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2005: Jean Charles de Menezes shooting
Still demanding justice!
Steve Nally, Lambeth Socialist Party
On 22 July 2005 an innocent man was brutally shot to death by police at Stockwell tube station in south London. That man was a young Brazilian worker called Jean Charles de Menezes.
Like millions of Londoners that day Jean, an electrician, was on his way to work. However, he became the target of a ruthless 'shoot to kill' Metropolitan Police operation.
Two weeks earlier 52 people had tragically lost their lives in a wave of terrorist bombings on London's transport system. Then, on 21 July, four terrorists attempted but failed to detonate their bombs.
The next day Jean was murdered by police, who initially claimed that he was a "terrorist". I remember people cheering at my workplace when the news came through. I still feel sickened by the memory of that.
As a result of the bombings a police operation had been set up to track down suspected terrorists. One such operation was in Tulse Hill, Lambeth, and it focussed on the housing block where Jean lived.
On the morning of 22 July he left for work getting two buses to Stockwell tube and boarded a tube train. He did not jump the barriers and run down the escalator as the police initially claimed. He did not stand up to them as they claimed. Nor did he disobey orders as they claimed.
In reality Jean was jumped upon, unawares, and killed with seven bullets to the head. He didn't stand a chance.
To cover themselves the police spun a web of lies and deliberately hampered the inquiry immediately set up by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Jean was no terrorist. If he had been, why did the police allow him to leave home, get on two buses and enter a busy tube station without arresting him beforehand?
And why on that particular day was the CCTV not working at Stockwell tube station? Perhaps it may have shown what really happened on the day. However it took a determined campaign to expose the truth.
On Monday 25 July the Stop The War Coalition (STWC) organised a 400-strong vigil outside Stockwell tube station. Menezes family members and supporters present at the vigil demanded that the vigil march on Parliament, about two miles away.
Despite police objections the vigil developed into an impromptu march. By the time it was halted by riot police at Vauxhall Bridge it had grown into a demonstration of over 700, with members of the local Portuguese community joining it as it progressed down South Lambeth Road.
The local Socialist Party branch made an immediate call for a mass demonstration through the Stockwell area to protest against Jean's murder and to protect and unite the local community - in particular the 30,000 strong Portuguese community based in that part of Lambeth.
We also called for class unity, no to war and terrorism, and an open public inquiry led by trade unionists and the community groups into the shooting.
Although these demands were well received in the local area, prevarication by the STWC and others meant that such a march did not take place and the justice campaign was eventually diverted down the route of legal process alone.
Photo Paul Mattsson
Following the vigil the Socialist Party held a successful public meeting in Stockwell on 11 August, attended by over 40 local people.
Alongside this Socialist Party members also participated in the Menezes family campaign - Justice 4 Jean. Its first action was a lobby of Downing Street on 22 August.
Over 600 attended and again it quickly turned into an impromptu march, this time on Scotland Yard. These two impromptu marches highlighted the potential for an immediate demonstration of many thousands.
Meanwhile, the Stockwell area came under siege from the police. It was not enough for them to kill a man in cold blood. They also decided to use their powers to intimidate the local community as more of the awful truth emerged.
At one stage you literally could not turn a street corner without seeing police vehicles. To me it felt like living in a mini-police state.
The STWC then organised a national anti-war demonstration for 24 September with a feeder march from Stockwell tube station. The Socialist Party again went onto the streets and into the local Portuguese community giving out 6,000 leaflets.
We also held a meeting at Lambeth College which 60 students attended and got resolutions passed by Lambeth Unison and the RMT transport union branch that covered Stockwell tube.
The feeder march was a success but was not the mass demonstration and accompanying campaign required to get justice for Jean and to fully hold the police to account.
In 2006 the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided not to prosecute the police officers responsible for Jean's early death. Unlike Jean they were allowed to return to work.
Instead, the CPS prosecuted the Metropolitan Police for breaking health and safety legislation! And in 2007, they were found guilty.
The following year, at Jean's inquest, the Coroner instructed the jury that they could not return a verdict of "unlawful killing", which by then was the only verdict that could describe what happened. Instead, an open verdict was returned.
In a final insult to Jean's family, the Gold Commander in charge of police operations on 22 July 2005, Cressida Dick, was promoted to the position of Deputy Assistant Commissioner.
Labour prime minister at the time, Tony Blair, and London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, while apologising for the shooting praised the police for 'doing a difficult job'.
The state tried to smear Jean's memory, telling the media he was 'an illegal migrant worker'. They even posthumously accused him of sexual assault. This was emphatically disproved.
The brutal murder of Jean Charles de Menezes shows how far the state will go to 'get their man' and what they will do to try to cover up their actions. It shows how unaccountable the police are and will even reward those who carry out such catastrophic deeds in the name of 'justice'.
It also shows the need for mass protests and well organised campaigns when such events occur. Jean never got any justice and his family will never get any peace from the memory of a son taken so brutally.
Ten years since the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes
Lambeth and Southwark Socialist Party branches public meeting:
Thursday 23 July 2015, 7.30-9pm
Stockwell Community Centre, 1 Studley Rd, London SW4 6RA
In The Socialist 15 July 2015:
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International socialist news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis
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