“We will fight on.”
“No justice, no peace!”
When the jury on the inquest into Mark Duggan’s death came to the conclusion that he was lawfully killed, it sparked fury in the public gallery, and in the overflow court where supporters of the Duggan family and others were watching proceedings on a widescreen television. When they emerged to the gathered press outside, the solicitor for the family, Martha Willis Stewart, claimed that “the jury found that he had no gun in his hand and yet he was gunned down…For us that is an unlawful killing.” Carole Duggan, Mark’s aunt, incited the crowd with a clenched fist raised in protest shouting in unison with supporters “no justice, no peace”; it was a rallying cry.
It is perfectly understandable, even after the passage of some time, that those close to Duggan would still be affected by the raw emotion of losing someone they love; to hear that his death was within the law must be seen as an insult to his memory. In light of what happened in the wake of Duggan’s death, we are right to be wary of another similar reaction.
The Met are also clearly aware. The carefully planned police reaction has been a masterpiece of public relations. The family have been praised as noble, restrained, and brave in every statement by anyone with a police badge on their uniform. However, the issues and battlegrounds over Duggan’s death, and the wider issue of policing, have been marked clearly. It is us vs them.
It is easy to understand why people, young and old, in the north London black community might feel marginalised by the police, and implicitly, the criminal justice system. However, in the case of this enquiry, the sense of disadvantage is misplaced. The inquiry was exhaustive, and returned a thorough and balanced conclusion which admitted that errors were made, but that the killing itself was within the protocol laid down by law and the police themselves. If an issue is to be taken, it should be with the working practices of armed response units, not with the outcome of this case. The sense of loss, anger, and injustice is born far more out of misunderstanding than miscarriage.
This is in fact often an overbearing principle that is missed by those thinking about the actions of police within black communities, or within areas where violent and gang-related crime is rife. BBC News vox popped young black men on the streets of Tottenham who claimed that they were stopped and searched purely because they were just that: young, black, and male. While racial profiling is deplorable, if you are a policeman walking through areas, such as there are in London especially, where the majority of the population are black, then the simple law of averages dictates that most people you stop and search will be black. I’m not saying that racial profiling doesn’t happen, but that both sides are so sensitive to each other’s prejudices, for whatever reason, that even actions which may be perfectly innocent may be tarred with the same brush. It is the same reason that a policeman would happily walk past a loitering group of white 16-year-olds on the Kings Road, but might be substantially more wary of a group of 16-year-olds loitering in a high-crime area of north London.
While the magnifying glass of the Duggan case highlights a number of issues, the receptive audience to Carole Duggan’s “no justice, no peace” speaks volumes towards the fact that the feelings that sparked the summer riots still remain. There are clearly major issues with poor community policing in London, and poor relationships between the police and the public; however, it goes both ways. Both sides must make an effort to come towards each other, and to rebuild relationships. One might hope, in the light of the tragedy of Mark Duggan, that adversity might drive both sides together.