Thursday, 18 August 2016

Black lives do matter!

But for the fact he'd been a former well known professional footballer it's likely Dalian Atkinson's death following his repeated tasering by telford police would probably have been virtually ignored in the mainstream british media. However Dalian Atkinson's one time high profile ensured that the circumstances around his death would not go unreported. But the fact that Dalian used to kick a ball around for a living (and did so very well for those of us who remember his playing days) isnt important to this case - what's important is that this was another black person in Britain dying as a result of actions by the police.

The bare facts of this case also need repeating. Dalian Atkinson was shot with a police taser 3 times - that is fifty thousand volts going thru his body 3 times! So it cannot be argued that the tasering he was subject too didnt cause his death - it surely did. But expect the inquest to clear the officers concerned of any wrong doing, just as the officers concerned were cleared following the death of the homeless Ian Tomlinson and cleared following the shooting of the unarmed Mark Duggan. It was Duggan's killing of course which triggered the tottenham riots 5 years ago this month. It's very sad to report that if someone dies as a result of police actions in the UK their families and friends shouldn't expect justice.

According to recent home office figures black people in britain are 3 times more likely to be tasered than a white person. Dalian Atkinson was also someone with mental health problems, and again evidence shows two thirds of people tasered have some kind of mental health problem. Disturbing to note then that the new British PM Theresa May was an enthusiastic supporter of tasering during her 6 years at the home office.

Dalian Atkinson's fate is also a warning of the likely consequences if the british police were armed, as some on the political right like UKIP advocate. Black people would be far more likely to be shot than white people (which is exactly what happens in societies where the police are armed like the US).

Of course not all british policemen and women are rabid racists intent upon arresting, injuring or killing black people but rather it's the institutional racism which still seems to pervade so much of british society which creates a culture where if you're black you're far more likely to receive the attentions of the police than if youre white.

And we see the terrible consequences of this kind of institutional racism in the US where white policemen shooting and killing black people has become almost routine. It's because of such shocking treatment of black people in the US that organisations like Black Lives Matter have been set up, but Dalian Atkinson's death illustrates why Black Lives Matter are right to organise and protest in the UK too.

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