Around a hundred people gathered outside Croydon Town Hall this morning to “take a knee” and show solidarity with the worldwide Black Lives Matter campaign and calls for justice for George Floyd.
Floyd died in Minneapolis just over a week ago after police officers stood by and watched while one of their colleagues knelt on the man’s throat for nine minutes. Floyd’s death is now being treated as a homicide, but the reaction to the brutal act has caused outrage across the United States, in some cities leading to rioting.
Protests around the world have tended to be more peaceful; in London, the Metropolitan Police has issued a message of support with those protesting peacefully and in respect of Floyd.
Yesterday, BBC London reported how Aji Lewis, the mother of Seni Lewis, could not bring herself to watch the harrowing video footage of Floyd’s killing because his pleas of “I can’t breathe” were all too redolent of the way in which her own son was killed.
Seni Lewis died in 2010, aged 23, when he was forcibly restrained by police officers at Bethlem Royal Hospital.
He never regained consciousness after he was restrained for two prolonged periods of 10 and 20 minutes. He died a few days later, his brain having been starved of oxygen.
“I can’t watch because the very thing Seni was saying was ‘I can’t breathe’,” a tearful Aji Lewis told the television news reporter.
The inquest into the death of Seni Lewis concluded in 2017 that “excessive force” had been used by 11 officers. Six officers were cleared of gross misconduct over their parts in Seni Lewis’s death.
Seni Lewis was a constituent of Croydon North MP Steve Reed.
Reed managed to get a private members’ bill through parliament, called “Seni’s Law”, to try to prevent the use of excessive restraint on patients or those in police custody. Debate on the legislation included recognition of the police’s “unconscious bias” against young black men.
Today’s gathering in Croydon was co-ordinated by local activist Anthony King. It was attended by Sarah Jones, the MP for Croydon Central, as well as councillors, the Mayor of Croydon and people from across all communities.
“Again I am so proud of [Councillor Tony Newman] for standing with us in relation to black lives,” King tweeted.
“Tony Newman is a very good man and I will not only support him but continue all to back him.”
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