Chris Kaba killing: No justice, no peace
Hundreds marched through the capital on Saturday demanding justice for Chris Kaba, the 24-year-old soon to be father who was fatally shot by a firearms officer following a car stop in south London on 5 September.
The growing demand for answers, following the IOPC’s confirmation that the investigation into Kaba’s death is now being treated as a homicide has gained local and national attention. London MPs Helen Hayes, Harriet Harman, and Bell Riberio Addy have all spoken in support of Kaba’s family and have underscored the need for a swift and full investigation.
At the weekend protest for Kaba, rappers Stormzy and Wretch 32 raised their voices in support of the campaign while Hackney MP Diane Abbott also joined the crowds.
''The rage in the aftermath of Chris Kaba’s killing has generated a strong sense of determination to make the police and the officer who shot Kaba, account for every single action taken on that fateful night.''
Interestingly, Sky News initially reported the large crowds in support of Kaba as turning out in numbers following the death of the Queen, something which the outlet has since acknowledged and apologised for, but not before raising serious questions about how they could make such a cataclysmic and insensitive blunder in the first place.
The calls for accountability are growing. Just days following Kaba’s death the officer responsible had not yet been suspended. It beggars belief that an officer who shot and killed an unarmed man, would remain on active duty in any capacity, while any investigation is underway.
This familiar pattern compounded a sense of rage and disbelief among family and community members already stricken and sick with grief over the loss of their loved one.
The continued calls for suspension were eventually followed by the announcement by assistant Met Commissioner Amanda Pearson that the officer in question has now indeed been relieved of duty – something which should have happened much sooner.
This is undoubtedly the outcome of considerable levels of public attention that Kaba’s case received, which galvanised a lot of widespread support.
The assistant commissioner cited the “significant impact on public confidence” as one of the factors eventually motivating the decision to suspend the officer who killed Kaba.
I am lost for words.— Franklin Saint (@loyih92) September 10, 2022
Sky News reporting the Justice for Chris Kaba march as a tribute walk for the Queen's death.
Impacting public confidence is a huge understatement. Following Kaba’s death, black communities are fearful of the police while confidence levels were already low.
The long history of officers evading culpability regarding deaths in custody and shooting deaths remains firmly in people’s minds.
From the police killing of Azelle Rodney in 2005, to the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan in 2011, police operate, and firearms officers conduct themselves in the knowledge of the unwritten rule that they are unlikely to be accountable to the very laws they are paid to uphold.
Anthony Long, the officer who killed Rodney was charged with murder but was cleared by a jury in 2015.
Mark Duggan was unarmed when he was fatally shot in the chest. The IPOC admitted misleading journalists regarding a ‘shootout’ between Duggan and officers that never occurred. Duggan’s death was eventually ruled as a lawful killing and therefore legally justified.
This is the wider context and longstanding backdrop which has fuelled anger over the case of Chris Kaba.
The reality is that in the UK, no firearms officer has ever been convicted of breaking the law over a shooting death.
Confidence and trust in policing will remain at critical levels, until police are seen to be held to the same standards as the public.
However, with black communities already pushed to the brink, disproportionately impacted by the cost of living crisis, coupled with the recently passed policing bill giving police more power, the problem has the potential to spiral out of control.
What’s crucial at this juncture, as pressure and scrutiny remains firmly on the homicide investigation into Kaba’s death, is that more people are attracted to the campaign drawing as much focus as possible. Race equality campaigner and one time adviser to former London Mayor Ken Livingstone Lee Jasper, explained the importance of holding the authorities to account, in the public space and the community controlling the terms of reference. He added:
“Support for this campaign has been outstanding. It's time that the Commissioner and the Mayor positively responded to the family's request for a meeting. In addition, the next GLA Police and Crime Committee, which the Mayor and the new Commissioner will attend, shouldn't meet at the new City Hall in the Docklands. Given the massive level of public anger and concern, this meeting should now occur in Lambeth in response to the deteriorating situation in the borough.”
And, fundamental to securing justice, according to Jasper is the necessity for Kaba’s family to have immediate and unrestricted access to police body cam footage of the incident, in order to, “provide a clear timeline for the end of this homicide investigation.” He reinforced that, the “the Chris Kaba demonstration shook the establishment to its core. They were stunned that we'd decided to march given the Queen’s passing. It was people's power that made the difference and that power explains why they couldn't even think of stopping us. Of that, I have no doubt.”
Indeed, who would deny the power of black resistance, and of course the Black Lives Matter protests of the last few years, the impact of which led the government to draft new legislation to better control and clamp down on such rallying.
The rage in the aftermath of Chris Kaba’s killing has generated a strong sense of determination to make the police and the officer who shot Kaba, account for every single action taken on that fateful night.
If the homicide investigation into the death of Chris Kaba fails to produce justice, and swiftly, the long term cost for the city and country could be far greater than simply ensuring that the officer who killed Kaba answers for what they did.
Richard Sudan is a journalist and writer specialising in anti-racism and has reported on various human rights issues from around the world. His writing has been published by The Guardian, Independent, The Voice and many others.
Follow him on Twitter: @richardsudan
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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.