Authors:Deborah Coles and Marcia Willis Stewart QC (Hon) and Sarah Ricca
Last updated:2023-09-18
Civil rights/civil liberties lawyers and campaigners stand with family of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter
Marc Bloomfield
On 12 June, INQUEST, Police Action Lawyers Group (PALG), United Families & Friends Campaign (UFFC) and the INQUEST Lawyers Group (ILG) steering group issued a joint statement after the murder of George Floyd, supporting the calls for justice and accountability by his family, Black Lives Matter and by the wider Black community and others in the US and in this country.
We have worked with the families of many people who have died as a result of state violence. This must be situated in the history of slavery and colonialism, old and new, which is the broader context of the systemic and institutional racism faced by Black people in this country and in the US.
INQUEST has documented how a disproportionate number of Black people, in particular Black men, have died as a result of use of force. The list is many, and more recently includes the death of Leon Briggs, Sheku Bayoh and Kevin Clarke.
In our work and experience, we see time and again what INQUEST described in its statement on George Floyd (4 June 2020) as a ‘pattern of cases synonymous with state violence, structural racism, injustice and impunity’. This includes the deaths of Black women in prison, such as those of Sarah Reed, Annabella Landsberg and Natasha Chin, who all died as a result of neglect.
We also see the consistent evidence that deaths are the extreme end of a continuum of pervasive racial bias in the criminal justice system from over-policing, stop and search, criminalisation and imprisonment. Last year, Black people were over nine times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. More recently, in relation to COVID-19-related arrests, Black and minority ethnic people were nearly 50 per cent more likely to be arrested in London under these new laws.
We note that the UK has one of the largest immigration detention systems in Europe and the impact of unjustified, often unlawful, indefinite detention on psychological and physical health has been well documented and evidenced by a pattern of deaths. This includes Prince Fosu, who died from neglect after being left naked in a cell in Harmondsworth immigration removal centre for six days without bedding or a mattress.
With the rise of racist and reactionary forces worldwide, now more than ever we must stand together to defend the right to freedom from state racism and state brutality, and the right to state accountability when those rights are violated.
Deaths in state custody and state violence are a global human rights issue, disproportionally impacting on Black and Indigenous people. This is a social movement that must see radical structural change. We owe it to those men, women and children who have had their lives cut short or have been harmed as a result of state violence.
Over 380 legal professionals and campaigners have endorsed our full statement standing with the family of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. Join us.