Mark Duggan death: Vigil in Tottenham passes peacefully as family renew vow to 'fight for justice'
The steps of Tottenham police station became a platform for the family and supporters of Mark Duggan to pledge to continue their “fight for justice” today, after the 29-year-old’s killing was ruled lawful by an inquest jury on Wednesday.
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) had warned of the potential for protesters to “provoke disorder” at the family-organised vigil, which was attended by 200 to 300 people. However it passed off peacefully with the only tension being some jostling between photographers and event stewards struggling to keep media back from the Duggan family.
Mark Duggan’s aunt Carole was joined by Stafford Scott, co-ordinator of Tottenham RIGHTS, at the north London police station where they labelled the verdict “perverse” and said they’d continue to “fight for justice for Mark, who was slain just around the corner”.
Carole Duggan said the ceremony, which commenced with a one minute silence, was to remember Mark “peacefully” and “with dignity” but also to “show those who smeared Mark’s name that we will keep fighting for justice.”
She said: “There is no justice in this country and we need to come together for a better future for our children and for Mark’s children. We need so show the country that we are not a gangster family like the media has portrayed us, we are just an ordinary family.”
The Duggans, including his mother Pam, were joined by the families of Sean Rigg and Roger Sylvester, who told their stories of losing children after contact with the police.
Marcia Rigg, sister of Sean Rigg, who died in police custody in London in 2008, told the vigil that after years of campaigning they had persuaded the Independent Police Complaints Commission to open a “criminal investigation” into his death.
“We only got that because we fought, so, Mark Duggan family, don't give up. Keep fighting,” she told the crowd.
The vigil also heard from Becky Shah, 41, of Walthamstow, who lost her mother in the Hillsborough disaster. She told the crowd she was “proud to stand here in solidarity” with the Duggan campaign.
“I was absolutely devastated when I heard the news of the verdict,” she said. “But I cannot say I was shocked because the history of the injustice that has been heaped upon the black community is just like nothing else.”
To cries of “shame” Mr Scott, who co-founded the Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign in 1985, said local MP David Lammy had been invited to the vigil by the family, but had not attended. “I’ll say no more”, he said of the local Labour politician, though Dianne Abbott MP from neighbouring Hackney did attend.
Just after the vigil Carole Duggan went on to call on the IPCC to “do what they should have done in the beginning and carry out a "full investigation".
"Mark did not get the justice he deserved," she said, adding that the media had "slandered my family" and that "Mark was not a gangster".
Marcia Willis Stewart, the Duggan family's lawyer, added that they were reviewing the transcripts from the inquest and were “definitely going to be looking at some form of challenge”.
The ceremony was interspersed with emotional call and response chants of "no justice, no peace" and "who are the murderers? The police are the murders," before ending with a brief burst of “We Shall overcome” followed by a release of about 20 white doves.
Most people attending angrily rejected the police version of events and chanted: "666 is the mark of the beast, turn it around and you get the police."
Patrick Passley, principal of paralegal training charity the London College of Law, who was holding a justice for Mark Duggan banner, was more measured and told Independent.co.uk there remained questions about what happened, such as the discovery of the gun.
“I think there should be a judicial review,” he said.
Mr Passley, a trustee of the Prince's Trust, said he wanted to know why there were reports a police officer had been shot.
“Why did they release that evidence that he had a gun and he was a shooter? They must have known he didn't have a gun.”
Speaking prior to the vigil Mr Scott also questioned the police: “It's really difficult to respect the verdict when the verdict is a perverse one. The family is concerned about the whole entire process.”
He also went on to criticise the IPCC for failing to investigate whether the gun had been planted by police at the scene.
“The truth of the matter is this: we feel the system, the process has failed us.
"We will not go away because we can't go away.
“There's no one here protecting our rights so we have to ensure we do that ourselves.”
Rev Nims Obunge, who is part of the Duggan family campaign, said: “The truth is this is a great day for justice. It's a great day because when I buried Mark Duggan I did say to his children and to his family that his death would not be forgotten, that his death would be the beginning of a new season in the community.”
He added: “It just doesn't seem right that when a jury says a man threw away a gun and then a police officer says I saw him holding a gun ... I don't know whether the jury is lying or the police are lying.
"Mark Duggan left six children. Those children must believe in a future that says justice will prevail whenever anyone of us are in the hands of the establishment on whose steps we stand."
The Head of Haringey Police, Chief Sup Victor Olisa, was on the scene talking to protesters and members of the black community who challenged him over why a black person “would ever join a force that murdered young black men.” Previously he had admitted “a certain level of anxiousness” over the vigil, but it went off peacefully and he said was there “to hear what these people have to say”.
Patrick Regan OBE, founder of the XLP project for inner city children, said the vigil had been treated by some as a “political football” but that the Duggan family and local politicians and community leaders had all “been making the right noises in the run up to the vigil”.
This, he said, came after politicians and police missed the opportunity in August 2011 to soothe deep-rooted angst in impoverished communities.
He told Independent.co.uk: “The fact that the Duggan family came out on Friday and called for a peaceful protest was pretty crucial because obviously after the inquest tensions were riding high and we were all a little bit worried that was going to spill over.
“The key political thing now to try and use this case – which comes after the Stephen Lawrence case and so many other deaths in custody and with police involvement – is to try and use this an opportunity to truthfully look at police and community relations.”
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