Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ending the Violence through a Creative Response

This is a continuation of my previous blogs,

Ending the Violence
No to Pre-Trial Electrocutions
Police Officers Accused of 60 Other Assaults

I was in Brixton town centre a couple of days ago when I noticed that, outside Brixton police station, a tree has been dedicated as a memorial to a young African Caribbean man, Sean Riggs, who died in police custody.

With all the recent media feeding frenzy around the allegations of assaults by police officers at the G20 demonstrations, there has been no mention of this young man's death. I have seen no connections made between the G20 incidents and the ongoing assaults on African people by the police.

According to information posted on the tree memorial, there were two cameras present when Riggs died, but neither was working. That is the official line. Judge for yourself how believable that is.

Our young people need to carry cameras all the time as a way of protecting themselves from police violence. This is one important lesson to be learned from the incidents that took place at the G20 demos. But once in police custody, use of cameras will often not be possible.

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is one of the most effective methods of countering violence. For more about this, see

Ending the Violence
Improving Relationships/Improving Communication
Nonviolent Communication

NVC is used to transform situations, including cases of extreme violence. It is not the same as passive resistance, it is a creative response.

I hope you will join my course in London in October and find out how you can use NVC in your own life.

We really can transform this situation and create a better future.

Below is an excerpt from "A Duty Of Remembrance", by Toyin Agbetu, taken from Nyansapo: The African Drum.

What I like most about this piece is that Toyin is bringing in the spiritual dimension, talking about revering the ancestors.

We need to have an awareness of the problem. But it is far more vital to focus on solutions.

A Duty Of Remembrance

Greetings, I was recently reading trough a book that was sent to me called Again We’ll Rise by BJ Gilwards. Inside it were a collection of inspiring quotations and statements from African people spanning millennia. It made me think hard about many of the wisdom's we have forgotten, the legacies from our history, the good and the bad, the gains and also the losses.

During January 1999, a gang of eight officers from the British Police Force brutally restrained a young man named Roger Sylvester. In describing their actions the police lied claiming Roger was violent. However contrary to their statements Roger was seen being dragged limp, naked and handcuffed into a police van by several witnesses. Roger, a council worker stopped breathing and fell into a coma at the emergency psychiatric unit at St Anne's Hospital, Haringey. Six police officers had pinned him down on the floor for about 20 minutes.

Ben Bersabel, a nurse on duty at the time of the assault said he had noticed Roger was being held down on his front and calling out for a doctor. The police ignored Rogers’s pleas for help and as a direct result of their actions he suffered heart and kidney failure, severe brain damage and bruising to his body. Roger, 30 was a mental health service user. He died six days later at the Whittington Hospital.

Roger’s family made several complaints about the abusive actions of the officers. This led to an investigation carried out by Essex Police under the supervision of the racist Police Complaints Authority (PCA) but to no avail. When the discredited PCA was abandoned it was replaced with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) which now has overall responsibility for the police complaints system. It is important to note that the British tactic of rebranding old as new is common and even the Metropolitan Police Force has formally changed its name to the Police ‘Service’ in an attempt to soften its brutish image.

Now for many years Roger’s family were denied justice, the British media in an attempt to exonerate the police deliberately mislead the public by reporting state fabrications. A typical story was that published by the BBC with the headline ‘Detained man's drug delirium’.

… But then after several years of campaigning the family achieved a breakthrough. On 3 October 2003, an inquest jury returned a unanimous verdict and ruled that Roger had been unlawfully killed. In a just ‘civilised’ society the six police officers should have faced murder or at the very least, manslaughter charges for their ‘unlawful killing’ but instead in 2004, a high court judge formally quashed the verdict allowing the police force to once again escape justice after killing innocent Africans.

… So what is the solution? How do we as a community achieve justice, reparation and ultimately Maat for atrocities committed against our Ancestors? Well the first thing we must do is respect the ritual of remembrance and hold a memorial or commemoration for them every year without fail. For this act to be progressive it must not only be carried out for the victims of Maafa but also the survivors and heroes.

… You see we need African Remembrance at the very least, once a year. Our own right to dignity demands we collectively remember their names especially in circumstances where the loss has been both tragic and traumatic instead of worshipping those ‘celebrities’ and role muddles the government and its media promotes as ‘black’ British or American idols.

So to those who have passed and whose names we rarely call, please know that not all your children have forgotten your sacrifice. And in remembrance to those of you who are also still with us, I want to thank you, from brother Colin, Aiah Menjor and Milton Hanson to sista Ama Sumani and Elder Rosie Purves, there are so many of you out there who I want to thank for doing the work, and those of you who silently support them, you know who you are. In the meantime I have written to the IPCC making an Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the details of all the cases involving African people who have died in custody that Freddy Patel has been involved in and may have covered up. If we don’t do think this work important, then who will?

Taken from Nyansapo - The Pan African Drum
Toyin Agbetu is a writer, film director, poet, and founder of Ligali, the pan African human rights based organisation.
To subscribe to this free newsletter, Nyansapo the Pan African Drum, contact Ligali

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