial deaths in police custody.

In March reggae singer Smiley Culture died from a stab wound during a raid at his home in Warlingham, Surrey. Last month, the Independent Police Complaints Commission said there would be no action against the officers involved.

Also in March, 29-year-old father of two Kingsley Burrell died just days after being arrested by West Midlands Police. And in May, 21-year-old Demetre Fraser died in Birmingham after police claim he fell 11 floors from a tower block when they came to talk to him about an alleged curfew violation.

ACTION

One of the organisers of the event, Matilda MacAttram, director of BMHUK said the issue of deaths in custody is now increasingly being seen as one of national concern.

“This is something we haven’t seen the Government seriously address and we need to, especially in light of the data which shows that 20 per cent of deaths in police custody are of black men.”

According to MacAttram, recent figures show that nearly 62 per cent of those who died in state custody were detained under the Mental Health Act, she said.

Among those speaking at the meeting will be Voice editor Steve Pope and Ken Fero, co director of the film Injustice.

MacAttram added: “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.”

To register online for the October 26 meeting at the London School of Economics in Houghton Street, London, please visit www.blackmentalhealth.org.uk/index.php/component/seminar/?task=3&cid=4

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