The Metropolitan Police tasered a Black man several times on Chelsea Bridge Road in London. As they advanced on him, the man fled and jumped into the river Thames. He was rescued from the river by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. The man is as yet unnamed. As usual, people have to rely on civilian recordings of the incident to see what actually happened.
Operation Withdraw Consent shared the footage a bystander recorded:
1/3 ⚠️ Trigger Warning : distressing content of the moment leading up to a man's death
We are saddened to learn that the Black Man repeatedly tasered by Met Police and pursued until he fell into the River Thames had died pic.twitter.com/uOhytw74L5
— Operation Withdraw Consent (@OWC2022) June 5, 2022
The police have said they received reports that the man was holding a screwdriver. As the video shows, he is clearly in some distress.
As the police taser him, he falls to the ground screaming in pain. He yells something at the two officers advancing on him. They then tase him again and the man rolls on the ground, twitching. This happens yet another time. The man then runs over a barrier at the side. As the officers pursue him, he jumps over the railing and into the Thames.
We can trust neither the mainstream media nor the police to accurately report what happened.
The police said that after their officers tasered the man he:
subsequently entered the river.
A number of outlets also used similar euphemisms. The Independent said the man “fell”:
The BBC also said the man fell:
Sky News made it sound as though the man simply fell into the Thames and was then pulled out:
By saying that the man “fell” into the river, the media are neatly following the narrative the police set out. There’s a huge difference between saying that the man was involved in an incident with tasers and “entered” the river, and saying that he jumped into the river after being repeatedly tasered.
Many people on social media discussed these awful policing tactics. Others also noticed the terrible reporting:
— Graham Wettone (@grahamwettone) June 4, 2022
Why is the media reporting, man dies after falling into the river Thames as police tried to detain him.
When footage clearly shows, he actually jumped off the bridge.
— WillDrover (@bigwildrover) June 5, 2022
Commentator Michael Morgan said:
We spoke about this recently via Twitter Spaces. The Met Police have a lot to answer for. Black people beware, they will use a taser on us without a moments hesitation. The UK’s biggest gang is still institutionally racist. pic.twitter.com/por3F3TUI6
— Michael Morgan (@mikewhoatv) June 4, 2022
Meanwhile Deborah Coles, director of charity INQUEST which monitors state-related deaths, said:
Serious scrutiny needed on the multiple use of taser by police officers. Very disturbing video footage shows no attempts at de escalation and a Black man in obvious distress. More Tasers results in more deaths and serious injuries. https://t.co/baSSTp1kIA
— Deborah Coles (@DebatINQUEST) June 5, 2022
And outgoing Goldsmiths student union president Sara Bafo said we must withdraw power from the police:
The @metpoliceuk repeatedly tasered a Black man until he fell into the River Thames.
I’m raging because this will keep happening until we withdraw power from the police until we no longer rely on a structure that is designed to kill us.
— Sara (@SaraBafo1) June 5, 2022
Moreover, journalist Lorraine King explained how Black people are more likely to be tasered for longer than white people:
A lot of people are asking why the race of the black man who sadly died when he fell into the River Thames after being Tasered three times is relevant.
It's relevant because black people are twice as likely to be Tasered for longer than a white person 👇🏾https://t.co/CFOOXx10cp
— Lorraine King (@lorrainemking) June 6, 2022
Figures from the Home Office a year ago show:
Black people were four times more likely to have force used against them by Met police officers than white people, and five times more likely to have Taser-like devices used against them by the force.
As King said above, Black people are also more likely to be tased for longer. A report from the Independent Office for Police Conduct found that Black people are more likely to have a taser fired at them for longer than 5 seconds. They also said:
In the majority of cases involving either allegations of discrimination or common stereotypes and assumptions, there was evidence that the individual concerned had mental health concerns or a learning disability. This supports findings by others that the intersectionality of race and mental health can increase the risk of higher levels of use of force.
If the media reports the police’s actions in a passive or sanitised way, it only enables them to continue to be violent towards Black people. This man did not “fall” into the river. He died trying to escape police violence.
Just last month, Operation Withdraw Consent said:
We want our communities to be given the power to respond to the 80 per cent of non-criminal incidents that the police respond to – as we believe that a community response, rooted in resolution and meeting individual needs, would have better outcomes.
We must withdraw our consent from aggressive policing. And in order to do that, we need to be able to understand and call out journalism that’s in service to the police and not the public.
Featured image via Twitter/screenshot – Operation Withdraw Consent
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