8 July 2020

While the attention of the world has focused on state violence and racism following the murder of George Floyd, INQUEST and the families we work alongside have sought to raise the fact that this is an issue in the UK.  

INQUEST's Family Reference Group, made up of family ambassadors, posted a message of solidarity to all families bereaved by state violence and abandonment. 

We feel the echoes of pain and anger in those affected by police brutality and neglect. We are stirred by the outpouring of solidarity in the rejection of anti-black racism and discriminations we see across the world. This is an issue that knows no borders. We walk alongside you on the long road to truth, justice and accountability. We see you, we are here for you and we will keep going. Enough is enough. 

Family voices have been elevated through the media over the past month highlighting the global parallels of the systemic racism seen in the United States. In light of the Black Lives Matter movement, families that INQUEST has worked alongside over many decades including that of of Seni Lewis, Sheku Bayoh, Adrian McDonald, Rashan Charles, Edson da Costa, Cherry Groce, Mark Duggan, Kingsley Burrell and Clinton McCurbin and many others, all spoke out about their experiences and the circumstances in which their loved one died. 

Aji Lewis, mother of Seni Lewis, gave a powerful and moving interview to BBC London. She spoke of how she could not bear to watch the video footage of George Floyd's last nine minutes under police restraint as it brought back memories of her son, who was restrained by 11 police officers and died.

The very thing Seni was saying was ‘I can’t breathe.

Wayne McDonald, brother of Adrian McDonald - who died in December 2014 after he was arrested, restrained, bitten by a police dog, Tasered and left in a police van struggling to breathe - spoke to the Metro about his families struggle for accountability since his death. 

It’s almost easier to believe that each of these victims somehow deserved what happened rather than believe the police are capable of doing this and getting away with it.

Rashan Charles died aged 20 following police restraint in Hackney in July 2017. Like George Floyd, his death was also captured on video and seen by the world. Rod Charles, Rashan's uncle is himself a former Met Police Chief Inspector and wrote in the HuffPost of his belief that Rashan’s death was avoidable, and that excessive force was used.

Edson da Costa, 25, died following police contact only weeks before Rashan's death, also in the London Borough of Hackney. One police officer, said witnesses, placed a knee on Edson’s neck, like Derek Chauvin did to Floyd. Accounts from bystanders claim officers held him on an East London road for between eight and 10 minutes - compared to Floyd’s eight minutes and 46 seconds.

Edson's cousin, Jair, spoke on The Next Episode podcast on the BBC, alongside the families of Kingsley Burrell, Cherry Groce and Joy Gardner. 

it’s easier for us to shift our focus over there [the US] but there’s so many cases here [the UK]

Kadi Johnson, sister of Sheku Bayoh - who died after being restrained by up to five police officers in May 2015 in Scotland - spoke to the BBC about her nervousness on seeing the police when she is out, the fear she feels for her sons and nephews.

I’m scared when my children go out, when my nephews go out, if I see the police car I’m nervous, I don’t know what they are going to do .. why should I feel like that, this is a place I loved, I lived here for many years?

Cherry Groce was shot by police in 1985 during a bungled raid and left paralysed from the waist down and died in 2011. Her son, Lee Lawrence, told the Guardian:

The way I saw George Floyd on the film was the same way I saw my mum, on the floor, helpless and with an officer kneeling over her. It brought up a lot of feelings and emotions for me, and a sadness that we are still witnessing and dealing with these things today.

Kingsley Burrell died in 2011 following prolonged and brutal police restraint and a failure by medical staff to provide basic medical care. His sister, Kadisha Brown-Burrell spoke to Birmingham Live about this Black Lives Matter movement representing a pivotal time for recognition and change.

A lot of people were not awake to what we were going through. To see the whole community come out for the same cause that we have been campaigning for nine years gives us relief. At least there are others in the community to see what we have been going through for years.

Marcia Rigg gave an interview to Elle on the parallels with George Floyd's death and the death of her brother Sean, in police custody in Brixton in 2008. She spoke with TRT and Sky news about her fight for justice as they covered the London Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

The bar is raised by having an international campaign, the public are outraged and they’re supporting us and that’s fantastic, but the families are about to speak.

United Families & Friends (@UFFCampaign) | Twitter

The United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) is a family led coalition of people affected by deaths in police custody, prison and mental health settings. INQUEST is proud to stand in solidarity with UFFC. Please donate to their fundraiser to support their collective campaigning work. 


Families in the media:

If you are a family we work alongside and are interested in doing media interviews or being part of INQUEST's communications by writing blogs or other content - please contact your caseworker or our family participation officer, Mo Mansfield [email protected] 

Further media coverage: