Rashan Charles death: Family urge peace on Hackney streets

  • 29 July 2017
  • From the section London

The family of a black man who died after being apprehended by police has appealed for peace after violent protests in the wake of his death.

Rashan Charles, 20, was wrestled to the ground in Dalston, east London, on 22 July, and died about an hour later.

On Friday, clashes broke out in Hackney as protesters blocked part of Kingsland Road and set mattresses alight.

A spokesman for Mr Charles’s family said they understood the anger but called for “dignified” protest.

“Burning down homes will not give justice,” he said.

Mr Charles was pursued by officers and became ill after trying to swallow an object, the Met has said.

He died soon after in hospital. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating.

Police warned that anyone using Mr Charles’s death “as an excuse to commit crime” would be “dealt with robustly”.

Appealing for calm, family spokesman Stafford Scott said: “We understand your frustration, we understand your anger – don’t feel that the family doesn’t feel the anger and the frustration too.

“But what the family knows is taking it to the streets doesn’t give you justice.

“Burning down your own homes, burning down your neighbourhood is not going to give you justice.”

Mr Scott, who runs race advocacy group Tottenham Rights, said black people had historically found it difficult “to win the hearts and minds of people”.

“We get no empathy, we get no sympathy. But this case is different – for once we’ve got the evidence.

“For once we’re not relying on the IPCC or the police to gather the evidence. The world has seen it and will feel it if we don’t get justice.”

He added the family needed to “fight this properly” and had sought the best legal support.

Mr Scott said the family asked the community “to support them in their struggle, to be dignified when they expect us to be wild”.

Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP Diane Abbott told the protest she supported Mr Charles’s parents and would not rest until questions were answered.

In an earlier statement, the shadow home secretary said: “The anger and upset at the death of Rashan Charles is understandable.

“But Rashan’s family have explicitly spoken out against hostile actions. We must respect their wishes and any protests must be peaceful.”

At the scene: BBC reporter Simon Jones

The anger of the protesters is clear. Many chanted “Justice for Rashan”, clutching pictures of him along with their placards.

Some confronted the police officers there to keep an eye on the demonstration, demanding answers.

There were none forthcoming. That’s because the investigation is now in the hands of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. It will be their job to determine exactly what happened.

Some campaigners, though, say there are too many of these investigations, too many lives being lost.

They feel that their voices are too often not heard. There was much talk of the CCTV footage that captured the moment Rashan Charles was restrained.

That has been pored over frame by frame, with many different interpretations of what happened, and many questions raised by it.

Despite the anger, the vigil passed off peacefully, but the campaigners say they will not be silenced. They left though with the words of the family ringing in their ears: “We want peace on the streets.”

On Friday evening, demonstrators blocked part of Kingsland Road.

At one point protesters, some wearing masks, jumped on to a lorry and clung to the wing mirrors as it drove through the barricade.

Scores of missiles were later launched at police as they attempted to disperse the group.

Police in Hackney tweeted: “Officers have been subjected to abuse and violence. Whatever the frustrations, this is patently not what the family of Rashan Charles wanted.”

The Met Police has since said that the violence that erupted on Friday night was “separate” from a peaceful protest that was held earlier in the day.

Det Supt Claire Crawley said: “Thankfully nobody was seriously injured, but there was inconvenience to local residents and road users and damage caused to vehicles, a cash machine and a number of windows.

“We will always support the right to lawful protest but behaviour such as that seen last night cannot be tolerated.”

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