Over 200 people took to the streets of Manchester today in protest against police violence and the killing of Anthony Grainger.
Anthony was shot dead two months ago in a pre-planned operation by the Greater Manchester Police. This is the latest in a long line of police killings- since 1990 over 1400 people have died after contact with the police, and yet not one copper has faced justice for their crimes.
The day started off with a rally and a series of speakers from a range of groups and backgrounds. Marina, Anthony’s mum, gave an emotional speech and talked about the impact that his death has had on his family, before calling for the police officer responsible to be charged with murder, and the supervising officers to be charged with corporate manslaughter.
Janet Alder then spoke. Her brother Christopher was killed by the police after being beaten and racially abused in 1998. The police made monkey noises at him as he suffocated, half-naked, on a police station floor. Despite a coroner’s verdict that he was unlawfully killed, no cops ended up behind bars, and the police (either through incompetence or malice) even sent the family the wrong body to bury at his funeral. She emphasised that these kind of incidents could happen to anyone, and that it was important for people to work together against injustice despite the intimidation that they face from the police, the courts and the state.
Also present were several campaigners against the ‘Joint Enterprise’ laws (which say that you can be guilty of a crime that you weren’t present at or even aware of). Mohammed Riaz spoke of how he served 20 years in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit, and warned that the vaguely-worded law was mainly being used against young people, particularly from working-class and ethnic minority backgrounds.
The rally was actually really good (spoken as an activist who isn’t a great fan of rallies), probably due to the range of speakers from different backgrounds who had a connection to the people they were talking to. There was a sea of different home-made placards and banners which were clear and got the message across. Musical acts helped to fill the gap between speeches and change the tempo a bit.
The police (save for the token unsubtle undercover cop) were conspicuous in their absence, so we decided to take the message to them. Over 100 people marched towards Bootle Street Police Station, leafletting and talking to people along the way. Chants of ‘No justice! No Peace’ filled the streets as the demonstration took over the roads, and if you listened closely enough, you could even hear people singing about Harry Roberts.
Today was an important step for the #Justice4Grainger campaign and a well-organised one at that. We were able to spread the word about how and why Anthony was killed, put the police and their spin doctors on the back foot, brought together campaigners from different groups, and were able to act alongside others across the country. Similar protests against police violence were organised in a number of towns and cities, including Leeds, Birmingham, Slough and London. Let’s work together to keep the pressure on them.