There is no comfort over Joy

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A small figure in black bent and laid a wreath by the neat front door of the flats. 'Remember Joy Gardner,' it said.

The woman who had laid it stood and walked slowly away. Someone asked if she would speak: she shook her head, her lips gripped together. Myrna Simpson was too overcome on Thursday, the anniversary of the day five police officers and an immigration official went through the door of her daughter's flat along with tape gags and a body belt.

Three of those police officers, a woman and two men, have now been charged with manslaughter. Joy Gardner's son, Graham, now six, was there when the police arrived. He sometimes still has nightmares: his grandmother must comfort him as best she can.

Joy's uncle, Alphonso Williams, and Myrna Simpson walked back to their car. The young men around them, some of them in dark glasses despite the cloudy skies, furled their banner. Someone had a bunch of Socialist Workers' Party newspapers. On nearby street corners a surprisingly large local police presence, vivid in fluorescent jackets, watched the small group.

'Justice for Joy]' read the prostestors' badges.

Despite the fact that manslaughter charges have been brought, Joy Gardner's family feel that justice is still not being done. They are distressed and angry that all requests for a public inquiry into her death have been refused, so that the role played by the Home Office and immigration officials in events remains hidden.

Joy Gardner, who came to Britain on a six-month tourist visa in 1987, was about to be deported as an illegal immigrant when she died. Her relatives believe that the internal review of deportation procedures carried out by Scotland Yard and the Home Office has delivered neither the information nor the public accountability which justice and democracy demand.

And so, later on that day, Myrna Simpson walked again to commemorate her daughter with another wreath, this time outside the Home Office. The yellow and black banner, 'Joy Gardner, We Remember You', was raised once more on the green opposite the House of Commons.

It was a small group, around 25, that walked slowly towards the Home Office, containing angry people, some markedly hostile to white members of the press, despite our invitation to attend. Joy Gardner's death has reinforced many fears and prejudices, perhaps on both sides.

Soon after the group arrived at the Home Office, and held a minute's silence, a standard police minibus pulled up opposite with a few uniformed officers inside. 'Hold, man,' said one of the demonstrators. 'We've got a riot squad out.'

Two or three police watched from the entrance to the Home Office as speakers began to address the small crowd. 'Rise up and organise,' they were advised. Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, spoke of his sadness and sense of injustice. The crowd rang with a series of chants: 'Joy Gardner] We Remember]' 'Cynthia Jarrett] We Remember]' 'Cherry Groce] We Remember]'.

A little later someone called out: 'Malcolm X]'; 'We remember]' came back the call.

And then, when they were all done, Myrna Simpson stepped forward under the high, silent wall of the Home Office. Joy's mother, born to a Methodist family in Jamaica, came to Britain in 1960, leaving her seven-year-old daughter, Joy, behind. Her last job was as a care attendant in an old people's home: she is a British citizen, typical of a whole generation of West Indian born, hard-working, God- fearing mothers.

She had now no political capital to make of her daughter's death. It merely seemed as though a grief that she had dammed-up within herself through the day's remembering had burst out.

Everyone who had come was thanked in a voice that started quietly and then began to strengthen. 'I want to know,' she said, 'where is the justice? One day everybody has got to give account for whatever sin they have committed . . .'

Now her voice rang out. She stood, calling to the heavens for justice like a figure from a Greek tragedy. Only she was not acting.

The netted windows of the Home Office remained shrouded. 'God is not only for white people,' said Myrna Simpson. 'He is for black as well. He is for everyone . . . . I am not the jury. He is the judge. I wasn't in Joy's flat that day. You,' she said, pointing at a man in the crowd, 'you didn't see them when they went in Joy's flat.' She lifted up her eyes. 'But God was there,' she said. 'He was watching.'

Now the sound was strong and vibrant. A passer-by made an uncomplimentary remark. She did not hear him. A man in the crowd made an equally uncomplimentary remark back to him.

'My God is my refuge and my strength,' said Mrs Simpson. 'In Him do I put my trust . . . .' The traffic rushed past. The police at the door of the Home Office and the activists in the crowd were silent, listening to Myrna, grieving for her daughter, who is not and who will not be comforted.

(Photograph omitted)

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