- Created: Thursday, 21 July 2016 12:46
- Written by Claire Wilkinson
On Saturday 16 July, over 1,000 people marched through Liverpool city centre demanding justice for 18-year-old Mzee Mohammed who died at the hands of the police on Wednesday 13 July. The march was overwhelmingly young, black and working class, with lots of people there from the Liverpool 8 area where Mzee had many friends. RCG/FRFI supporters joined the demonstration where people called loudly for justice, transparency, answers, and, above all, an end to black deaths in police custody. Mzee’s death came at a time when Black Lives Matter demonstrations were taking place up and down the country.
Mzee had left his family home in the Kensington area of Liverpool at lunchtime on Wednesday. His mother Karla later reported that he was fit and well when he left the house, and that Mzee suffered from no pre-existing medical conditions. Yet shortly before 8pm, Mzee was pronounced dead at the Liverpool Royal Infirmary after being held in Liverpool One shopping centre, first by Liverpool One security guards, and then by police, who restrained a clearly unwell Mzee in handcuffs and face down on the ground in a public thoroughfare. A black activist filmed part of the incident on her phone, despite attempts by police first to prevent her from filming, and then to block her view of Mzee. She can be heard to say that she had a right to be concerned, given the history of black people in police custody in this country, and that she was going to document the incident.
The video shows several minutes of a barefoot and unresisting Mzee lying in a prone position, handcuffed and restrained despite appearing completely unresponsive, and surrounded by numerous police officers. Even when paramedics attend the scene, Mzee remains face down and in handcuffs. There is no attempt to put him in the recovery position or even to lay him on his back. The prone or face-down position is well known to cause positional asphyxia – restricted and ineffective breathing – which can lead to sudden death, as in the 2015 case of 31-year-old Sheku Bayou’s death at the hands of the police in Kirkcaldy. Multiple incidents of deaths from positional asphyxia in health care in recent years have led to many organisations now training staff to avoid using prone positions in restraint altogether.
Protesters on Saturday’s march passed through the main shopping areas of Liverpool before stopping at the point in Liverpool One where Mzee had been detained. There, family and friends remembered Mzee and demanded justice for him and his family. Afterwards, the march went back up through the city centre to St Luke’s Church where Mzee’s mother Karla said ‘You can’t take the memories, the pictures... my son was not an animal, he was a human being.’ She is demanding to know the exact circumstances of her son’s death, stating: ‘I believe that the police and security staff have questions to answer.’
Despite promises of swift justice from Merseyside Chief Constable Andy Cooke as well as, opportunistically, Liverpool’s Labour mayor Joe Anderson, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) reported that the results of the post mortem examination on Mzee had been ‘inconclusive’ and that further tests would have to be carried out. The IPPC’s independence’ is extremely questionable and its usual role is to defuse opposition, ensure that investigations take an interminable length of time and then issue reports which cover up for the police.
Justice for Mzee Mohammed must be fought for by black and working class people, throughout Merseyside and beyond.