Two events happened last week which demonstrate the extent to which the government either ignores or fails to understand the level of anger that institutional racism generates in the UK along with distrust for criminal justice.
The first was a vigil on Tuesday to mark that a month had passed since the death of a young black man in Wales shortly after his arrest and release without charge from a police station in Cardiff. The death of twenty-four-year-old Mohamud Hassan, of Somali heritage, has since become shrouded in growing suspicions of a police cover-up.
Black Lives Matter in Cardiff numbered significantly among the attendees at the vigil and hundreds protested over the lack of procedural transparency by the police last month.
The second event was an interview Home Secretary Priti Patel gave on LBC radio, in which she had the chance to give her views on the biggest BLM protests the world’s seen in decades following the killing of George Floyd by police last year.
Beyond describing the protests that also happened in the UK as ‘dreadful,’ and initially implying that she doesn’t agree with any form or protest (before being prompted to correct herself) Patel essentially revealed herself, as usual, to be incapable of diverging from a strict set of rules of never saying anything that isn’t a soundbite for right-wing media.
As such, it’s largely due to the coronavirus lockdowns and the degree of uncertainty surrounding the death of Hassan that much larger-scale protest actions haven’t taken place.
South Wales police arrested Hassan on the night of 8 January following a disturbance of the peace call in the Roath area of Cardiff. He was released the next morning and died later at home that evening. Two conflicting accounts of his death then emerged, creating a mystery that should have already been solved.
According to South Wales police, his death was ‘sudden and unexplained,’ with ‘no signs of misconduct or excessive force.’
However, Hassan’s aunt and other relatives said that there were clear signs of bruising and physical marks on Hassan who said before he died that he’d been tasered and assaulted. The family is adamant that Hassan died as a result of police violence and has been crowdfunding to finance funeral and legal costs.
Investigation into the case and the police’s conduct was passed on to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) along with all relevant CCTV footage and body-worn video. Following a post-mortem and toxicology report, it’s difficult to now know quite what’s holding up the IOPC, who updated last week largely to say that ‘it’s continuing to gather and meticulously piece together evidence.’
In a further strange turn, it also emerged last week that in his short time in custody (one night) Mohamud Hassan came into contact with a total of 52 police officers. The information was shared by senior independent investigator Ian Andrews during a meeting with the family and subsequently during a community reference group.
A key figure supporting the family is activist and lawyer Lee Jasper, vice-chairman of BAME Lawyers 4 Justice, who has highlighted the anomalies and evidence of a cover-up in the case, ranging from false inferences of intoxication and evidence physically confirming assault in the preliminary post-mortem.
Another key contention that remains is the IOPC’s withholding of camera footage of Hassan’s final hours, especially given the sheer number of officers he’s believed to have been in contact within just ten hours. A petition has been launched asking for its release. It now has over 30,000 signatures.