road protests 1998
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From: "SchNEWS" (firstname.lastname@example.org)
To: "SchNEWS Subscribers"email@example.com
Date: Fri, 24 Jul 1998 14:33:02 +0000
Subject: SchNEWS 177, 24 July 1998
THE STEPHEN LAWRENCE STORY
"No black person can ever trust the police" - Doreen Lawrence
Last week SchNEWS spent an afternoon at the public inquiry into the murder of Black teenager Stephen Lawrence, killed five years ago by racists. In a packed room we listened to Mike Mansfield QC making mincemeat of senior police officers. From day one, five racist scum bags: Neil and Jamie Acourt, David Norris, Gary Dobson and Luke Knight, have been accused of stabbing Stephen Lawrence as he waited for a bus at Eltham, SE London. But none have ever spent a day behind bars. Later SchNEWS spoke to Barry Anthony, involved in the Stephen Lawrence Family Campaign. He told us of an unbelievable catalogue of police racism, incompetence and corruption.
SchNEWS: Can you tell us about the previous private prosecution?
Barry: The Crown Prosecution Service refused to prosecute the five for the murder of Stephen because they said that they didn't have enough evidence, so Doreen and Neville Lawrence decided to go for a private prosecution, which was unprecedented at the time. The decision was a huge risk, as - had they lost - they would have had to have paid all the court costs. So a campaign was organised in order to raise money, should the prosecution fail. Neil Acourt, Dobson and Knight, were brought to the Old Bailey for private prosecution. Although this failed, the Judge refused to award costs against the Lawrence s because of the dignified manner in which they behaved. The prosecution only failed because of a lack of witnesses. Many local people came forward with information about the suspects, but were scared of recriminations. The Lawrence's had to rely on a secret video taken of the five accused, where they don't admit to killing Stephen Lawrence, but talk of every nigga being cut up, tortured, burnt alive.
Duwayne Brooks, who was with Stephen at the time of his murder, was deemed an unreliable witness. This was originally because he was seen as anti-police, but then the police said he was in danger and needed police protection. However, the officer they assigned for protection was the same copper who had been seen drinking on three occasions with the father of David Norris - one of the accused! Clifford Norris is a big time gangsta, currently serving eight years for drugs and arms, suspected of at least murder with a reputation of jury nobbling and intimidation of witnesses.
Duwayne had a breakdown, didn't give proper evidence, and so the case was thrown out. Duwayne wasn't even able to come to the inquiry - instead giving written evidence as he is so distraught by the case.
"I reckon that every nigger should be chopped up, Mate, and they should be left with nothing but fucking stumps."
- Neil Acourt, caught on secret police surveillance camera.
Sch: So this led to the Public Inquiry?
B: When Jack Straw became the new Home Secretary, he had to be seen to act on the Stephen Lawrence case, as it was so high profile. It was supposed to run something like a public relations exercise - I'm sure he never dreamed this crap would come out. Even if you're a police supporter the inquiry has shown constant police incompetence - it's like something out of the Keystone Cops.
Sch: Can you give us any examples of police incompetence?
B: When Stephen was stabbed he didn't die instantly. When the police arrived he was still alive, the officers had first aid kits in their car but didn't use them to stop the bleeding. In their evidence to the inquiry they said they were not sure whether it was a stabbing or a neck injury.
However on cross-examination, the defence revealed through radio records that the police knew it was a stabbing! Over 24 hours several witnesses gave the names of the killers responsible for Stephen's death, but the police didn't arrest anyone for two weeks. At the inquiry a senior copper said they could not make any arrests unless they had evidence. Mike Mansfield and legal expertssaid this wasn't true - you can make arrests on suspicion. Then this senior officer who had been in the force for 30 odd years claimed he had no idea of these powers.
The police carried out surveillance on the suspects house. During the surveillance they missed someone leaving the house with what appeared to be clothes covered in black plastic. The next day Neil Acourt was captured on film taking out a black bin bag. The police had no phone to call for back up, and so no one checked what was in their bags.
