Why did Rashan run?
This is likely to be the next question asked by many who seek to demonise 20 year old, Rashan Charles, the young man who was killed after a police officer and unnamed bystander violently assaulted him with a choke hold and the application of excessive force to his body.
In many ways those with the nerve to pose this facetious question should also ask themselves why had Jean Charles de Menezes "jumped the barrier and run"? (huge hint: he didn't)
The officer in charge of that fatal operation in 2005 was then ‘gold commander’ Cressida Dick.
Just like with Rashan, after his violent killing, the police and media immediately started circulating false stories. The most outrageous was the claim that Jean Charles was wearing a suicide belt with visible bomb wires. Tragically and also like Rashan (as well as Azelle Rodney & Mark Duggan) he was murdered by those to whom he posed no immediate threat or danger.
Yet, despite the international attention that Jean Charles’s story attracted, the hours of media footage and endless analysis shared with the public, the de Menezes family did not get the justice they deserved. Instead Cressida Dick was rewarded and earlier this year became the Metropolitan Police’s first female commissioner.
And then, exactly 12 years to the exact date, the police force she runs does exactly the same thing again (Jean Charles was killed on 22 July 2005, Rashan was killed on 22 July 2017.
This time however, things were a little different. Instead of claiming Rashan was a threat to the public, they tried to insinuate he was a danger to himself. According to them, they killed him to save him from killing himself. This is not a joke - In the immediate aftermath Scotland Yard announced that the officer “intervened and sought to prevent the man from harming himself”.
Simon Laurence, the Met’s borough commander for Hackney, added;
“A man, who was in the car, was pursued on foot before entering a shop where he was seen to be trying to swallow an object. He was then taken ill. He was taken to hospital by the London ambulance service where, sadly, he died later that morning.”
With the Independent Police Complaints Commission's (IPCC) release of forensic results we now have confirmation that the “taken ill” / "harming himself" part of the statements are a lie. The next stage is to find a way to disprove the second part. That is, the fabrication that Rashan passed away in hospital.
Why is this important?
Because if Rashan did not have a ‘controlled substance’ in his body when he was killed, if Rashan stopped breathing as we can see in the video, if the officer and unnamed bystander failed to place him in a recovery position, release the restraints and attempt first aid to resuscitate Rashan before any medics and paramedics arrive, then what we are talking about is not ‘unintentional homicide’, but plain cold blooded, unjustifiable murder.
A lying, bullying police officer who with the assistance of an unnamed assailant was hyped in the moment on power and used brute force to dominate a young man fighting for his last breath of life.
Anyone failing to see that when watching the widely shared CCTV footage is living evidence revealing how prejudiced people with low levels of empathy for human suffering develop irrational levels of unconscious bias that interferes with their cognitive thought and humanity. The US President Trump with his recent comments endorsing police brutality of suspects and the hundreds of racist officers that laughed in support instead of calling him out are a perfect example of these types of individuals.
On 22 July 2017, Rashan died not because he was involved in a criminal act (he was not), he died because he came into contact with an aggressive, abusive Police officer and his unnamed accomplice.
Killed by Police: Rashan Charles (22 July 2017) and Jean Charles de Menezes (22 July 2005)
An issue of police conduct?
So lets start with the facts. Following forensic analysis and a post mortem that took place on Monday 24 July the IPCC announced on 2 August that “an object that was removed from Rashan’s airway by paramedics. The object did not contain a controlled substance.”
We are still waiting for more information from the autopsy.
However, if the IPCC are serious about assisting the Charles’s family find answers then we need to know who was the officer involved? Who was the unnamed assailant? Why hasn’t the officer been suspended? Why hasn’t the unnamed assailant been arrested? Why, if the officer was primarily concerned about Rashan’s wellbeing, did he and the unnamed assailant first restrain Rashan with handcuffs and then only attempt to “remove an object from his mouth or throat” once it was obvious he was in respiratory distress?
If the officer failed to remove the object in his assumption it was narcotics, surely his actions are responsible for causing a blockage of Rashan’s airway thus causing death?
The IPCC definitely has its work cut out, but in truth, how many of us have confidence in the impartiality of a complaints commission where former police detectives investigate their friends and colleagues? How can this be regarded an impartial body solely interested with serving in the public interest? To make matters worse, last year Theresa May whilst Home Secretary announced the IPCC is to be renamed the “Office for Police Conduct” and will no longer have any serving commissioners.
But this is not a simple issue about ‘police conduct’.
We understand the conundrum the force faces. If it charges the unnamed assailant then this implicates the officer in the crime. But if the police allow both assailants to roam the streets with impunity after the taking of a life, not only are they colluding with the obstruction of justice but they are also placing the public they swear to serve and protect at risk.
So what other factors should we consider to understand what is going on?
Well I started this piece with a question about whether we should trust the Met head, Cressida Dick where ‘Black Lives Matter’. My answer is no and I say this from experience. Before Ms Dick was responsible for the operation that led to the execution of Jean Charles, she was in charge (from 2003) of the Met’s Operation Trident
, a specialist unit that targeted so called ‘black-on-black’ gun crime in the African community. Many believed the Operation Trident
team started with good intentions and in the early days there was also community support. In 2002, I too, through the Ligali organisation, was involved alongside chair, Diane Abbott of an advisory Hackney Independent Trident Group
(HITG) that helped support the families of those who lost members to violent crime.
But there came a moment when politicians and the media encouraged a switching of police focus from targeting gun crime to targeting young people. It was then that I resigned from the HITG and started to challenge how there were too many times, when at best the police and the mainstream media instigated (a decade long) demonisation of innocent people as ‘Yardies’ through graphic, Afriphobic media campaigns. At worst they colluded with known drug dealers and gunmen in a similar manner to the infamous Delroy Denton and Eaton Green fiasco when police recruited and allowed violent drug dealers to commit armed robbery, brutally rape teens, and murder Marcia Lawes, for ‘intelligence’.
Unsurprisingly no police officers were ever prosecuted.
So everyone now knows what the young people who took to the streets of Kingsland Road in remembrance of Rashan always stated. Rashan was not being "helped" because he was unwell, he was killed because of "sus" by an officer and unsupervised, unnamed assailant using excessive force.
What is now needed is decisive moral leadership capable of convincing the world that there are some in the UK's largest police force unwilling to be associated with those who demonstrate with their actions and inaction time and time again that they believe ‘black’ lives really don’t matter.
Toyin Agbetu is a community educator, artist-activist-anthropologist, independent film maker and Pan African community worker of Yoruba heritage, Ogun spirit. He was born in Hackney, London UK
External LinksIPCC - Update following meeting with family of Rashan CharlesMan dies after struggle in east London shop following police chasePolice face no charges over Yardie informer who killedHome Secretary announces reforms to IPCC
Rashan Charles did not swallow drugs before being killed by police
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