‘Stop killing our children!’ demanded over 400 families and friends and supporters of mainly young men and women who have died in custody or directly at the hands of the state, last Saturday.
They were taking part in the seventh annual remembrance procession from Trafalgar Square to Downing Street organised by the United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC).
Before moving off, UFFC chair Brenda Weinberg read out a letter from UFFC to prime minister Blair.
She read: ‘Since last year, there have been more deaths and justice for all of us remains elusive.’
She continued: ‘The families of Roger Sylvester and Harry Stanley have had inquest juries’ verdicts of “unlawful killing” overturned by a police force that wants immunity from prosecution.’
Weinberg added: ‘This year another incident occurred that has exposed not only the police’s ability to execute in cold blood but this government’s acquiescence – and that is the death of Jean Charles de Menezes.’
Calling for an ‘end of this policy’ of shoot-to-kill, Weinberg concluded: ‘There is no statute of limitation on murder or manslaughter, nor on grief, so we will continue to fight for justice.’
Alex Pereira, cousin of Jean Charles de Menezes told the marchers opposite Downing Street: ‘We have to end all this.
‘Thank you all for coming. I hope we don’t have to come here again next year.’
He told News Line: ‘It’s like Iraq – they are killing more people here. It’s getting more like a dictatorship.
‘And in America, there are soldiers being killed in Iraq but there are people dying in America.
‘There is more unemployment there. People are losing their jobs.
‘The war brings back more social problems.’
Irene Stanley, the widow of painter and decorator Harry Stanley shot dead in the head in Hackney on 1999, told News Line: ‘Today is important.
‘They have to change the law and stop the shoot-to-kill policy. People should be disarmed not killed.
‘Because even if the police don’t feel threatened, what chance do you have? Once you’re dead it’s too late.
‘This police policy is not because of the war, this has been going on for 30 years. It has got to stop.
‘We’ve come here today to support each other and to change things.
‘We can’t bring our loved ones back but we’ve got to change this policy.’
Mandy Mola told News Line: ‘My brother, Anthony Mola, died in Durham prison in the segregation wing on 15th June this year.
‘He had very severe mental health problems.
‘He died in his cell because he lit a fire – I don’t know how he got the means to start a fire.’
She alleged: ‘When smoke came out of the door, the officers did not open it. This was a cell with a camera in it.’
She further alleged: ‘In the end, the two prison officers who found the smoke decided to go into the room. This was after a good 20 minutes.
‘They found him on the floor underneath his bed.
‘They said they resuscitated him. He was put on a life support machine at the hospital, but he was already brain dead.
‘The inquest is going on still.’
Anthony’s girlfriend, Kerry Whealer, alleged: ‘When he was at Gateshead police station before he was taken to jail, a solicitor said he saw Anthony on the floor unconscious.
‘He told the solicitor the police had hit him and his front teeth were smashed.
‘We put in a complaint about that.’
Gwen Calvert demonstrated outside Pentonville prison, north London after her 40-year-old son Paul died there in October 2004.
She told News Line: ‘He was extremely depressed and shouldn’t have been put into single cell. I think he should have been in the hospital wing.
‘He hanged himself with his belt. The prison authorities are failing in their duty.’
Patricia Coker said: ‘I’m Paul Coker’s mother. He died in police custody in Plumstead on 6th April this year.
‘There was a minor breach of the peace at his girl friend’s flat. It had all been sorted out but the landlord called the police.
‘Sixteen police arrived. He was forcibly restrained and heard screaming for his life – “they’re killing me, they’re killing me”.
‘Two hours later he died, while medical people were in the police station.
‘It seems to me he should have been taken straight to a hospital but he was taken to a police cell, where he was left to die.
‘He was a wonderful young man, just 32 years old.’
Rhoda Bishop, the sister of Ricky Bishop was carrying a placard saying ‘the British police are the real terrorists’.
She alleged to News Line: ‘They killed my brother Ricky in 2001 at Brixton police station – to put it another way, he died in suspicious circumstances.
‘The police went to the media the next day with a really slanderous press statement.
‘They said Ricky was a drug dealer, he was addicted to drugs, his family were uneducated and from an impoverished background.
‘They said he had voluntarily gone to the police station for a search, when he had already been searched in the street.’
She alleged: ‘They hadn’t registered him in the police station. They took him to the only room that did not have a CCTV camera.
‘That is when it was noted that he had a large amount of crack cocaine in his mouth.
‘They claimed he was so strong he broke his handcuffs apart. I find that unbelievable.
‘They took him to the charge desk. They noticed his mouth was bleeding “profusely” but they didn’t call an ambulance until 20 minutes later.
‘If they believed he had swallowed a large amount of crack cocaine, why didn’t they call an ambulance instantly?
‘They took him to King’s College Hospital. It took 40 minutes in total from the police station, and he died in hospital.
‘I think the police story is a highly unlikely one.
‘There is a commonality between all the cases.
‘Police corroborate their stories, and evidence mysteriously disappears. There is also the issue with CCTV, including erasing or supplying edited versions.
‘The police always seem to have a contingency plan to make sure their officers are not charged.’
A group of families laid floral tributes beside the gates of Downing Street, as a policeman holding an automatic rifle looked on from behind the gate.
Yvonne Scholes declared there: ‘I want to know why my 16 year old son Joseph Scholes died while he was in the custody of the state.
‘Write to your MPs and demand an end to child imprisonment.’
Janet Alder, sister of Christopher Alder, told the demonstration opposite Downing Street: ‘More people are dying at the hands of the state. There’s no accountability.
‘My brother was dragged with his trousers down into a police station and left to die like a dog.
‘Who is responsible? These people act with no conscience. Truth doesn’t matter to these people.
‘We have an unlawful killing verdict. Why have they not arrested the three police officers? They were all on the CCTV.
‘We are fighting for truth and justice. We would never have left anyone to die like an animal.’
Pauline Campbell, whose 18-year-old daughter Sarah died in Styal Prison, said: ‘Home Secretary Clarke says the prison system does not reflect labour values.
‘Despite much-hyped Labour values, there appears to be no value attached to the sanctity of human life. Shame on Labour and their so-called values.’
She added: ‘Deaths in custody are part of a wider picture, deeply worrying – a political malaise in which government turns a blind eye to death at the hands of the state – where no one is accountable following these deaths.
‘Labour is lacking – in conscience, integrity and moral leadership.
‘A government that preaches a respect agenda while simultaneously flouting the law.
‘Labour has become the “do as I say but not as I do government”. Shame on Labour and their so-called values, and for peddling the politics of shame.’