Chants of “no justice no peace” echoed around Tottenham police station on Saturday afternoon as hundreds of peaceful demonstrators gathered outside to call for an end to what they say is institutionally racist policing in this part of north London.
The event marks the ninth anniversary of the fatal shooting by police in Tottenham of Mark Duggan. His death was followed by the biggest riots in recent times. The event is supported by Black Lives Matter, Tottenham Rights, Stopwatch and 4front.
Protesters issued a series of immediate demands to police: to stop the over-policing of black communities; stop excessive use of force; and stop the use of Tasers. They also want an end to section 60 searches, which give police permission to stop and search people in a designated area without the need to establish a reasonable suspicion to stop that person.
The history of relations between police and the black community in Tottenham and throughout the borough of Haringey is a troubled one. From the death of Cynthia Jarrett in 1985 on the Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham, which triggered the 1985 riots, to the deaths of Joy Gardner, Roger Sylvester and the fatal shootings of Mark Duggan and Jermaine Baker.
More recently there have been two controversial Tasering events in Tottenham, one involving Millard Scott, brother of Stafford Scott, one of the organisers of Saturday’s event, and Jordan Walker-Brown, who is paralysed following an incident in which he fell from a wall after being Tasered by police.
Winston Silcott, who was one of three convicted of the murder of PC Keith Blakelock during the Broadwater Farm riots even though he was nowhere near the area at the time, a conviction that was quashed in 1991 after scientific tests suggested the men’s confessions had been fabricated, attended the event.
He expressed concern about police use of stop and search and Taser on members of the black community.
“Why did the rate of stop-and-search against black people go up during the pandemic? It makes no sense,” he said. “And why do the police handcuff so many black people they search even though nine times out of ten they find nothing on them. It doesn’t add up.”
While he welcomed the activities of Black Lives Matter he lamented the fact that the police had not changed since he was a young man. “I remember how the police were in the 70s,” he said. “The technology has changed but the police haven’t changed at all.”
The event ended with some live drumming and the playing of Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come.
The police presence at the event was low-key although protesters reported seeing police horses and groups of officers round the corner from the police station.
Stafford Scott told the assembled crowds: “Britain is a racist society and British police are racist police. When I see what happened to George Floyd my emotions bubble.”
Speaking before the event Pam Duggan, the mother of Mark Duggan, said the loss of her son on 4 August 2011 at the hands of the police did not get any easier to bear over time.
“On the anniversary of Mark’s death last week family and friends gathered at the cemetery by his graveside. It was a beautiful event with flowers in Mark’s favourite colours – blue and white. But when it’s your own child that you’ve lost the more time passes the more painful it gets. It’s not right that Mark’s children had to go to the cemetery to see their daddy.”
She said she thought policing of the black community was getting worse.
“They don’t have hearts. It is not their children they’re losing. The police are the biggest gang and they are a gang with weapons.”