IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Protesters demand sacking of officer who knelt on suspect’s neck

'The police have acted with immunity for years and years. We’re still fighting for justice.'

18 July, 2020 — By by Sam Ferguson

Protesters took the knee outside Tolpuddle Street police station

DOZENS of protesters gathered outside Islington police station on what would have been the 102nd birthday of Nelson Mandela to demand the sacking of an officer suspended after footage emerged of him appearing to kneel on the neck of a black man.

Police say they were called to a fight in Isledon Road in Finsbury Park on Thursday to reports of a fight. An Islington man named Marcus Coutain has since been charged with possessing a knife in a public place. He pleaded not guilty in court today (Saturday).

But the arrest sparked fury after footage appeared online of two officers pinning a suspect down, with one officer appearing to push his knee down on the suspects head.

The suspect is heard saying “get off my neck” as the two officers try to detain him

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(An officer was filmed kneeling on a suspect’s neck)

The police have since referred themselves to the Independent Office for Police Complaints, and the officer involved has been suspended, with the other officer in the video placed on ‘restricted duties’.

But protesters who gathered outside Tolpuddle Street police station near Angel on today (Saturday) called for the officer to be sacked, and demanded an end to “institutional racism” in the Met Police.

Carrying Black Lives Matters banners and placards, the protestors chanted “the UK is not innocent”, and “get off my neck”.

Protester outside Islington Police Station

Leading the protest, Gary Mcfarlane questioned why the police would use such tactics in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.

Mr George’s death sparked weeks of protests across the USA and the UK.

“Unfortunately there are many of these outrages, but only a minority are reported,” Mr Mcfarlane told the crowd gathered outside the police station.

“The police have acted with immunity for years and years. We’re still fighting for justice. It is totally unbelievable the depth and culture of institutional racism in the British Police and in the Met Police in particular.

“Compare the pictures of crowds in Soho Square without a policeman in sight to the crackdown on block parties on estates. You can go to the beach in your tens of thousands, and there is no police to be seen. That is institutional racism in Britain.

Gary Mcfarlane speaking at the protest

“Coronavirus has shone a light on the rampant inequality in British society, seen in Islington more than many other places where rich and poor people live side by side.”

David Rosenburg of the Jewish Socialist Group told protesters the struggle against racism has to be allied with all struggles for human rights and justice.

“This attack was despicable,” he said.

“But it was heartening at the same time. It was heartening because people are standing up to this. People are witnessing these atrocities, and are turning from bystanders into up-standers.

David Rosenberg

“Today is Nelson Mandela’s birthday. That should be a reminder to us all that the struggle against racism will be long, but it is a struggle that we will win.”

Activist Valerie Bossman-Quarshie told listeners it was lucky police in the UK are not armed.

“I’m not saying that all police are racist,” she said.

“But I work in education, and my job is to safeguard children. The police are supposed to be there to safeguard us. How can we feel safe when the people who are meant to protect us are kneeling on our necks?

“The police are meant to protect us, not kill us. Imagine if this officer had a gun. He should be sacked. As honourable people, when we see things we need to call it out.”

(Valerie Bossman-Quarshie)

Sir Steve House, Deputy Met Commissioner, said: “Some of the techniques used cause me great concern – they are not taught in police training.

“We have quickly assessed the incident, including the body worn video footage from the officers and their statements and justification for their use of force. As a result we have referred the matter to the IOPC.

“One officer has been suspended and another officer has been removed from operational duty, but not suspended at this time. This decision will be kept under review.

“We will co-operate fully with the IOPC investigation.”

The protest called for an end to institutional racism within the Metropolitan Police

A statement from the police said: “Our officers carry out their duty on a daily basis across London in often difficult circumstances. Where force is used, officers must be able to justify this as lawful, proportionate and necessary.

“Our officers understand that their actions will be scrutinised as they go about their work and that the public have the right to hold them to account where appropriate.

“On this occasion we have decided to refer this incident to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).”

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