I feel hopeful. At the same time I am not complacent. As history has taught me these things have been happening time and time and time again. We are still a community, we are still a people, who needs to be healed from the traumatic events that have happened to us in the past. And this is a part of that healing.
Lee Lawrence’s mother, Cherry Groce
Christopher Alder, Kingsley Burrell, Darren Neville, Sheku Bayoh, Marc Cole, Cherry Groce, Jack Susianta, Adrian McDonald, Alan Marshall, Seni Lewis, Sean Rigg, Inger Shah, Joseph Scholes, Leon Patterson, Mikey Powell, Gaia Pope, Matthew Leahy and Yasser Yaqub.
These are all names of people that have died at the hands of the state since 1989. In a deeply moving video montage, brought together by film maker Ken Fero, their families talk about the pain and injustice they have faced following the death of a relative in contentious circumstances. They also talk of the strength and power in being brought together as a community to grieve, heal, and campaign for systemic change.
Whether they died in police custody or following police contact, in prison, or mental health detention or as a result of the Hillsborough football disaster, these families have since joined together as part of the campaign collective, the United Families and Friends Campaign, in their struggles for truth and accountability. INQUEST has been proud to support and work with the UFFC since its beginning,
For 22 years, the United Families and Friends Campaign, made up of some of the families above and many more, have held an annual memorial march in London in memory of their those who have died. For the first time, as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, the UFFC held the 22nd annual memorial event online.
The past year has seen unprecedented attention on the deaths of people in police custody. It has seen the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota in the United States. It has seen a renewed mass movement of hundreds of thousands of people across the world to protest for Black Lives Matter.
The anger and pain felt by many, resonated above all with many bereaved families here in the UK. In the online memorial, many families drew parallels to the systemic racialised state violence in the US, with that which led to the death of their loved ones.
George Floyd died in the hands of police, who are supposed to be our protectors. Same like my brother Sheku Bayoh. George Floyd died of asphyxia which is depriving the body of oxygen to travel to his brain and the rest of his body, same like my brother, Sheku Bayoh. George Floyd cried out, get off me I can’t breathe’, same like my brother Sheku Bayoh. For how long are we going to suffer like this? For how long? Black Lives do matter.
Kadi Johnson, sister of Sheku Bayoh
Three years since the death of her cousin, Gaia Pope, Marienna Pope-Weidemann spoke about how her family are still fighting for answers. Gaia, a survivor of rape, went missing 2017 aged 19 and was found 11 days later. They still await an inquest into her death.
We want justice for her and change for all survivors denied support by the mental health system and denied justice by the police. We want justice for Gaia, we want justice for everyone.
Marienna Pope-Weidemann, cousin of Gaia Pope
Becky Shah spoke about the 32 years she and many other families, survivors and campaigns have spent fighting for truth, justice and accountability following the Hillsborough football disaster. Becky Shah was 17 years old when her mother, Inger Shah died.
We have had many knock backs along the way from a corrupt system but we have had a few successes. Most notably in 2016 where the second inquest found that the 96 were unlawfully killed and the Liverpool fans played no part in the disaster.
Becky Shah, daughter of Inger Shah
By including footage from past annual rallies, family members who have sadly died were also remembered along the way. This includes Pauline Campbell who was a formidable campaigner for justice following the death of her daughter, Sarah in HMP Styal in 2003. She worked closely with INQUEST supporting other families and campaigning around women’s deaths in prison. In the years following Sarah’s death, Pauline would take direct action outside prison gates across the country, each time another woman died in prison. Pauline had arranged 28 such demonstrations by the time she died in 2008.
Please take the time to watch the memorial video, share it with others, participate in whatever action you can. The United Families and Friends Campaign warmly welcome other affected families to join their national campaign collective and complete this short questionnaire.
Hearing directly from families in the memorial video starkly demonstrates just how long and drawn out their struggles for justice are. The National Family Memorial Fund makes small grants available for families and their campaign groups across the UK and is an essential financial resource for families engaged in this work. Learn about how you can support the fund.