Duggan verdict: no justice

Submitted by Matthew on 15 January, 2014 - 11:05

A statement from the Black Power Caucus of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) on the verdict from the inquest into Mark Duggan’s death.


Azelle Rodney, Jean Charles de Menezes, Mark Duggan; these are the names of just a few of the people that have died at the hands of the Metropolitan Police, an organisation that is apparently there to protect the people of London.

To many people in the city however, it has always been nothing more than an aggressive and institutionally racist organisation, solely dedicated to preserving the unjust status quo, quelling any dissent and unafraid in using violence to do so.

The verdict given by the Mark Duggan inquest, that the shooting of an unarmed young black man on the streets of Tottenham Hale was lawful, does nothing but confirm this view.

The killing of Mark Duggan, and the subsequent injustice that came with the verdict, is in no way an aberration in the history of the Metropolitan Police or indeed any police service. Many black youngsters in cities like London feel nothing but fear and antipathy towards the Metropolitan Police, and justifiably so. A black person is on average seven times more likely to be stopped and searched by a police officer than a white person, despite strong evidence that, once stopped and searched, black people are no more likely than white people to be arrested.

The daily humiliation of being regarded as an object of suspicion, an object worthy of contempt, leads to the sort of anger that manifests itself in the shape of riots like those seen in London in 2011.

When young men like Mark Duggan are not only shot and killed by the police, but then the police are virtually acquitted of any major wrong-doing, it is hardly surprising that mistrust and hostility to the police still exists.

An armed wing of the state like the Metropolitan Police Service does not, and cannot do, anything to make people’s lives safer. A bourgeois state and its armed wings (and make no mistake, the actions of the police are as political as any government action) will however always target minorities, rather than face up to real issues such as economic inequality and youth unemployment.

Whether it’s by making black young men like Mark Duggan out to be dangerous “gangsters”, or by painting immigrants as a threat, or working-class people on benefits as scroungers.

With this in mind it is time to think hard about whether or not the police services in this country should even exist in their current state at all.

Comments

Submitted by Matthew on Wed, 15/01/2014 - 11:18

I agree with the main thrust of the statement about police racism towards young black people but is it really true to say that the police or the media are guilty of "making out" Mark Duggan to be a gangster when he wasn't?

It seems – unless the police planted it later – that Duggan had just collected a handgun before the taxi he was travelling in was stopped. He is also connected through his aunt, who appeared on the steps of the court, to one of the most violent crime families in Manchester, the city where Duggan spent his teenage years. It does put him in a different category I think to people like Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian electrician going to work on the Tube. Whether the police shot him knowing he had thrown away his gun is of course another question, and not one we are really in a position to judge.

Submitted by AWL on Thu, 16/01/2014 - 14:33

I don't know whether Mark Duggan was a "gangster". I don't think it's particularly of prime importance here. I don't think our position on this matter should be based on whether we think Mark Duggan was a good person.

Whether or not someone is a good person, has lead a moral life, etc., isn't a relevant consideration when it comes to the question of whether they should be executed by the police and whether, having been executed, the police should be properly held to account. What's the implication? "Duggan was involved in crime, he should've known it might end like this. Live by the sword, die by the sword"? Presumably that's not what you're saying, Matthew. Or is it "what the police did was wrong, but Duggan was a bad person so we shouldn't mourn him"?

I think the NCAFC BPC statement above is right to point out that the media does demonise young black men and attempt to stigmatise them by association with gang warfare and other crime. That's true, and a necessary point to make, regardless of whether or not the media portrayal of Duggan as a "gangster" has some truth to it.

Of course, demanding justice over what happened doesn't require us to prettify Duggan. I don't really know anything about him. I know a bit about the Noonans, and they sound a very nasty bunch indeed. But even if it was there was 100% iron-clad proof that Mark Duggan was a "gangster", the question of whether or not the police should be able to execute unarmed people with impunity would still very much remain.

The working-class left does need to think seriously about drugs, guns, and crime more generally, and how these things effect our communities. Possibly Mark Duggan was involved in those things. But we're not in a position to know that, and, as I say, I don't think our attitude to Mark Duggan's possible involvement in activity we think is harmful for working-class communities changes our attitude to the police and what they did.

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Daniel Randall

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