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Mark Duggan, State Violence and the Long History of British Propaganda

Yesterday’s verdict in the Mark Duggan case has sent shockwaves of anger and disbelief in communities across the UK. Ceasefire’s Adam Elliott-Cooper argues the case epitomises the enduring nature of systematic and institutional injustices at the heart of the British political establishment.

“The time is now ripe for HM Government to think how the Africans should be governed, and we are not fed up with British laws at all… But we really pray for well instructed Government officials who understand the Queen’s Government Laws”- Petition from the detainees of Embakasi Camp, Kenya, 1957

The above passage is from a petition letter sent by a group of Mau Mau detainees who were among thousands held in concentration camps by British colonial authorities in which torture and killing were routine. While the petitioners awaited their fate in the camps, the British colonial authorities spread propaganda warning British citizens against the dangerous Africans intent on murdering innocent British settler colonialists.

Reading it today, the Mau Mau members’ petition to Britain’s Commissioner of Prisons – and their earnest appeal to British law in the hope it could be enforced and thus bring the deaths camps to an end – looks patently absurd and naive in the extreme. And yet, after yesterday’s verdict in the Mark Duggan case, over a half a century later, investing faith in the British justice system seems to be as futile an act of misplaced faith as it was for the Mau Mau petitioners.

Mark Duggan’s killing by police in 2011 was responded to immediately by the state and corporate press. Showing contempt for the deceased, they reported a shoot-out that never occurred, a gangster lifestyle they had no evidence of and – in the words of Mark’s mother – an execution which police and press argued should be accepted without question.

The perception the police have of themselves and their power came into light during the inquiry. During cross-examination, a police witness was asked what lessons had been learnt after what went wrong on the day of Mark’s death. The officer paused, looking slightly confused, then shook his head and said:

“Gone Wrong? Well, from my understanding, the — it depends on how you see that because the operation was planned as expected”

The police suspected Mark Duggan of possessing a firearm, and for that they presumed guilt and assigned his punishment. Unbeknown to the public, his family or Mark himself, the decision had been made that his life should end. The police witness’s statement doesn’t merely suggest the police felt comfortable with the act of killing, it suggests they feel comfortable planning such an act, and consider that to be a legitimate plan of action.

Covering their tracks in the immediate aftermath by informing the IPCC, press and public that a shoot-out had taken place appeared to be an exercise in damage limitation, creating a false image and building on the propaganda already released in relation to Mark being a ‘known criminal’.

After the ground had been laid to present Mark as a danger to the public who should have expected to be shot by officers, the small detail of the facts were no longer of concern to the police, the public or indeed, the jury. Explaining how a gun, in a sock, neither of which had Mark’s DNA or fingerprints on them, were found 20ft away from his dead body on the other side of a fence would be difficult. None of the police witnesses, civilian witnesses or the taxi driver could explain how the gun could have got there.

Video evidence presented by a civilian witness showed, according to the coroner, a sergeant “directing officers to go and secure a gun which hadn’t yet been found”. While the sergeant claimed he had told officers to look for the gun, their statements revealed that they were told where the gun was, and that they were merely to secure it. The coroner went on to assert: “It is not a question of anybody being mistaken. It is something which is a direct contradiction here; there is that stark problem.”

Indeed, three police witness statements all contradicted each other, as they all claimed a different individual had found the gun. Sometimes they claimed they found the gun themselves. These contradictions are particularly curious, given that there is nothing stopping police witnesses from conferring with each other in order to ensure their witness statements corroborate one other.

In fact, many of the police witness statements were written by officers gathered together in a room, with another police officer supervising them – a practice which would be unheard of in a case which involved members of the general public, and indeed laughable if those members of the public were black men from a council estate in Tottenham.


daily alternative | alternative news – Mark Duggan, State Violence and the Long History of British Propaganda

By Adam Elliott-Cooper read more via Mark Duggan, State Violence and the Long History of British Propaganda | Ceasefire Magazine.


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