Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

Black Britain, Britain, Human Rights, London, Racism

The death of Sean Rigg


On the 21st August 2008 around 8.30pm Sean Rigg, a 40 year old Black man from Brixton, died in the custody of Brixton Police Station. Sean is one of a long line of Black males who have died whilst in police custody yet not one single member of the police has ever been made accountable for any of these deaths. These deaths followed restraining, handcuffing, stomping and placing pressure on the persons back or front and other forms of police brutality. Some of the men, like Sean Rigg were taken into custody under the Mental Health Act.

Sean’s family explain what happened.

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  1. It was interesting listening to the speeches outside Brixton Police station, the station where Sean Rigg died mysteriously on the evening of the 21st August 2008.
    It was also interesting how the race and class problematic raised its head and the unified voices became a little strained as a member of the Pan-Africanist party broke down the historical racilialised conditioning which underpins the cause of Black death at the hands of the Police.
    Imperialism, enslavement, colonisation, racism and neo-colonisation were all mentioned in his oration.
    He made it clear that ethnicity is an important factor into determining the level of care and respect a dark British citizen might expect from its police force at the point of initial contact.

    As he described westernised racism and the complicity by silence of some white liberals I could feel a slight unease from some members of the 200 crowd who really wanted a ‘we are the world’ type of protest.

    It is painfully obvious that the state/police and many within the host community do not see much value in a black life — treated like freaks since the late 1700’s (see Sarah Baartman piece) black people continue to be treated as inferior, lacking in morality or as a people incapable of self-discipline and of needing a hand out.

    The issue of race became a divisive element at the vigil as speakers who followed were heard saying it was not about race but class citing the death Of Harry Stanley and Ian Tomlinson as examples of Police brutality to all citizens.
    I have heard this argument before generally by the members of a large Union such as Unison but these Marxists forget that industrialisation and the ability to become a university educated middle class was born out of the slave trade and the disproportion of black men in mental care, HMP and dying at the hands of white racists along with a racist police force is undeniable and many socialists know full well they have racists within their ranks.

    Whilst the speaker did not blame all white people for the death of Sean Rigg it is a sad fact that more people have protested nationally against animal rights than have protested against black deaths in custody and it is this shame that many must share.

    Mickey Powell was run down by a police car, beaten with batons and sprayed with cs gas and taken to a police station whilst obviously injured.

    Joy Gardner tied up and taped and held down died by suffocation in front of her son.

    Christopher Adler died faced down on the floor, choking on his own blood whilst police were seen on the seized CCTV footage stepping over his body and heard making monkey noises and laughed as he lay slowly dying.

    The CCTV footage aired on Panorama proved conclusively that Mr Adler a former British para-trooper did not get the care and attention he deserved – his trousers and pants were down to his knees, leaving his buttocks exposed whilst lying prostrate on the floor in front of 5 officers. How? Why?
    The officers were acquitted of all charges without a murmur from the national media and society at large.

    There is no doubt that the police close ranks when someone dies after contact with them and this practice of collusion and protection by the (IPCC) state goes across the class and colour line but it is the added element of systemic racism which decimates the black community globally

    To truly make progress the race issue has to be discussed in order for there to be a total understanding around deaths in custody and then we can discuss the way in which the state protects its police force by making it virtually impossible to successfully prosecute an officer derelict in his duties and guilty of murder.
    (I say virtually due to the successful prosecution in 1969 of 2 officers due largely to the evidence provided by a rookie officer in outing his colleagues)
    It is still more likely a police officer will be prosecuted for the death of his police dog in a hot car or an expense fraud than be prosecuted for the murder of a civilian.
    Would you trust these men to solve deaths in custody — especially the high number of black deaths in custody?

    max respect my sista…

  2. Comment by post author


    Kungadred @ Thank you for this detailed comment in which you raise some pertinent observations from the vigil – sorry I rushed to post this before running to catch a train – so I appreciate your taking time to comment.

    Yes, I noticed the tensions as the white speakers constantly attempted to universalise the experience into one of class and in doing so undermine the impact of racism on the Black experience in Britain. It appeared that even the most liberal minded white people felt the need to go into denial by repeating the mantra that this is not about ethnicity or race but about class – always returning and yet again centering themselves, unable to accept or reflect on their own racism.