A crowd of angry demonstrators last night staged an emotional vigil for Rashan Charles, the 20-year-old man who died on Saturday following a police chase.
Hundreds of protestors, some waving banners with the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘No justice, no peace’, marched from Stoke Newington police station to the shop where Charles was wrestled to the floor by a police officer, and back again.
The vigil, organised by Hackney Stand Up to Racism (HSUR), saw traffic blocked as crowds of people filled the street.
An HSUR spokesperson said: “We are enormously concerned and angered by the death of Rashan Charles while being man handled by a police officer.
“Only weeks after the death of Edson De Costa in Newham after he was arrested by police this latest incident continues the seemingly endless list of young black men dying at the hands of the authorities.”
Speaker of Hackney and Dalston ward councillor Soraya Adejare said in a statement: “Like many of us, Rashan grew up and went to school in Hackney, he was part of our community. Anyone who would have met him would have described him as engaging with a sparkling personality, who was well liked and loved by many.
“Rashan was an older brother, a nephew, a son and a young father. As a human being I stand in solidarity with the pain and sense of devastation his family members and friends are undoubtedly experiencing. I send them all my heartfelt love and to let them know you are all at the forefront of our thoughts.”
The Metropolitan Police said Charles was followed on foot after officers tried to stop a car in Kingsland Road, Hackney, at 1.45am on Saturday morning.
Scotland Yard said the 20-year-old was trying to “swallow an object” and an officer was attempting to prevent him from harming himself. He was later pronounced dead at the Royal London Hospital.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating.
Campaigners have started the hashtag #JusticeforRash in response to Charles’ death.
— Patrick Vernon (@ppvernon) July 24, 2017
Former Hackney councillor Patrick Vernon, who spoke at the vigil, tweeted a picture of Charles’ father addressing protestors.
Vernon told the crowd: “One of the main reasons why and other campaigners are here is that there has not been many fundamental changes in policing around excessive force, restraint, stop and search when it comes to young black men.
“Rashan died in similar circumstances to Clinton McCurbin who was killed whilst being arresting by Police in Wolverhampton in 1987 in Next clothes shop. Like Eric Garner in America he was grasping for breath, both saying: ‘I can’t breathe’.
“Hackney has a long history of death of custody from May 1971 with Aseta Simms where she died in mysterious circumstances at Stoke Newington police station. In December 1978, Michael Ferreira, a black teenager, was stabbed by National Front in Stoke Newington and taken by friends to Stoke Newington Police Station for help – but instead of getting medical attention was questioned by the police. Michael eventually died on his way to the hospital in an ambulance.
“In July 1981, there was a three-day uprising or riot around Sandringham and Kingsland Roads. There were 1,000-plus arrests, many charges were subsequently dropped. Then in January 1983 Colin Roach was killed by a gunshot in Stoke Newington Police Station.
“In 1994, Trevor Monerville was killed at Stoke Newington station. In 1999, Harry Stanley fatally shot by the police in Hackney. None of these families to date have received any justice or any prosecutions against the police.
“For the last 15 years or so, families like these plus many others around the country march every year from Trafalgar Square to Number 10 Downing Street demanding justice and recognition. Sadly, Rashan’s death is part of this history of deaths in custody, so let’s work together to find the truth and justice for Rashan and his family. No justice, no peace.”