Justice delayed is justice denied
August 8, 2013 — Comment
Written by Harmit Athwal
On Saturday 3 August, over 500 people gathered at the North London Community House in Tottenham to remember Joy Gardner, Mark Duggan, Roger Sylvester and Cynthia Jarrett, who all died locally at the hands of the police.
The event was held to mark the two years since the death of Mark Duggan and the twenty years that has passed since the death of Joy Gardner, who died during a brutal deportation attempt in 1993. The meeting was organised by the Mark Duggan Family Campaign and Joy Gardner Memorial Campaign and supported by the United Families and Friends Campaign, Tottenham Rights, The Monitoring Group, the Tottenham Defence Campaign and 4WardEver.
This was an emotional meeting themed around the long struggles for justice by four local families. There was standing room only. The atmosphere was electric; the evening was punctuated by chants of ‘No Justice, No peace!’; cheering for speakers and their comments, standing ovations, floor stamping and clapping.
Ken Fero’s film, Justice Denied, details the campaign fought by Myrna Simpson for justice for her daughter Joy, was shown first. The film also records the struggles faced by the families of Joseph Nnalue and Kwanele Siziba, both of whom fell to their deaths after fearing immigration officers had arrived at their homes.
Joy Gardner remembered
When the film finished the ‘MC’, Stafford Scott, coordinator of the Tottenham Defence Campaign, took to the platform to introduce the family of Joy Gardner, her mother, brother, son and daughter. Stafford spoke candidly of the history of Broadwater Farm and deaths at the hands of the police: ‘They forget the names of Joy Gardner and Roger Sylvester. They forget those names because we didn’t go a little bit mad, because we didn’t burn down our neighbourhoods because we didn’t riot. How weird and perverse is that?’
He was followed by Myrna Simpson, for whom, twenty years on, the anger and pain was still apparent: ‘Joy didn’t deserve to die the way she died … she didn’t die in her flat but she died in her flat. It was a corpse they took out of Hornsey and took her to Whittington hospital, and wrapped her in foil, and kept her for four days, machines, all sorts of tubes was put in her, like she was alive. I had to sleep in Whittington hospital for four nights … I slept on the floor and it was horrible it was awful. I don’t wish it to happen to my greatest enemy. But life goes on and it doesn’t stop. And it’s one law for us and another law for them.’
Joy’s daughter also addressed the meeting, as did her son Graham, who thanked everyone for showing their support for the family and called on community members to support one another.
Connecting struggles for justice
Rupert Sylvester, the father of Roger Sylvester also addressed the meeting and called for ‘Justice for one and all’. He detailed the campaign fought by his family to discover the truth as how Roger died after being detained and restrained by police officers in January 1999 after they were called to his home.
Marcia Rigg (the sister of Sean Rigg) spoke passionately about her brother who died at the hands of Brixton police in circumstances similar to Roger Sylvester.
Winston Silcott, along with Engin Raghip and Mark Braithwaite, were charged and convicted of PC Keith Blakelock’s murder which took place during the rioting that followed the death of Cynthia Jarrett. However their convictions were quashed in 1991.
With the recent news that Nicky Jacobs has been charged with the murder of PC Blakelock, Winston Silcott voiced his fears that another miscarriage of justice will take place and ‘that another innocent man is going to face the same treadmill I faced back in 1985. People mustn’t be fooled by the media.’ Silcott, who rarely speaks in public because of his scepticism of the media, recalled an incident in which a Daily Star reporter had said that the last time he had seen a ‘guy resembling my description was in London Zoo’. Silcott took the paper to a tribunal which found in his favour but the journalist decided not to pay the fine.
The family, the aunt, brother and son, of Mark Duggan were then welcomed. Stafford Scott detailed the initial frustration of the family as they sought confirmation as to whether Mark had been shot by police officers that day and the pain endured by the family over the last few years as they have sought the truth as to how and why Mark was shot.
The daughter of Cynthia Jarrett, Ken Fero (filmmaker), Marcia Willis (solicitor for the family of Mark Duggan) and Suresh Grover (The Monitoring Group), also addressed the meeting, Dub-poet Linton Kwesi Johnson gave an impromptu performance of ‘Licence Fi Kill’. And Graham, Joy’s son ended the event by performing a cappella.
Calls were made, repeatedly, throughout the meeting, for people to support the family of Mark Duggan at the inquest into his death which is due to start on Monday 16 September at the Royal Courts of Justice. The audience was also asked to monitor the prosecution of Nicky Jacobs, who has been charged with the murder of Keith Blakelock in 1985, which many in the Tottenham community believe is a miscarriage of justice waiting to happen.
Watch the Guardian film of the event here
Justice Denied (Migrant Media film on Vimeo)
Read an IRR News story: The spotlight is back on black deaths at the hands of police
Thanks to Saqib Deshmukh/Justice4Paps for pictures.
The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.