One of the witnesses who wouldn't give his name told the police who stabbed Stephen, gave a description of the knife and said it was hidden underneath their floorboards. The cops went to search the house but didn't look underneath the floorboards. At the inquiry more than one officer said that the carpets were so immaculate and the place so well decorated they didn't want to disrupt by tearing up the carpets! Can you imagine if someone said to the police that their were drugs under the floorboards in your house, whether they would worry about your carpets?
At one point Doreen gave the names of a couple of the boys that she d heard had murdered Stephen. She handed it to a copper who said thank you but when he thought she wasn't looking screwed the piece of paper up into a ball.
Sch: What about this wall of silence the police said they faced?
B: This was the main argument the police gave in their defence for doing nothing, that no one in the white community wanted to talk, but that has now been proven to be rubbish. So many people gave names, but were too scared to give evidence in court. People were scared 'cos David Norris dad is a big time gangster, two of the other boys Neil And Jamie Arcourt call themselves the Krays. In fact Reggie Kray wrote a letter from prison to Doreen saying these guys were nothing to do with him, and that he supported the Lawrences!
Sch: Why has this campaign been so successful? There have been lots of Black deaths in custody but the protests and anger seem to fade away after a while
B: A lot of it comes down to Doreen and Neville Lawrence. A lot of the families I work with who want to fight back are determined and they want justice, but after a couple of years they 've had enough, and they want to get on with their life's. The difference with the Lawrence s is they have never taken no for an answer, and had a few lucky breaks. Neville is a painter and decorator and on the Monday after Stephen's death rang the house he was supposed to be decorating, and told them he couldn't come in because his son had been killed in a racist attack. Well, it happened to be home of the editor of the Independent on Sunday who ran a sympathetic article which the rest of the press then picked up. Two weeks after the death, with still no one arrested despite all the police leads, Nelson Mandela came to visit Britain, heard about a black death and visited the Lawrence's (the police eventually made arrests 45 minutes after the visit of Mandela!)
Sch: Do you think the Lawrence family think the struggle to get this far has been worth it?
B: I think they do think it s been worth it but they know five guys got away with murder and they've pretty much given up them doing any time, so in that sense its never gonna bring their son back, they are never gonna get justice. But they've always said that the police are just as responsible as the killers, because if the police had done their job, the killers would have been behind bars years ago. They wanted to expose how the police fucked it up - and the inquiry has shown their incompetence racism and how they treat people. I can't say they are happy about it, but they feel it's been worth it. What they really want to see is discipline or sacking on the main coppers responsible, but even that's hard because they've all been given early retirement or sick pensions. The way Neville sees it, he's a decorator, if he doesn't do his work properly then he doesn't get paid. It should be the same for these police - they should get sacked without payoffs. They also wanted to make sure everyone knows who those five racists are. Even though they came to the inquiry and avoided all lines of questioning, by the end everyone knew that they were the ones who killed Stephen. What is pleasing is for years of walking round black people having to look over their shoulders, now its their turn to look over their shoulders. Everyone knows their faces.
Sch: What about the wider implications? Do you think this case will inspire other black people to stand up to this shit?
B: I think more people are willing to make noise about things now. It nearly kicked off at the inquiry the other day. Everyone who had been throwing bottles at the racists started throwing bottles at the police, because they'd heard over the last 50 days how racist the police are. In recent years, especially in the black community, there has been a lot of focus on police racism and corruption. People don't dwell on it usually, but this time the inquiry has brought attention back to the real issues.
Maybe next time people hear about a death in police custody - like with Joy Gardner, people won't say "wasn't she an illegal immigrant?" or "wasn't she violent?" - People will say "fucking hell - the police murdered her".
Sch: How unusual was the Met Police's public apology?
B: Unprecedented. And by the way - the Lawrence's told them where to stick their apology. The families attitude is that this apology isn't worth anything. It's about action. What they gonna do about it?
Sch: At the inquiry Mrs Lawrence talked about the police treating them like "Gullible Simpletons", "Irritants", or "Criminals rather than victims because they were black"
B: One disputed thing that has come out of this inquiry is that police thought 'black guy stabbed, must be some drugs argument'. When they arrived at the murder scene they were told the five white guys driving around in a car had done it. Yet they never made any effort to drive around and look for anybody. Instead they investigated the Lawrence's and checked Stephen's background to see if he was a criminal. It was only when they found out they were a church going couple with an A - level studying son when they started to take it a bit more seriously. But as Neville pointed out - so what if his son had been in trouble with the police before, and was not studying - does that mean he deserved to die? Even if he was some tearaway, even if the Lawrence's weren't married and didn't go to church, what difference does it make? Someone still died and the police should investigate. Basically the police's main concern was shutting the Lawrence's up, not resolving the case.
