Video footage has been released of British Transport Police (BTP) forcefully detained a young black man at London Bridge station on 21 July. Following the arrest, which included the use of a hood, IK Aihie reported being left “bruised and shaken”, and a complaint has been made to the BTP.
The video, posted initially on 22 July on Facebook by Ayda Mosharraf, quickly went viral and was circulated on social media. On 29 July, Mosharraf posted higher quality footage. In it, Aihie is seen pinned to the ground by several officers. He is screaming that the officers are hurting him, while his girlfriend Jessica McConkey is clearly in distress. Part way through, a hood is placed over his head, in order to prevent spitting. According to a BTP statement printed in The Guardian:
Whilst being held, he made a threat that he would spit at officers who then placed a spit guard on him.
However, according to McConkey, the arrest was “excessive and unwarranted”, and came after the police had intervened in an argument between the couple. In a statement posted on Facebook by Mosharraf, McConkey explains:
We wasn’t shouting or screaming, they heard me asking for my phone and jumped on him as if he had stolen it.
We just had a little argument, I walked off then I got pounced on by the two officers at the front of video. Then backup was there before I could even say anything.
McConkey describes the way that, when she and Aihie had asked what he was being arrested for, the BTP officers responded by “refusing to tell us, and kicking him to the floor”.
Mosharraf further described the situation to The Guardian, saying:
He was clearly upset about being arrested, he was like: ‘Why are you arresting me? I want to know’ […] None of them were explaining why. That was making him frustrated. He said ‘I haven’t done anything wrong’.
I’ve never seen an arrest like that. I didn’t know – is that the usual way you arrest somebody? Putting on the spit hood – what was the reason for that? I didn’t see him spit and I was so close.
Following the arrest, Aihie is reported to have been held in a cell overnight, and later received a caution. In response to the complaint lodged against their use of force, the BTP confirmed:
This complaint is being investigated by our professional standards department to determine whether the use of force was proportionate and in line with BTP training guidelines.”
Not just a US phenomenon
August 4 is the fifth anniversary of the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan by police. For many, seeing a young black man on the receiving end of such police aggression will hit close to home. But when so much of the spotlight on police brutality is placed on the US – where, undoubtedly, there is a huge problem – it is important to remember that the police in the UK have their own record of shame.
Thankfully, the #BlackLivesMatter movement exists in Britain, too, and is here to remind us.
Just earlier this month, an 18-year old man named Mzee Mohammed died in police custody after being detained by security staff in a shopping centre. The investigation into his death by the Independent Police Complaints Commission is ongoing, but whether any answers will be uncovered remains to be seen.
Deaths in police custody
The charity INQUEST has long been providing support and advice for the bereaved of those killed in custody and detention. According to their figures, 1,562 people have died in England and Wales either in police custody or otherwise following contact with the police since 1990. None of these deaths have resulted in a successful prosecution for murder. They further state:
INQUEST’s casework has shown that a disproportionate number of those who die in or following police custody following the use of force are from black and minority ethnic communities (BAME). INQUEST is concerned that institutional racism has been a contributory factor.
There is a reason why people get concerned when they see a black person being forcibly detained by the police. This is why, during the arrest of Aihie, McConkey was urging passersby to film the incident.
Remembering the fallen
On 6 August, five years after riots in response to the death of Duggan erupted in Tottenham, London, the groups Tottenham Rights and Mark Duggan Justice Campaign have organised a day of “Action, Remembrance and Community Healing”. With a procession, a screening of the documentary The Hard Stop (which covers Duggan’s death and the events leading up to and following it), and a family fun day being held alongside, the day will commemorate the lives that have already been lost to police violence and negligence.
Already, rumours are circulating that police are expecting violence, and questions are being asked as to whether the UK can expect a fresh wave of rioting. There has been no evidence of either so far.
What there is evidence of is the fact that there can be no peace without justice. Communities will keep organising, people will keep filming injustices, and people will continue to be angry until violence against BAME bodies ceases.
This, above all else, is what we must keep in mind while watching the video of Aihie’s arrest, and the news in the coming days.
Follow #BlackLivesMatterUK to challenge police violence against BAME people.
Featured image via video.