IN THE past week or so, two people have been shot dead by British policemen. Derek Bennett was killed in Brixton on 16 July. Andrew Kernan was shot in Liverpool a few days earlier. Below we report on the protests following DEREK BENNETT and ANDREW KERNAN'S deaths
150 people gathered outside Brixton police station on Friday 20 July for a loud and angry demonstration, followed by a march to Angell Town estate where Derek died.
Protesters had already lobbied the Police Consultative Committee on the previous Tuesday with a list of demands including the suspension of the police officers involved.
Protesters repeated these demands on Friday's demonstration. When they returned to the police station, the police had blocked off streets and proceeded to push against the demonstrators, who pushed back.
Police began pouncing on demonstrators six to one, but were forced to free them by community solidarity.
The police then called up van loads of reinforcements in riot gear, which further inflamed the situation, leading to running battles with groups of local youths.
As the police lost any control of the situation, it further degenerated with cars being turned over, dustbins up-ended to form barricades, and eventually shops being attacked and broken into.
The police had warned shopkeepers and businesses in advance to shut early and be prepared for trouble.
This proves that they were ready for a fight. Tension remains high in Brixton, with police vans patrolling the streets, maintaining a high level of intimidation.
The Socialist Party will be at the forefront of the campaign to ensure justice for Derek Bennett, and to fight against further killings and intimidation by police in Lambeth.
We call for a community investigation into this shooting. We demand the disbandment of armed units such as the Firearms Squads, seen locally as today's Special Patrol Group.
Above all we need accountability of the police through democratic control by local people.
Andrew was acutely psychotic, his mother and a Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) had managed to contain him in the family flat in Wavertree, Liverpool.
Six police officers arrived after he became increasingly disturbed, but somehow let him pick up a samurai sword and leave the flat.
Marie Kernan, Andrew's mother said: "I demand justice for Andrew. They shot to kill - twice in the chest when they should not have shot at all. You don't kill somebody with a mental illness. What sort of society is that?"
The police are enshrined with powers to 'section' people in a public place if they believe they're suffering from a mental illness - a Section 136.
Although given this power, a policeman will have half a day's training in dealing with the mental health issues.
This, combined with police racism and unsafe restraint methods, often results in appalling police treatment of the mentally ill.
Section 136 is disproportionately used against ethnic minorities. In some parts of London, a 136 is the most common way for a young black man to be brought into a psychiatric hospital.
I dealt with a 136 one night where the police had written "picking her nose, and eating her food in a disgusting manner in McDonalds" as the reason for sectioning a young black girl.
She was in no way mentally ill.
There have been several inquiries into the use of CS gas on the mentally ill. People with mental illness are more likely to die in custody following being gassed and restrained.
There are some theories that CS gas combines adversely with psychiatric medication.
As a psychiatric nurse in inner London I am involved in the restraint of disturbed patients on an almost daily basis.
We are specifically banned from using "bear hugs" and "neck holds" used by the police as they are known to have possible lethal consequences.
I once gave a statement to a police officer about an incident, he was amazed at the restraint techniques that we use.
He looked even more baffled when I talked about the principle of non-injurious restraint.
Blunkett has called for tranquilliser guns to be used as a 'non-lethal' alternative to firearms.
This summons a nightmare vision of police hunting down the mentally ill on the streets.
Forcible injections of tranquillisers are only done in an hospital environment because of the risk of adverse reactions and the need for very careful dosage.
An overdose of injectable tranquillisers can cause respiratory failure or cardiac problems, an inadequate dose can make a disturbed person more disinhibited.
Partly, people get to the stage where they need to be removed from the street because of the lack of community mental health resources.
The Socialist Party campaigns both for police accountability and the full funding of NHS.
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