Birmingham residents assemble in solidarity with Dea-John's family and friends, photo Kris O'Sullivan

Birmingham residents assemble in solidarity with Dea-John’s family and friends, photo Kris O’Sullivan   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Birmingham Socialist Party members

14 year-old Dea-John Reid was tragically murdered on the streets of Kingstanding, Birmingham, on the evening of 31 May.

Reports from witnesses to the horrific murder made it clear from the beginning that this was a racist murder. Witnesses reported the boy being chased and subjected to racist abuse before being stabbed.

Disgracefully, but unsurprisingly, West Midlands Police denied and attempted to play down the racist motive for Dea-John’s murder, only admitting on the evening of 2 June what locals had been reporting all along: that racism had sparked this tragic sequence of events.

A man in his 30s has now been charged with murder, while another remains in custody along with a 14 year old boy. Three others arrested in connection with the killing have now been released.

The actions of West Midlands Police in relation to this case, and in previous incidents involving the deaths of black men in custody, show that we can’t trust an unaccountable police force to investigate Dea-John’s murder, including possible racist motives.

We need an independent investigation involving elected members of the local community in Kingstanding and North Birmingham, including trade union reps, particularly those involved in working with young and vulnerable people in schools and social services.

Such an inquiry could not just begin to establish the real circumstances of this murder, but also the social problems which provide the backdrop to this latest outrage. 41.6% of children in Birmingham are living in poverty (the highest rate outside of London), 9.8% of people are unemployed with many tens of thousands more in precarious work, and 55,400 are currently on furlough wondering if they’ll have a job to go back to.

Along with the relatively well-paid, secure jobs that have been lost from the city due to the decline of manufacturing, the social ties of working-class communities in Birmingham have been further hit by a decade of cuts to public services, largely administered by the Labour council. Among the 12,000 jobs axed by Birmingham City Council since 2010 will have been many community and youth workers who would have previously helped young people find a positive future away from street crimes and violence.

Rather than build a campaign to win funding from Westminster for expanded public services that could prevent crime, Labour Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Foster’s response is to call for a sticking plaster of 450 extra police officers.

But if these officers are not democratically accountable to the communities they police, if they continue to use discriminatory stop-and-search policies focused on black and Asian young people, this could serve to heighten tensions rather than ease them.

Divisive politics

We need to campaign against the divisive politics which turn migrants and black and Asian people into scapegoats for the conditions faced by young and working-class people. We reject this. These conditions are the result of the profit and greed of capitalism.

It’s vital that trade unions and democratically run residents’ and community associations work to ensure that any tensions created by this shocking murder are channelled in the direction of campaigning for young people’s future. To demand better jobs, homes and public services, and avoid a repeat of the riots which followed the murder of Mark Duggan at the hands of the police in 2011.

The Socialist Party is fighting to build a mass united movement that can smash racism and the class inequality that together press on the necks of young people.

Leaving the power to run society in the hands of the existing rulers, the big-business boss class, condemns us to having to keep fighting racism. Mass united working-class action and organisation, united around a programme of anti-racism and anti-capitalism, to fight for socialism with the working class democratically running society, is necessary.

Community shows solidarity

Sunday 6 June saw a huge cross-community turnout of Brummies including black, brown and white working-class youth to give condolences and solidarity to Dea-John’s family.

An extremely charged atmosphere of anger, sadness and a real desire to tackle racism head on from the grassroots level. There was no real faith or trust in the police or the political establishment to carry out this crucial task.

Dozens and dozens of attendees approached members of Birmingham Socialist Party asking to take leaflets and about organising anti-racist and working-class campaigns. We need to make our streets safe for all kids, but also offer a real future for the next generation of decent jobs, homes, education and fully funded public services.

Kris O’Sullivan