Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North & Stoke Newington, sent this message to last night’s launch meeting of the Justice for Mark Duggan campaign in Tottenham.
My apologies that I cannot be with you this evening.
The anger that followed the death of Mark Duggan was a build-up of resentment at persistent negative interactions that the black community face with the police and the justice system, from disproportionate stop-and-search to deaths in police custody.
Following Mark’s inquest verdict I held a large public meeting in parliament. The most telling speech meeting was not from one of the many lawyers or experienced activists present: it was from a young woman wearing school uniform who protested at the use of stop-and-search. She said that she and her friends had been harassed by the police since the age of 11. And she wanted to know what could be done.
The trust of young people like her are crucial in fighting crime. But instead of viewing the police as her protector she sees the force as her tormentor. As a disadvantaged group black people are more likely to be affected by crime than be the perpetrators of it. But we remain overpoliced as citizens and underpoliced as victims.
The inquest verdict has brought serious concerns and justified questions. These should not be framed as some kind of disrespect for the judicial process. The law allows for questions and challenges through appeals and judicial review. If the law itself recognises that it is not always correct, then we have not only a right but a duty ensure that its decisions equate to justice.
Let us not forget that had it not been for the Lawrence family challenging a legal ruling – and not only that but leading a campaign to change the law itself – two of Stephen Lawrence’s killers would not have been brought to justice.
I stand ready to support Mark Duggan’s family in any way that I can.
Diane Abbott MP
30 January 2014