Police should respond to 'real and growing concerns' over racism, watchdog warns
5 June 2020, 06:27 | Updated: 5 June 2020, 06:30
British police must respond to “real and growing concerns” about racism within their own ranks, a watchdog has said, as protests continued across the UK in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in the US.
Thousands have joined protests across the UK following the death of the unarmed black man while being arrested by police in Minneapolis.
Now, the director-general of the police watchdog, which investigates deaths in law enforcement custody in England and Wales, and allegations of police brutality and corruption, urged officers to listen to the black community.
Michael Lockwood the chief of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), said it was "incumbent on the wider police service to listen and respond to the concerns being raised".
Mr Lockwood, writing in the Independent, highlighted issues across British policing that were disproportionately affecting ethnic minorities, including the use of Tasers, stop-and-search powers and, in recent weeks, fines for breaching the coronavirus lockdown.
"Right now, communities in the UK are expressing real and growing concerns about disproportionality," he said.
"Only two weeks ago we highlighted increasing community concerns about the use of Taser.
"We are also hearing concerns about stop and search and, most recently, fines issued during lockdown being disproportionate to black people.
"There must be more research to understand issues of disproportionality, as well as assurance and scrutiny around tactics like use of force and stop and search."
The comments came as around 4,000 protesters gathered in Birmingham as part of a Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstration, following on from another protest in London the day before.
The protesters on Thursday met in the city's Victoria Square holding placards emblazoned with the name of the movement and "no justice, no peace".
Several hundred people then headed to an area outside West Midlands Police's Lloyd House HQ, where many of them knelt or sat in the road with their fists raised.
The protest came after pockets of protesters clashed with police as thousands of people flooded into central London and abandoned social distancing for a BLM demonstration on Wednesday.
After a largely peaceful demonstration in Hyde Park, during which Star Wars actor John Boyega gave an impassioned speech, tensions later escalated outside Downing Street.
The Metropolitan Police said 13 people were arrested during the protests, which ran into the early hours of Thursday morning.
Mr Floyd died after a white officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck in Minneapolis on May 25, sparking days of protest in the US.
Demonstrations have taken place in areas including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, South Carolina and Houston, and some have included clashes between police and protesters, with officers recorded firing tear gas and rubber bullets on crowds.
At a memorial to Mr Floyd in Minneapolis on Thursday night, US civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton said he was more "hopeful today than ever" about the fight against racism after seeing marches in London and Germany.
Citing the Bible, he said: "I'm more hopeful today than ever. Why? Well let me go back. Reverend Jackson always taught me stay on your text, go back to your text Ecclesiastes - there is a time and a season.
"And when I looked this time, and saw marches where in some cases young whites outnumbered the blacks marching I know that it's a different time and a different season.
"When I looked and saw people in Germany marching for George Floyd, it's a different time and a different season. When they went in front of the Parliament in London, England and said it's a different time and a different season, I've come to tell you America, this is the time of building with accountability in the criminal justice system."
The memorial at the Frank J Lindquist sanctuary at North Central University was the first service to be held in the next six days across three communities where Mr Floyd was born, grew up and died, and was attended by celebrities, civil rights activists and politicians.
A small band and choir sang Goin' Up Yonder as mourners gathered.
After the service, Mr Floyd's body will go to Raeford, North Carolina, where he was born 46 years ago, for a two-hour public viewing and private service for the family on Saturday.
Finally, a public viewing will be held Monday in Houston, where he lived most of his life.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was "appalled and sickened" to see what happened to Mr Floyd, while chief constables from across the UK issued a joint statement saying they "stand alongside all those across the globe who are appalled and horrified".
An online-only rally is due to take place this Sunday, campaign group Stand Up to Racism said, with speakers to discuss "how we turn the new wave of anger over racism and injustice into an effective movement for change".