I managed to squeeze past the RMT stewards at the entrance to Friends House to attend the event titled ‘Resistance: The Best Olympic Spirit’ which featured talks by John Carlos who raised his fist in defiance at the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968, Doreen Lawrence who is the mother of Stephen Lawrence murdered in a racially motivated attack in 1993 and Janet Alder, sister to Christopher Alder who died in police custody in Hull Police Station in 1998.
The panel walked out to a standing ovation and sounds of applause, cheers and Black Power fists in the air. A video of Billie Holiday singing ‘Strange Fruit’ was used as a powerful way to open the event as we are still being lynched on the streets and in police stations to this day.
Hassan opened with a Frederick Douglas quote “If there is no struggle, there is no progress,” in which the struggle was the theme of the event and how us as individuals can support the struggle.
Doreen Lawrence was the first speaker to the podium to a standing ovation and roaring applause. Looking into her eyes, you could see that she has been struggling for a long time, fighting for justice for her son and all of us affected by injustice. She reminded us that nothing was given with her struggle, everything was fought for. She spoke about the trial this year where 2 out of the 5 suspects were convicted for the murder of Stephen Lawrence. If the double jeopardy law was not changed in the UK, Gary Dobson would still be free. Doreen spoke about the changes that came out of the McPherson enquiry but only a few of the recommendations made in the report have been implemented. Our children are still being harassed on the streets, stop and search has been replaced with Stop and Account and police corruption is still present in the Police force. She urged us to support our young people. Doreen would like to see an inquiry into why it took 19 years for some justice to be received by the Lawrence family.
The next speaker was Janet Alder who I believe should be given the highest honour in the land for the pressure and stress she has had to endure in the pursuit of justice for her brother Christopher. I listened to this strong sister telling the crowd about her fight for her brother, holding back the tears. Christopher who fought for this country died on a cold Hull police station floor in 2008 while 5 police officers stood over him making monkey sounds and laughing.
She stated that 3000 people have died in police custody since 1969 and not one police officer has been convicted. A shameful statistic to hear. Janet spoke of how she had to take the Crown Prosecution to court and could not find a barrister in the land to take on her case so she had to do it herself. The details of her case and her treatment were disgusting to hear. She explained that due to her actions, the government had to write a Unilateral Declaration which had never been done before in a death in police custody case.
To make matters worse, on 5th November 2011 she was told that she had not buried her brother in 2000 but a 77 year old women and her brother’s body was still in the morgue!! Twelve years in a morgue and no one noticed. Really? You read of stories like this in the rest of the world but not England. Most people would have broken down but she is still strong and still fighting for justice. Janet asked the crowd to support the families when you learn of another death in police custody.
John Carlos was the next to speak to a standing ovation and a loud applause. John gave a good speech and reminded us that his life is not about winning medals and that his life has been dedicated to freedom fighting. He spoke about how his protest affected his life and reminded us that it was not about black or white, it is about right and wrong. He reminded us that we must get the young people involved in the liberation struggles so it continues into the next generation. He stated that you need to be 100% committed to the struggle and got everyone to say “I am not afraid to offend my oppressor” and not be afraid to speak out and not governed by fear.
“The day you were born is not important. The day you die is even less important. It’s what you do between those two days” – John Carlos.
The sisters of Sean Rigg spoke about their campaign to justice for their brother Sean Rigg who died in Brixton Police Station. They stated that the campaign continues and encouraged everyone to sign their e-petition. The family of Sean Rigg have been asked to contribute £21,000 for the inquest into his death and have been fundraising to raise this money as they do not have this to contribute. Police fees for the inquest are paid by our taxes.
Fahad Ansari was the next person to speak about Baba Ahmed who has been held in this country of terrorism charges without a trial. He is the longest man held in custody without a trial in British History. He recited an old Chinese proverb and encouraged us all to do something even if it is small:
“The man who moved a mountain is the one who started taking away the small stones”
Thank you to RMT and The Fire Brigades Union for putting on this event. This was an eye opening event and shows that the struggle continues and the only way change will happen is if we make t happen and not wait on someone else to make the first move.