A solidarity vigil at the US Embassy last week made links between the policing of black communities in the US and UK.
Hundreds gathered outside the US embassy on Tuesday 5 May to hold a vigil for Freddie Gray, whose death has sparked the latest in a series of uprisings in the US that have occurred in Ferguson, Missouri; New York; and most recently in Baltimore. The protest movement has centred around a string of police killings of black men and women.
In addition to expressing solidarity with those campaigning for justice for these victims, the vigil highlighted the similarities between the policing of black communities in the US and the UK.
The date marked the second anniversary of the arrest of Julian Cole outside a nightclub in Bedford in May 2013. Like the late Freddie Gray, Julian Cole is a young black man who suffered severe spinal injuries during his arrest. Julian also suffered a severe brain injury and cardiac arrest following his contact with police. He now lives in a care home and requires 24-hour nursing care.
A friend of Julian Cole read out a statement from his mother Claudia Cole:
‘Today is a very painful day … When I saw the photograph of Freddie Gray lying in hospital, I thought, “that is my son. That is Julian”. I felt sick to my stomach as it brought back so many memories of first seeing Julian two years ago. I want the world to see this photograph of Julian immediately after he was hospitalised so that it is clear to everybody that what happened in Baltimore has also happened here.’
A photograph of Julian in hospital was passed around those attending the vigil. The family say that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation has ‘ground to a halt’, and have launched a campaign to demand answers. In January the IPCC apologised for the length of its investigation.
Speakers from the United Families and Friends Campaign and Akala the spoken word artist highlighted other cases of black deaths in police custody in the UK at the demonstration which was organised by the London Campaign Against Police and State Violence, NUS Black Students Campaign and Defend the Right to Protest.