"I think it's a third police racism, a third police incompetence and a third police corruption."
- Barry Anthony
"Basically, we were seen as gullible simpletons...Presumably there is no possibility of me! being an intelligent black woman with thoughts of her own who is able to ask questions for herself. We were patronised and fobbed off."
- Doreen Lawrence
When then police did their own review a few months after the murder they gave their investigation a clean bill of health saying it had "progressed satisfactorily...all lines of enquiry correctly pursued." However a Kent Police Complaints Authority investigation later talked of the reports' 'highly damaging' nonsense, identifying 'serious professional failings' and omissions- witnesses not promptly followed up, ID parades bungled, cack-handed surveillance, no attempt to arrest early andsecure forensic evidence, difficulties in handling the computer...
The second part of the inquiry takes place in September with written and verbal submissions before going on a tour of Britain, holding open hearings in cities with large ethnic minorities. A report is expected before Christmas. SchNEWS doesn't expect much from the report, but the inquiry has at least helped put the spotlight on the way the cops work, for once.
Already the police are saying the murder was five years ago and they have learnt their lesson, but the inquiry into the suspicious death of a twenty year old Asian Ricky Peel found drowned in the Thames at Kingston ten months ago, has been dealt with in a similar way.
"Ricky's murder shows that nothing has been learnt." said Neville Lawrence.
Reading this interview, people involved in protest, putting on free parties or just living in a vehicle, might wonder at the seemingly endless levels of resources the police find to strop their activities while racist murderers get away scot free.
While people who fight back are labelled outside agitators , professional demonstrators , ecoterrorists etc.by the police, the Lawrence supporters were labelled black militants. But a can of racist worms has been opened and for white people it's an eye opener into what black people have had to put up with for years.
This country is riddled with institutionalised racism, where every asylum seeker is deemed bogus and England supporters subject us all to chants of Rule Britannia during the World Cup.
SchNEWS isn't asking for the police to be reformed, to get rid of a few bad apples; we are fighting for a whole new society to be built where people come before profit. That will take a lot of hard work, solidarity and organisation - but it can and must be done.
* Stephen Lawrence Family Campaign: 0181 843 2333
* Read: 'Beginners Guide to the Black Panthers'
* 'A Chronology of Injustice' records the events that led up to the Winston
Silcott stitch up for the murder of PC Blakelock in the Tottenham
riots. £4 from Legal Action for Women, Crossroads Womens Centre, PO
box 287, London, NW6
Next Tueday (28th), it will be 5 years since Joy Gardner was killed. She had come to visit her mother, Myrna Simpson, but overstayed her 6 month visa. One morning, an immigration officer with 5 coppers turned up on her doorstep with a deportation notice. Answering the door in her knickers and t-shirt with her 2 year old in the house, she told them to get lost. The police at the inquest described what happened next as a struggle with a superhuman black woman. They put handcuffs and calf straps on her, and wrapped tape around her mouth- fourteen feet of it round and round until she suffocated and died. SchNEWS spoke briefly to Myrna Simpson:
"We're paying them [the police] money to care for us, not to kill us. It's 5 years for the Lawrence's, and it's 5 years for me. They had my daughter on a life support machine in the hospital, stinking, pretending she wasn't dead. How could they kill my child, and have me there watching her dead?
She didn't deserve to die. Look at that man Fred West; did they kill him?
They went for him peacefully and took him to prison. Why did they treat her like that? Why? I can never forget - and I'll never forgive because they didn't have to do what they did. She wasn't violent. How could she be violent against six people with a young child? They killed her in front of her child. The state needs to root out all the bad weeds - it wants to be cleared up."
The inquest into Joy Gardener's death said it was 'misadventure'. No-one was ever charged.
road protests 1998
| road protests (current)
| movement links