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Death of reggae singer ignites protest

By Starla Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: May 2, 2011 - 10:37:06 AM

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Scores of people march to New Scotland Yard in protest at the death of reggae artist Smiley Culture in London, Great Britain, April 16. The protestors walked from Wandsworth Road to Scotland Yard via Parliament Square demanding 'justice' for the 48-year-old, who died last month while police were searching his home. Photo: EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga

(FinalCall.com) - Smiley Culture, reggae artist, father, uncle, friend, brother and inspiration to many Black Britons, allegedly stabbed himself through the heart while making tea at his home if police are to be believed. The death of the star whose 1980s hits “Police Officer” and “Cockney Translation” endeared him to adults and youth alike, and a man considered one of the “pioneers of British rap” born David Emmanuel, sparked protests April 16 as 2,000 demonstrators marched shouting, “No justice, no peace!” Mr. Emmanuel was only 48.

Police raided Mr. Emmanuel's Warlingham, Surrey home March 15 to serve an arrest warrant reported the BBC. Reports say he was scheduled to face trial the upcoming week and was accused of conspiracy to supply cocaine. Police allege Mr. Emmanuel stabbed himself. Others question this story and say the culture of police brutality and racism is still alive and well in the UK. “However Smiley died, he didn't die the way the official story tells it. I owe him a lot – he was a symbol of what it might be to belong here,” author Paul Gilroy told Socialist Worker at the protest.

Two days after his death The Independent reported, the family of Mr. Emmanuel said police “had a lot to answer to” and called for an “independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death.”

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Smiley Culture
“We haven't had a clear, coherent, official explanation as to what happened to Smiley. The police have a lot to answer to. Until our questions, queries and suspicions have been fully and competently answered to dispel any notion of foul play, we will not rest. The truth must be known. Justice must be served,” said Merlin Emmanuel, a relative at a March 17 press conference reported The Independent.

The Pan-African Society Community Forum (PASCF), a grassroots advocacy group based in the UK, says police misconduct and injustice, especially toward Blacks is not a recent phenomenon and does not believe David Emmanuel stabbed himself.

“Either you believe Smiley stabbed himself or that he was stabbed by one of the police officers. Based on the testimonies of those that knew Smiley best coupled with the fact that he had everything to live for, the PASCF take the position that he was murdered by the police,” said the group in its official statement regarding the incident. “There can be no justification for this completely unprovoked state murder of an innocent Afrikan man in his own kitchen. We call for due process for his murderers as a crucial step towards achieving justice,” said PASCF.

Family members of others that have died in police custody attended the rally. Family members of Kingsley Burrell Brown, Sean Rigg and Jean Charles De Menezes participated reported Socialist Worker. Saqib Deshmukh, from the Justice for Habib “Paps” Ullah campaign, spoke to Socialist Worker about the march.

“It's very important that it's a predominantly Black-led march,” he said. “It is Black people who have mostly suffered deaths in custody,” Saqib Deshmukh of Justice for Habib “Paps” Ullah told Socialist Worker. No police officer has been found guilty for a death in custody, which average one a week, in the last 40 years, Socialist Worker also reported.

Brother Omowale of the PASCF attended the April 16 demonstration called, the “Smiley Culture March for Human Rights.” Marchers, while peaceful, were angry about the continuing record of deaths of Blacks and others while in police custody, he told The Final Call.

PASCF has been campaigning against the issue of deaths in police custody for 15 years and advocates on behalf of the families of people that have died while in police custody, Brother Omowale continued.

Carmen McFarlane, whose nephew Julian Webster died after being restrained by security guards outside a nightclub in Manchester in April 2009 attended the demonstration, reported Socialist Worker. “My nephew went on a night out and he did not come back home. And two years on, no charge. So we are fighting for justice,” she said.

PASCF also blasted the UK police for past cases involving Black Britons dying in police custody. “Illustrations include Brian Douglas who on May 8, 1996 was murdered by the British police using their deadly new toy, a kung fu style Baton. Similarly, on December 16, 1994 Shiji Lapite was murdered by British police officers wielding their new CS spray weapons,” said the group.

“On July 16, 2001 Derek Bennett was shot five times in the back; on April 30, 2005 Azelle Rodney was shot five times in the head and twice in the back and on May 15, 2007 Terry Nicholas was shot whilst standing stark naked in the street.”

These Black victims were murdered by weapon wielding, gun toting police officers using rapid fire super machine gun style rifles issued by the British state, said the PASCF.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission, a UK police watchdog group, has launched an investigation into the death of Daniel “Smiley Culture” Emmanuel but that has done little to bolster faith that true facts about his death will be uncovered. The Socialist Worker reported Merlin Emmanuel has little faith in the “system.” “Let's put it in perspective,” he said. “In the last decade almost 400 people have died in police custody—that's nearly one a week. But not one police officer has been brought to account or been charged with anything.

PASCF said, “The state funded/controlled IPCC is not ‘independent', but rather it is a cruel joke against victims of police violence/wrongdoing. Its true purpose is to protect the state by covering up/excusing police murders/misdemeanors.”

“It seems that the system is there to protect those in power and those that enforce power. And us, the poor and the underprivileged, have little or no voice,” Merlin Emmanuel told Socialist Worker.

The targeting of Black youth by police, the rallying cry for justice and peace and the end of police brutality is a human rights issue as prevalent in the U.S. as in the UK. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, teaches there is a deep history associated with the brutal treatment of Blacks by law enforcement that has been justified through the years.

In Minister Farrakhan's historic 2007 three-part lecture series entitled, “Justifiable Homicide: Black Youth in Peril” he teaches that the increased display of anti-Black hatred reflects an increased attitude among law enforcement that Blacks are somehow less than human.

In Part One of the series, Min. Farrakhan said, “I want Black youth to hear this message, because police authorities are the same today as they were during slavery. In fact, this is how policing began. Police were formed to catch runaway slaves, bring them back to their masters and make examples of them to throw fear into other slaves.

“It's the same today. Police authorities are trained to kill, as well as to protect. But where Black people are concerned, police legitimize their mob attacks under the name of ‘back up.' Police back up is often no different than the lynch mobs 100 years ago.”

“The killing of our people, shooting them with many bullets when one would have done the job. And then, that deliberative body which is to discuss the brutal murder of our people by looking into the facts, comes away calling it justifiable homicide,” Min. Farrakhan said.

Brother Omowale agreed. “Suffering goes on anywhere there are Black people, so imperialism launches these vicious wicked attacks against us wherever we are and Britain is no exception,” he said.

Black Britons make up 30 to 40 percent of the deaths that have occurred in police custody, Brother Omowale said. “We want an end to the extrajudicial murders of Afrikan people and other people. No one should be murdered by the police, our primary concern is of course Afrikan people, but nobody should be murdered by the police.

“We want an end to this,” he told The Final Call.

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