By Jeremy Dewar
TWO TO three thousand people turned out in central London on Saturday 10 September to protest the killing of Chris Kaba by the police the previous Monday. The large response clearly surprised the police and organisers, just as it lifted the spirits of the grieving family.
Another police murder
Chris was the 1,883rd person to die after contact with the police since 1990, a statistic that echoed around Whitehall, as the protesters made their point. But his death was more devastating and inexplicable than most.
Chris, 24, a well known rapper with the MOBO nominated drill collective 67, was chased by police through the streets of south London after CCTV automatically triggered an alert from the number plate. Allegedly the car had previously been linked to firearms offences.
Chris’ car was rammed and boxed in by police cars in Streatham. Police got out of their car, approached his vehicle and, instead of asking him to get out, fired a single shot through the driver’s window. Chris died shortly afterwards.
As Chris’ cousin Jefferson said at the rally on Saturday, ‘My response to the police can be summed up in one word. Why?’ The police have not answered this question—nor have they indeed given the family any answers or information.
The family have informed the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) that they want the inquiry to be treated as a homicide investigation from the outset, before any forensic or other evidence is ‘lost’. But few in the community have any faith in the IOPC, which has repeatedly let the Metropolitan Police off the hook.
Indeed the IOPC has so far said that they have found ‘nothing suspicious’ about the extrajudicial killing of another black man on the streets of London, despite admitting that ‘no non-police issue firearm has been recovered from the vehicle or the scene’.
Against this background it was no surprise that people vented their anger against the police constantly throughout the two-hour demonstration.
‘Who are the murderers? The police are the murderers!’ ‘If we don’t get no justice, they won’t get no peace! ‘Who killed Chris Kaba? Police killed Chris Kaba!’ ‘No justice, no peace, no racist police!’ and so on.
When local MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy told the crowd that the Lambeth police marshalling the demo today were not involved in the operation that ended in Chris’ death, the crowd shouted back, ‘Fuck the police!’ and even gave a rare rendition of, ‘All Coppers Are Bastards!’ – ACAB, a popular placard slogan.
Indeed the large and militant turnout shamed the trade union leaders who this same weekend cancelled all strikes and even the TUC Congress in deference to the Royal Family, who to this day live in multi-billionaire luxury built on centuries of colonialism, slavery and land robbery.
As well as Ribeiro-Addy, veteran MP Diane Abbot was also present to show solidarity and remind everyone that these murders keep on happening with no accountability. The officer responsible had not even been charged by then and the IOPC had not even declared their inquiry a homicide investigation; the Met and IOPC have since reversed these decisions under pressure from the solidarity shown.
Black Lives Matter, who organised the protest with the family, did a good job keeping the crowd vocal, but the most moving speech came from Chris’ cousin Jefferson Bosela, who ended his tribute with a metaphor (paraphrased):
‘The redwood is one of the tallest trees in the world, 100 metres high, yet its roots are shallow, a few metres. It stands strong because its roots grow horizontally, not vertically. It communicates with the other redwoods, which keep it standing upright. That’s how we must stand now.’
Chris Kaba’s family, Black Lives Matter and the wider community have forced the Metropolitan Police and the IOPC finally to treat this as a homicide and to suspend the officer. But like Jefferson said, ‘we need answers in weeks, not years from now’.
For this we need to keep on demonstrating, keep on making a noise. But it is also time for the labour movement to get stuck in. It’s great that the RMT Black & Ethnic Minorities Group is supporting the protests but now others must follow. Like the redwoods, together we are strong—one cause, one struggle!