This week, on Tuesday 9 March, over 200 people met for a solidarity event as part of the ‘Justice for Mohamud Hassan’ campaign.
“Two months after his death, we are no further along in understanding why he died,” stated Hilary Brown, a representative of the family, who have seen nothing but contempt and unaccountability from the police.
Two months ago, on 9 January, Mohamud Hassan – a young black man – died at his home, the evening after being released from police custody. A close friend reported seeing him seriously injured that same day. He was told by Mohamud, “look fam, the police have beat the shit out of me.”
Mohamud’s death sparked consecutive days of protest outside Cardiff Bay police station. Demonstrators called for justice, demanding to know exactly what happened to Mohamud in custody. The police have refused to release body cam footage; and the case has been marked by several irregularities.
Just a month later in Newport, on 17 February, another black man, Moyied Bashir, also died after contact with police officers.
Ordinary people will not stand for this blatant misconduct and violence from the police. People have had enough of police brutality and institutional racism and are demanding justice.
The case of Mohamud is being investigated by the Independent Office of Police Complaints (IOPC). However, Chief Constable Jerry Vaughan has been sure to state that this is not because they believe that the South Wales police have done anything wrong. For them, there is no case to answer.
The IOPC is far from impartial, however. From day one, they have sought to downplay Mohamud’s death, or any idea of police foul play.
NEW:— voice.wales (@voice_wales) February 2, 2021
Mohamud Hassan: South Wales Police & IOPC Refuse To Say If Officers Involved Have Been Suspended
SWP & IOPC have been repeatedly dodging questions about whether or not officers involved in the detainment of Mohamud Hassan have been suspended. https://t.co/5OFPC8MapX
Early on, they released a statement saying: “Preliminary indications are that there is no physical trauma injury to explain a cause of death, and toxicology tests are required.”
This was despite it being clear that Mohamud had suffered a variety of injuries; that he was distressed and considered to be in a very bad state; and that he had been encouraged to seek medical help.
But the IOPC did not want to wait for all the evidence, or for the necessary forensic pathology to take place.
The most important thing for them, it would seem, has been to disperse the protests. Demonstrators have been urged to ‘observe the regulations’. And legal COVID restrictions have been used in order to fine several people involved in the protests.
Initially, the official coroner’s briefing attempted to imply that Mohamud had been drinking and taking drugs while partying. But these accusations were not borne out by the result of the toxicology report. This has also shown that Mohamud had no underlying conditions, and was considered to be a fit and healthy young man.
The IOPC, while formally being independent of the police, are in fact part of the same cosy establishment club. Indeed, one suspects that all these top officials dine at the same tables.
IOPC director general Michael Lockwood was recently appointed to this position by the Home Office. Previously, Lockwood had an extremely well paid gig with Harrow council. In this role, he was at one point given a £168,000 pay-off by the Tory council, only to be rehired by the incoming Labour council a year later on a £160k wage.
The police use the IOPC to dodge answering questions and providing answers, saying they can’t comment or release any information due to the investigation. But this is now expected to take a minimum of nine months.
Some have called for the case to be taken up by the Attorney General. But as prominent anti-racist activist Lee Jasper explains:
“Black communities have even less trust and confidence in Tory Attorney General Suella Braverman than they have in the police. This government is ideologically united in refusing to recognise institutional racism and black injustice.”
It is no wonder that Mohamud’s family are keen to do their own investigation. Ultimately, there can be no trust in any investigation conducted by the state. The establishment has an interest in protecting its institutions. And racism serves a role in defending their interests, through divide and rule.
The family campaign of Mohamud Hassan say he was beaten by Cardiff police in custody before being released without charge. He died hours later. The police investigators IOPC say they are having problems obtaining CCTV / bodycam footage. #Justice4Mohamud https://t.co/IvrJEWsFjk— Lester Holloway (@brolezholloway) March 7, 2021
Racism and repression
The example of police body cameras highlights this. After spending millions on body cameras, an official review concluded that releasing footage from these would show the police in a very bad light. And so a policy was brought in, saying that body cam footage does not have to be made public.
Fast forward to Mohamud’s case, and the police are refusing to release any of the body cam footage or police reports, stating that this would compromise the investigation. As Lee Jasper points out, however: “They are happy to release footage when it supports their cause.”
We must ask: What are they trying to hide? The police claim that they are having problems putting the footage together due to ‘slippage’ and missing footage. How convenient!
One demonstrator in South Wales, who protested by shining his phone torch at the police, later found himself dragged out of bed at 7am by 5 police officers, on a spurious claim that he had blinded one of the policemen. Other organisers of the protests have also faced intimidation.
The police, the coroner, and the IOPC are all singing from the same hymn sheet. It is not “bread of heaven” that they are offering though, but to “deceive me until I can be deceived no more”.
We have had enough of this racism and repression! We demand justice now!