Sonia and Delroy Lindo: Still fighting police harassment

FRFI 154 April / May 2000

When Winston Silcott was framed for the killing of PC Blakelock in the Broadwater Farm uprising of 1985, his friend Delroy Lindo was instrumental in setting up the campaign to gain justice for Winston and has continued to campaign for his freedom ever since. The response of police in north London has been continuous, systematic harassment of Delroy and his family. FRFI spoke to Delroy Lindo and his wife Sonia.

DL: The Lawrence Report highlighted the racism which we all knew about, which black people feel on the road every single day. But at the end of the day I haven't seen any change: the police continue to pick on us for nothing, stop, search and arrest us, beat us up and subject us to excessive use of force. The only difference is that it's now easier to talk about it and, when we put campaign posters up, they stay up.

Once we were followed home by a group of police officers who had arrested us before. We had got off in that case, so they wanted revenge. Outside our home they put their sirens on, drew their batons and told us to get out of the car. They proceeded straightaway to handcuff us both. They told the neighbours they were doing a drug search, to justify what they were doing and assassinate our characters. I was thrown in the van. We were taken to the police station.

SL: We had already had to send our two younger children to my mother in America, because it was getting so bad. They were crying all the time and when they went to school teachers were phoning us about them. My younger boy would wander into the playground and try to get out to come back home because he was so worried about us.

So on that day, only our older son was there. And he was watching out the window the police attacking his mum and dad and dragging us into the van. He came out crying. I called out to him to go into the house and call his auntie to go and collect him. Before I could finish what I was saying, they dragged me into the van and I kept crying and saying 'Let me at least finish talking to my son' and I was shouting 'Tyrone, go in, lock the door'.

DL: And they didn't make any provisions for him with social services or anything, even though he was alone in the house. Sometimes the younger children have been there, too. This is a regular pattern. They have arrested me from my house, knowing the children are home, but they don't care. So what has changed?

SL: They charged Delroy with dangerous driving, threatening behaviour, failing to stop for a constable and me with breach of the peace.

DL: Like every other charge against us, all the charges ended in not guilty verdicts. At one point they said I'd driven down a road and made an oncoming bus swerve.

SL: We'd spoken to people and checked the bus maps and provided our solicitor with all the evidence that no buses go down that road. So the police went to fetch this inspector to try and confirm it, but he couldn't. They said that we had made this bus swerve and passengers were hurt and we had caused an old lady to nearly be knocked down and somebody else had been crossing the road, pushing a pram. And the police were asked where all these witnesses were, but not one was present. The only witnesses were police.

FRFI: What is happening to you began when you started campaigning for Winston Silcott. How much is it linked still?

DL: As soon as something happens with him, something happens to me. In December 1999, when there were full-page articles about Winston in The Guardian and The Observer, our son was racially attacked. We arrived on the scene at the same time as the police. As soon as the police saw it was us, they attacked us. They forgot about the attack on my son.

SL: I jumped out of the car and said to the man 'What are you doing to my son?' Delroy got out of the car too but went back to park properly and attend to the children who were in it. The policeman on the scene followed him, calling for back-up. By the time he got to the car there were nine police cars and one van.

Delroy was on the ground with a swarm of police around him like bees. I started to panic because I thought they were going to kill him. Then two police grabbed hold of my right arm and two grabbed hold of my left arm, and they said 'Arrest her too'. They were shouting at people, 'If you don't move out, we'll arrest you too.' The whole road was cordoned off. Our children were crying. Then I felt an enormous blow to my face. I couldn't see and I thought I'd lost my eye. Slowly I realised that I could still see and that the police had let go of me. I went to my car and locked myself in it with my children. I could feel my face swelling. They put Delroy in a van.

It took two hours to find out which police station Delroy was at. So we went there – to Tottenham – and when we arrived there was a crowd outside. There was a protest and National Talk Radio had phoned the police station to find out whether it was true that they had arrested Delroy Lindo, the campaigner for Winston Silcott. I was sitting in reception and I could hear the police on the phone to the journalist saying 'No comment'. Members of the Movement for Justice protested outside the police station and National Talk Radio interviewed me and people on the protest. All this time my face was swelling.

He was released at about 1am and the radio announced it. He was charged with two assaults on police and threatening behaviour. All three of us, including Tyrone, had to go to the Whittington Hospital for treatment and they told me my cheekbone was fractured.

FRFI: How do you deal with these constant attacks?

DL: The only thing that keeps me going is my wife's thirst for justice, my thirst for justice and the way we work as a team. At some point an individual would say 'I can't take no more'. But when one of us can't take it and has to rest the other one takes over for a while.

At first, I thought it was bad but inevitable. But it reaches a point when you say 'That's it – time to fire back.' We are taking a civil action against the police for the years of harassment and we are having a lot of marches and generating publicity.

We have also been supporting other people who face police harassment. We've been dealing with stop-and-searches. When we see them we jump out and ask why they are doing it and whether they are following the correct procedures. And we go to police consultative meetings and we ask questions.

SL: The last meeting we went with Mrs Sylvester and the Commander was saying that there have been ten murders in Haringay in the last year. Mrs Sylvester was very upset, so I said 'Excuse me, I am a bit confused here -– I believe that there have been 11 murders. What about Roger Sylvester?' He was so angry and said 'Roger Sylvester is not a murder, it is a death in custody.' When Delroy spoke he was warned that anything he said would be used as evidence against him in court.

DL: So I said 'Are you threatening me? Because I am not frightened and I am going to say what I have to say'.

SL: That meeting was held a week or so after a march we'd organised. When we got there a police officer asked us: 'Are there going to be a lot of people coming?' I said 'Well, it's not my meeting. I can't say'. When we left the meeting, I saw that they had mounted police out there and I thought 'Oh my god, that march really did affect them'.

Winston Silcott's conviction for the murder of PC Blakelock was overturned on appeal in 1991. However he is still serving a life sentence for the killing in self-defence of Anthony Smith. Last year he was awarded substantial compensation for the wrongful conviction but tabloid newspapers and the Police Federation continue to claim he is guilty and block his release.


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