The jailing of West Mercia Police officer Benjamin Monks for killing former Villa player Dalian Atkinson is a welcome victory in the family’s five year campaign for justice. This is the first time since the 1980s a police officer has been convicted for a death during or following police contact, despite 1800 taking place in the intervening years.
However, it appears that the other police officer involved in Atkinson’s death will be allowed to continue serving. Questions also have to be asked as to why Monks was given access to the taser that he used to kill Atkinson when he had a warning for gross misconduct against his name.
This incident and the many other shocking acts of police violence which disproportionally target black men shows the need for democratic community control over police policy and hiring, and to fight to end the capitalist system which profits from racist oppression.
Here we republish an article written at the time of Dalian’s killing in 2016 by Hugo Pierre from the Socialist Party’s Black and Asian Group
Black footballer’s taser death: stop police racism now
Ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson was repeatedly tasered by police at his home in Telford, Shropshire on 15 August. He died from the incident an hour and a half later. The police claim that they were called to an incident following a “report of concern for the safety of an individual”.
Atkinson is the 16th person to have died after being tasered by police since the weapon was first introduced in 2003. Taser use has increased as more police are issued with them. They do not have the same restrictions on their use as firearms, and the amount of training is usually three days.
Atkinson’s death follows those of many other black people at the hands of police. Only in July, Mzee Mohammed was killed in police custody in Liverpool; last year Sheku Bayoh died of asphyxiation in Kircaldy, Scotland, following a brutal arrest. These are just some of the campaigns trying to get justice for victims of police brutality.
But many more black youth and workers face harassment. On the streets, black youths are several times more likely to be stopped and searched than white youths.
And in the same week as Atkinson’s killing, a report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission showed racism and discrimination are still entrenched in the power structures of British society. Black children are three times more likely to be excluded in schools; black graduates earn 23% less than their white counterparts.
As well as fighting for democratic community control over police policy and hiring, we need to fight to end the capitalist system which profits from racist oppression. Socialism can guarantee jobs, homes and services for all, laying the basis for campaigning to eliminate racism once and for all.
Black Lives Matter
Meanwhile, another murder of a black man at the hands of the police – Sylville Smith on 13 August – sparked angry demonstrations in Milwaukee, USA. Underlying the anger that erupted on the streets is the level of segregation and poverty in one of the poorest black communities in the United States.
The #BlackLivesMatter movement has sprung up throughout the US following the death of Michael Brown in Fergusson, Missouri.
Reports on the police force in Fergusson showed the commercialisation and privatisation of the police meant black people were criminalised to fund the service. Petty misdemeanours were punished with fines, and defaulting on those fines was followed up quickly with imprisonment.
Protest has spread throughout the US and is now being replicated in the UK and other parts of the world. The movement will continue to fight for justice for all victims of police brutality.
Importantly, big sections of the movement are increasingly moving beyond just campaigning against injustice. They are now moving onto the political plain, and starting to develop a programme of demands to tackle the blight of racism.
The civil rights movement of the 1950s, 60s and 70s was a titanic struggle. The involvement of the trade unions was an enormous boost.
But the best leaders were drawing conclusions that the fight against racism also had to be joined with the fight for something. The fight for a different society where the profit motive was not the driver, but instead cooperation and collaboration between workers of all races. A society where the 1% could no longer have the power to use divide-and-rule of racism to retain its wealth at the expense of the rest.
Today, we have the opportunity to fight for socialist ideas to build the Black Lives Matter movement to fight against racist division and for a socialist world.