On Thursday the 4th of August, 2011, police shot dead a 29 year old man named Mark Duggan in Tottenham. A fatal police shooting is rare – there have only been seven in the last three years, according to the IPCC. Duggan was shot during a planned arrest carried out under Operation Trident, an initiative which attempts to tackle gun crime with the Afro-Carribean community.
Duggan’s death, however, is the only clear and undisputed fact. Initial circumstances were hazy: Duggan had been a passenger in a minicab and the police vaguely suggested that he fired at police officers – a bullet was found lodged in a police radio and there were dewy eyed reports of how this humble radio had saved an officer’s life. Soon it emerged that although an illegal firearm had been recovered, there was no evidence that it had been discharged. The bullet in the radio is now suspected to be from a police firearm. If the Met do have any evidence that Duggan was killed in self defence rather than shot in cold blood, they’re keeping it very quiet.
Police officers shooting dead a black man in a deprived area of inner London sounds like a recipe for trouble on its own. Factor in that so far they have failed to clarify the nature of the incident to the community and you already have a volatile situation. But the Met’s incompetence made everything much stickier. As is usual with a fatal incident, the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) launched an enquiry into Duggan’s death within hours. However in the handover from the Metropolitan Police to the IPCC, the job of telling Duggan’s parents that their son was dead was “overlooked”. There was also an unexplained delay of 36 hours between Duggan’s death and his family being allowed to see him, and his fiancée waited three hours at the local police station on Saturday to find out anything about how he died (the circumstances of which the police have been silent on), only to be told that nobody had any answers for them.
A protest was held the next day, a Sunday, beginning around five o’clock. Residents marched from Broadwater Farm estate to the local police station, demanding justice for Duggan. As usual, the police claim that protesters started the violence by setting alight to a patrol car. Eyewitnesses claim that it started when riot police attacked a sixteen year old girl (video footage of that incident is here).
That was it; that was all that was needed. The situation quickly spiralled out of control. (read more)