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Families outraged over ‘police manhandling’ during march

CALL: Protester holds a banner during march on October 29

A COALITION of families whose loved ones have died in state custody says it plans to file a formal complaint, alleging heavy handed police tried to ‘kettle’ and ‘manhandled' several marchers during last Saturday's (Oct 29) deaths in custody march.

Ken Ferro, from the United Friends and Family Campaign (UFFC), told The Voice some death in custody families had just left the gates of Downing Street, where they had peacefully handed in a list of demands calling for changes and accountability in custody deaths, when they were greeted by large numbers of police.

He said a few marchers sat down in peaceful protest against the huge police presence, but were roughly removed when the police began to clear the road. One marcher was arrested.

“I think a decision had been made that they were just going to clear the road, and they didn't care how they did it as long as they did it quickly, which is why they started manhandling the elderly women who were on the protest,” Ferro said.

He said most marchers were prevented from crossing the road and were ‘kettled’ against the roadside. “I know there will be further action from UFFC. We are just meeting to decide what we are going to do. At the very least, there will be a formal complaint put through to the Met.”

He said it was the first time in 13 years of marching that this had happened. He added: “The individual attitudes of the police officers were totally unacceptable. There was no sensitivity in the policing.”

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The Met said in a statement: '…Demonstrators left the designated demonstration area in Richmond Terrace and began to obstruct the southbound carriageway on Whitehall. Officers spoke to the demonstrators and asked them to return to Richmond Terrace.

‘The demonstrators then began to block the northbound carriageway. Officers again asked them to return to Richmond Terrace. One demonstrator then sat in the road and refused to move. He was subsequently arrested for wilfully obstructing a highway… All remaining demonstrators had dispersed peacefully.'

During the march, families also called for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to be disbanded. Smiley Culture's nephew, Merlin Emmanuel, who was on the march, later told The Voice: “Looking at their record, it is incompetent. We have no faith in it. It is not working. It needs to be pulled and rebuilt by the people.”

A similar call was also made at a death in custody public meeting last Wednesday, when some family members of black men who lost their lives called for an end to the investigative body.

“We have had to become investigators for ourselves… The IPCC only took what they were given by the police but they should have gone there and requested for things,” said Samantha Rigg-David, whose brother Sean died after being restrained during his arrest by Brixton police, in south London, in 2008.

Years after her brother's death, Rigg-David said her family - like so many others - have yet to receive answers. “It should be replaced by something else,” said Rigg-David during the meeting, organised by Black Mental Health UK (BMHUK).

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An IPCC spokesman refuted some of Rigg-David's claims, telling The Voice it had done a thorough investigation, had checked for CCTV and found that while some had images others covering the route to the station were not recording images at the time. It said it later wrote to Brixton police to recommend improvements and changes.

The IPCC said it has sent a copy of its completed report to Sean Rigg's family, but said it could not disclose its findings publicly because it could prejudice a pending inquest into Rigg's death.

However, the IPCC stressed that it was completely independent from the police. It added: ‘The IPCC has an important responsibility to ensure fair and independent searches for the truth, free of influence from the police, complainants or pressure groups. We value our independence highly and our Commissioners, who have responsibility for overseeing the work of the IPCC, cannot have worked for the police. The considerable majority of our investigators do not have a police background.'

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