People are meeting in Brixton tonight to work out how to go about getting justice for Smiley Culture, who died last week in police custody and deeply suspicious circumstances. The following is from The Guardian:
There was anger, there were tears and it was standing room only in the Karibu Centre. Not everyone knew Smiley Culture, the reggae artist who died last week during a police operation to arrest him at his home, but everyone knew his music. And it wasn't just the music. It was also the fact that he fused reggae with a diction and landscape that was unmistakably British. Anglo/West Indian fusion is unremarkable now, particularly on the radio. Many say Smiley did it first.
Now he is dead, in questionable circumstances. The authorities say Smiley, who faced drugs charges, stabbed himself through the heart while officers conducting a fresh drugs search were in another room. His relatives insist that is highly unlikely. They intend to fight this all the way and they'll have help. Hello again Lee Jasper.
Remember Lee Jasper? He was a streetwise race activist, then equalities director during Ken Livingstone's London mayoralty. He was hurried from office by hotly contested allegations – personal and professional – relentlessly pursued by the Evening Standard. He withdrew into journalism, blogging and community activism.
Smiley's relatives contacted Jasper, and he chaired that community meeting at the Karibu. It looked like something out of the 1980s I told him the following morning. But surely things are different now; black officers, black investigators on the police complaints body; all the things you campaigned for. Why are we back to this? "There was small-scale, incremental progress," he concedes. "We don't have the horror of black men being murdered and the police doing nothing. But it's a mixed bag. Look at the deaths in custody; look at stop and search, up by 70%."
You really can't trust the system, Jasper says. Not without community pressure to keep it honest – it's likely to be a three- to five-year battle. "But Smiley's relatives are extraordinary in their strength and dignity. They are certainly not naive."
So here comes a campaign, similar to those before, but boosted now by social media. Stand by for leaflets, meetings, the poignancy of a funeral. Testimony in favour of Smiley Culture; headlines spun against. And expect to hear quite a bit more from Lee Jasper.
The following is footage from the press conference held by Smiley's family at the Karibu Education Centre in Brixton.