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Hundreds march seeking justice over black deaths in custody

UNITED: The Birmingham protest rally

MORE THAN 1,000 people took to the streets of Birmingham yesterday (Saturday) in a march for justice to show their support for the grieving family of Kingsley Burrell and many other young men who have died after coming into contact with police.

The three-hour march ended in an angry rally outside West Midlands Police headquarters in the city centre where protesters vented their fury.
March organisers urged the crowd to sign an online petition to demand a full public inquiry into the deaths of Burrell, reggae singer Smiley Culture, who died in March, and many others.

Maxie Hayles, who chairs the Birmingham Racial Attacks Monitoring Unit (BRAMU) called for a war memorial for those who have died in police custody.
"We must have this because war has been declared on us," he said. “This is a state of emergency because our young people have been brutalised for far too long.

“I have not seen such anger and passion at a demonstration for a very long time. That tells me that something has gone drastically wrong with West Midlands Police.”

Lee Jasper, race equality campaigner, urged the black community to reunite as a people in order to win justice for those who had died. He said 10,000 names were needed for a petition to demand a public inquiry from the Government.
He said: “This is not a Hollywood movie this is a long, dirty struggle and we need your support.”

Earlier the march began in Abbey Street, Hockley, where Kingsley Burrell’s family once lived.

The 29-year-old father of two, who would have celebrated his 30th birthday next Saturday, died on March 31st, just four days after being arrested by West Midlands Police. He had dialled 999 asking for help after allegedly suffering intimidation from a gang while out with his five-year-old son.

When officers found him they admitted him to the Mary Seacole Mental health Unit. He was later transferred to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital where he was pronounced dead four days later.

Marchers held a two- minute silence outside Mary Seacole House, which is less than half a mile from Abbey Street, before marching down Soho Road, one of Birmingham’s busiest shopping areas.

While walking on the march Burrell’s 60-year-old cousin Mavis Burrell, of Edgbaston, said: “Kingsley never had a mental illness – he was always a quiet family man. What gives the police the right to think that if someone is acting scared they must be paranoid or mad. What gave them the right to decide this?”
Kadisha Brown-Burrell, his sister, told marchers she intended to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. She said: “My brother was an ordinary man, a man of the community with no mental health problems, no heart problems – he was fit and healthy, so why did he die like this? The police and the NHS have yet to answer these questions.”

Merlin Emmanuel, the nephew of Smiley Culture, who came from London to walk alongside the Brown-Burrell family, said: “I see the same pain and frustration I saw during the march in London for Smiley in April and I see the same contempt on the officers’ faces here that I saw outside New Scotland Yard.

“People cannot continue to be killed like this without any explanation. As a community we need to be tight and cohesive. If you see a young man being harassed go and see what it is all about, take a picture, ask questions.”

Other families who have lost loved ones in similar circumstances spoke out. They included Tippa Napthali, a cousin of Mikey Powell, who died in police custody in 2003, plus Marcia Rigg, sister of Sean Rigg, who died three years ago in Brixton police station.

Jossette Fraser, whose 21-year-old son Demetre died on May 31 in Birmingham after police claim he fell 11 floors from a tower block, pointed to the unmarked face of her son lying dead in hospital and said: “Look at my T-shirt. Is this the face of a boy who has just fallen 11 floors? This is ethnic cleansing. We must fight for our children’s future.”

In a statement, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust said: “Investigations into the circumstances surrounding the death of Kingsley Burrell are still ongoing by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and our trust, therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further.

“However, our thoughts go out to his family and friends at this difficult time.”

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