General Impressions on the March
The Smiley Culture March for Justice took place the weekend before last and was a resounding success. About 1,500-2,000 people marched from Wandsworth Road to New Scotland Yard in militant but peaceful formation. My marching partner History Is Made At Night has already written his account of the day, so check that out. As he points out the marchers included families of other people who have died in police custody and also a good few portable soundsystems, giving the event both a poignant and carnival air.
The day also marked the appearance of various socialist groups, with the Socialist Workers Party manufacturing their own placards and the Socialist Party producing a special leaflet for the occasion.
The Rally and Campaign
Standing outside New Scotland Yard with a couple of thousand people whilst Buju Banton’s “Murderer” and Barrington Levy’s tune of the same name boomed out is something I will never forget.
Speakers at the rally included Merlin Emmanuel, Lee Jasper, Asher Senator, Blacker Dread, journalist and victim of police violence Jody McIntyre (links are to transcripts of speeches or thoughts on the day). Relatives of the late Sean Rigg, Julian Webster and Kingsley Burrell spoke about their campaigns for justice.
Lorna G also took to the platform. Lorna is probably best known for her Mad Professor produced hits “3 Weeks Gone” and “Gotta Find A Way” – both classics of UK dancehall MC-ing and lovers rock respectively. What I didn’t know until recently was that Lorna was the sister of Cherry Groce, who was shot by police in her home in Brixton in 1985. This was one of the contributory factors to the ’85 Brixton riots. The police officer was later cleared of all charges. Groce was paralysed from the waist down and suffered numerous other health complications. She died last Sunday.
The Justice For Smiley Culture campaign announced the following demands for reform:
- Any officer that has had somebody die whilst in their custody is immediately suspended until further notice, pending inquiry.
- No member of the IPCC can have worked for the police or any other organisation where there is a clear conflict of interest.
- Any police officer that has had somebody die whilst in their custody and there are no witnesses other than police present, take a lie detector test on oath.
- All police officers record arrests using a mobile video device, that we might have an accurate account of events should anything go wrong with suspects whilst in their custody.
Asher Senator finished the rally on a more upbeat note with a performance of his Smiley Culture tribute “Character Reference”. This story of Smiley’s career includes some of his routines and some great info on UK reggae and soundsystem history:
(Video filmed and uploaded by the Heatwave crew )
Official Campaign t-shirts are now available from THTC’s webshop.
Photo by Duncan on Flickr. Graff by unknown.
More recent developments
The Sun has once again reported one of the police officers’ version of events completely uncritically:
A Met officer said he watched in horror as Smiley, 48, plunged the blade into his own heart during a drugs bust at his home.
The singer, real name David Emmanuel, had gone into the kitchen of the mansion to make a cup of tea.
One source said of the Independent Police Complaints Commission inquiry: “The officer said he was monitoring Mr Emmanuel who picked up a knife, waved it in his direction and said, ‘Do you want some?’
“A split second later Mr Emmanuel turned the blade towards himself, said ‘I do’ and stabbed himself in the chest.”
Once again an anonymous source, who seems to be privy to police evidence to the IPCC which the public is not, has briefed The Sun. The journalist responsible is an ex-police officer.
Socialist Worker (to give them full credit for a change) printed a riposte, including a response from Merlin Emmanuel:
Smiley’s nephew, Merlin Emmanuel, said he was “disgusted” by the story and condemned police leaks about his uncle’s death as “damage limitation”.
“I am perplexed by the police’s continual release of information without making a statement themselves,” he told Socialist Worker.
“The Sun has shown its true colours. It wants to impose the interests of the elite.”
There is to be a Youth For Smiley Culture event on May 7th at ULU Malet Street, London WC1 featuring grime artist (and Woofah cover star) Durrty Goodz amongst others.
There is also a talk of a major concert to raise awareness of the campaign, with venues like Wembley Arena and artists like David Bowie, Sade, Nas and Damian Marley being mentioned as possibles.
Smiley’s hit “Police Officer” has been remixed for re-issue and a compilation of tributes is being prepared featuring Maxi Priest, Sade and Asher Senator.
A march on Downing Street is also being organised.