THE DEATH OF Rashan Charles has once more highlighted issues of who has the power in UK society – and increased tension on the streets of London.
A vigil outside Stoke Newington Police Station on Monday 24th July was largely peaceful – and a second vigil on Friday, 28th was too. However, after the vigil a demonstration saw tempers fray and violence break out. Protestors threw missiles at the police and then barricaded Kingsland Road with debris and rubbish from the streets, going on to set fire to some of the items. As anger grew, shop windows were smashed.
Two relatively minor injuries were reported – one to a police officer and one to a passer by – and one arrest was made, on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm. The police responded by warning that attacks on their officers and on the streets could not be tolerated.
The family of Rashan Charles also called for the response to be entirely peaceful. Local MP Diane Abbott backed their calls, saying, “The anger and upset at the death of Rashan Charles is understandable. But Rashan’s family have explicitly spoken out against hostile actions. We must respect their wishes and any protests must be peaceful.” Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, said that the local community was holding peaceful protests, and it was people from outside the borough who wanted to cause trouble on the streets.
Rashan Charles died on 22nd July. He ran off as police stopped the car he was in. Police chased after him and found him in a corner shop and wrestled him to the ground. Police said that they had seen Charles attempt to swallow something, so the almost frenzied attempt to restrain him was an attempt to save him from the possible consequences of his own actions.
Widely circulated CCTV footage does show the police officer using a high degree of force. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is now investigating and we can only hope that they investigation takes place quickly and concludes very soon. So far, they have collected witness statements from the police, medics and members of the public who were present when the arrest took place. They are keeping the family up to date with the investigation as well as liaising with local community representatives.
The IPPC has made the following comments on what their investigation is trying to do:
“We understand the concerns raised following Rashan’s death. We will independently examine the circumstances of this incident, we will follow the evidence, we will consider whether there is an indication there may have been misconduct or criminality, and we will seek to answer the questions that Rashan’s family and the community of Hackney understandably have.
“As well as establishing the sequence of events of what happened, we will be looking at what police guidelines say should happen in these circumstances, if the officers involved followed them and whether there is any learning that could prevent deaths of this nature in future.”
•The IPCC has asked anyone who witnessed the events around the arrest of Rashan Charles to contact them on 0800-096 9079.