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Hundreds march in London to remember those who died in state custody

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The Annual United Friends & Family Campaign remembrance parade marches from Trafalgar Square to Downing Street. (Getty Images)

Hundreds of friends and relatives of people who died in prison or police custody in the UK have held a rally and remembrance procession through central London, calling for justice for their loved ones.

The rally which is organized by the United Friends & Families Campaign has taken place every year in London since 1999. The group is made up of bereaved families and others affected by deaths at the hands of UK police, in prisons, in immigration systems, and psychiatric custody.

The latest march began in Trafalgar Square on Saturday and marchers carried banners with photos and pictures of those who they say had died at the hands of the police and state.

“It’s an annual memorial. It’s in memory of all loved ones that have died at the hands of the state in the United Kingdom, and we are remembering them today,” said Marcia Rigg, 57, from Mitcham.

Rigg’s brother, Sean Rigg, suffered a heart attack in Brixton police station in 2008 after being restrained by police while suffering an episode of mental ill health.

“It’s a memorial procession as opposed to a protest march, even though it is a protest against the non-accountability of any of these deaths in custody,” said Rigg, who is now the chair of the UFFC. “I’m certain there is not one family here that has received justice.”

There have been at least 1,797 deaths in police custody or following police contact since 1990.

UFFC was established in 1997 by bereaved families of people killed at the hands of the state. They started the group, which was originally a Black-led organization given the disproportionate number of Black people killed in custody, to demand accountability and systemic change.

Today, the group supports and campaigns on behalf of all families who has lost a loved one to state violence.

Among the founding members was Brenda Weinberg, whose brother, Brian Douglas, was killed when a police officer hit him in the head with a baton in 1995.

“It’s just sad that 22 years on we are still doing this, and there are still new families. That’s the sad part,” Weinberg, now 61, from Wimbledon, said. “It would have been Brian’s birthday yesterday.”


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