Rashan Charles Rashan Charles. Photo:Twitter/@kasxest

The death of Rashan Charles raises serious questions about institutional racism in the police force

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) have launched an investigation into the lethal detention of an unarmed black man in Hackney after he was brutally body slammed by police during the early hours of Saturday morning.

According to the Metropolitan Police, 20-year-old Rashman Charles was ‘taken ill’ and died in hospital just an hour after being apprehended by officers in a shop in East London.

The police watchdog announced the investigation in response to accusations of institutional racism following speculation that the deceased died at the scene and not later in hospital as claimed by officials.

Police claim Charles was ‘trying to swallow an object’ and that officers at the scene merely intervened to prevent him from harming himself. The inference being that the deceased died from swallowing his own stash in a drug-related incident. Case closed. Nothing to see here.

But the footage of the incident appears to tell a different story and clearly shows brute force and sustained restraint being used against a slightly-built young black male in the absence of violent resistance.

Shocking footage of the incident shows Charles being thrown down on the floor, where he is then held in a sustained headlock by a uniformed police officer who is assisted a minute later by a plain clothed policeman kneeling on his back.

After approximately two minutes, Rashan Charles visibly stops moving. The officers pause to look into his face and the uniformed officer shakes him. There is no response. The uniformed officer then leans in and appears to check his breathing first, then his pulse.

The footage has been posted on social media with the hashtag #Justice4Rash amid widespread speculation that Charles died at the scene during his apprehension.

The death of Rashan Charles follows a similar incident in Newham just a month ago which resulted in the lethal detention of another unarmed black man following a police traffic stop.

Edson da Costa died in hospital in an induced coma six days after sustaining multiple injuries during his apprehension by police. In the Da Costa case, police again claimed the deceased was attempting to swallow an object.

Despite police endeavours to downplay the incident, Da Costa’s companion who was driving the car claimed that police used CS gas on him when he was already down on the floor and eyewitnesses have described the severity of his injuries.

In a statement, the IPCC claimed to have evidence that Rashman was attempting to swallow an object. The assertion has met with considerable and understandable scepticism given the IPCC’s questionable track record in holding officers to account. A catalogue of delays, rejections and administrative failures have marred the police watchdog’s reputation.

The footage raises some sobering questions about the application of force to unarmed suspects as well as the obvious elephant in the room; was the application of brute force motivated by institutional racism? At the very least the officers involved should be immediately suspended from duty pending a full and conclusive investigation.

Friends have paid tribute to ‘Rash’ as he was locally known, who they describe as a ‘darling;’ a gentle and caring family man and someone who was always looking out for others. He leaves behind a baby daughter, Remiya. 

Kara Bryan

Kara Bryan is a writer and activist and regular contributor to the Counterfire website. She is a member of Counterfire and Stop the War

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