by KD Tait,
22 July 2015
Note: An edited version of this article was first published on the Left Unity website
On 22 July 2005, Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by anti-terrorist police in a tube carriage at Stockwell underground station.
The operation was carried out two weeks after the 7/7 bombings as police were hunting another four (failed) bombers. The 27-year old electrician, originally from Brazil, was executed in cold blood after being mistaken for a suspected bomber. Officers cited as their reason identifying him as the suspect that he had “Mongolian eyes.”
Having realised that an innocent man had been killed as a result of criminal negligence and incompetence, the police and security services followed the standard practice of organising a concerted misinformation campaign to cover their tracks and deceive the public.
The police said they challenged him outside Stockwell station – a lie.
He was accused of running away and jumping over the ticket barriers – a lie.
He was accused of ‘walking towards’ officers in the tube carriage – a lie.
Officers said they shouted ‘armed police’ – a lie.
It was said that he was wearing a ‘bulky coat’ – a lie.
One officer pinned him in his seat and two other officers shot him seven times in the head and once in the shoulder.
Immediately after the killing, London Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair gave instructions that, “the shooting that has just occurred at Stockwell is not to be referred to the IPCC and that they will be given no access to the scene at the present time.”
When as a result of the outrage at the killing, a series of pickets and demonstrations took place outside Stockwell station, the IPCC was finally called in but the results of its enquiry were kept secret.
The official web of lies might never have been unravelled if the facts had not been leaked by whistleblower Lana Vandenberghe, an admin secretary for the IPCC. She was arrested and lost her job for exposing the truth.
The first IPCC inquiry concluded that none of the officers would face disciplinary charges. The second inquiry criticised police communications and command structures.
In 2006 the Crown Prosecution Service concluded there was “insufficient evidence” to prosecute any named individual.
The 2008 inquest returned an open verdict after the Coroner banned the jury from returning a verdict of unlawful killing because that would suggest the officers “had committed a very serious offence, murder or manslaughter.”
Gold Command head Cressida Dick, in overall charge of the operation, was promoted to Deputy Assistant Commissioner just over a year after the death of De Menezes. Promoted again to Assistant Commissioner in 2011, she was awarded a CBE in the 2015 New Year Honours for ‘services to policing’ and holds the Queen’s Police Medal for distinguished service.
In 2014 it was revealed that undercover police had spied on the De Menezes family (among many others) following his death. In a statement the De Menezes Family Campaign said:
“It is shameful that the Metropolitan police spied on the legitimate campaign activities of a grieving family who were simply trying to get the answers they deserved after their loved one was killed by police officers. “It begs the question – what exactly were the police spying for? We can only assume they were gathering information in an attempt to discredit the family’s campaign for justice in order to deflect accountability for their own failings.”
The family of De Menezes are currently trying to bring a new prosecution case at the European Court of Human Rights.
Ten years on
The events leading up to and since De Menezes’ death demonstrate the extent to which the ‘war on terror’ has created a climate of fear used by the government, media and security services to justify a clampdown on civil liberties.
After 10 years it’s clear that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The police continue to kill with impunity, the secret services continue to spy on and harass Muslim people and our government continues its war on terror – with all its bloody consequences.
That nothing changed was cruelly rammed home by the killing of Mark Duggan in 2011. The police chased and killed an unarmed man, lied about it, insulted the family – and once again, nobody was held responsible.
Ten years on from his murder, British politics, policing and the media remains heavily conditioned by the endless ‘war on terror’. Because of this the police are allowed to practice a shoot-to-kill policy with little or no warning. All that is required is that the officers believe either that the suspects are armed or terrorists.
Since 2005 the British government has cranked up surveillance laws to spy on citizens from a Muslim background, with teachers told to report ‘suspicious’ activity; the security services issue dire threats and demand more money and more powers.
The press, especially the Tory tabloids, continue to pump out scare stories about ‘domestic terrorists’. The latest sensationalist twist spotlights so-called ‘jihadi brides’ – young women travelling to Syria, allegedly to join Islamic State (IS).
David Cameron has announced the government’s intention to secure Parliament’s backing for British forces to join the US bombing campaign against IS in Syria. Labour under Harriet Harman – now aping the Tories after losing the election – have already signalled that they ‘could be persuaded’ to support such action.
The principal causes of terrorism in Britain are the brutal actions of the British government abroad.
The mobilisation of large numbers of Muslim people against the invasion of Afghanistan, and particularly against the Iraq war, was met with a systematic campaign of harassment, surveillance and demonisation intended to portray Muslims as the “enemy within”.
Jean Charles de Menezes was not a Muslim. Nevertheless his death connects two separate but linked issues.
The police remain an unaccountable, racist and violent institution; they are protected from serious reform by a government which requires these qualities to defend it and enforce its polices at home and abroad.
The war on terror, now in a new phase, will continue to fuel bloodshed in the Middle East and racism against Muslim people in Britain.
As long as there is no serious progressive anti-war movement in Britain that can oppose our government’s imperialist adventures, young people will see reactionary forces like IS as a genuine anti-imperialist force resisting US and UK exploitation of the Middle East.
The best tribute to the memory of Jean Charles de Menezes is to support all the families fighting to bring killer police to justice, strengthen every campaign against racist demonisation, and mobilise to stop our government’s wars and get British troops out of every country.
RIP Jean Charles de Menezes 7 January 1978 – 22 July 2005