Protestors demand answers over death of young man arrested in Cardiff

Events in Cardiff yesterday brought the protests following George Floyd's death sharply back to mind, writes Raoul Walawalker

George Floyd

If the protests that began last May following the death of George Floyd started to seem distant, events in Cardiff yesterday brought them sharply back to mind.

Hundreds of protestors gathered outside Cardiff Bay police station following conflicting reports over the death of a young black man hours after he’d left the station on Saturday.

A large protest also took place outside Cardiff Central Library.

His death followed a call to South Wales police on Friday night to a property in the Roath area of Cardiff following a report of a disturbance. Not long after the call, 24-year-old Mohamud Mohammed Hassan was arrested on suspicion of breach of the peace, according to Wales Online.

He was released without charge early the following morning. After returning home, Hassan died that evening, and two conflicting accounts of his death emerged.

According to South Wales police, his death has been ‘sudden and unexplained,’ with ‘no signs of misconduct or excessive force.’

But this assessment is strongly contradicted by that of Hassan’s aunt, Zainab Hassan, who says she saw him only an hour after his release and that he was covered in ‘wounds and bruises,’ none of which she’d seen on him before his arrest. Other witnesses reportedly seeing blood on his tracksuit along with wounding to his mouth.

Following Hassan’s death, South Wales police referred the case to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). Its director for Wales, Catrin Evans, said: “We will be urgently examining the extensive relevant CCTV footage and body-worn video. Accounts will be gained from the officers involved, and we will be seeking to speak to a number of witnesses to the police attendance on Friday evening and to Mr Hassan’s movements on Saturday after leaving custody.

“An interim report from a post-mortem examination is awaited. Preliminary indications are that there is no physical trauma injury to explain a cause of death, and toxicology tests are required.”

Relatives and friends have said that Hassan had recently married and was a father-to-be. A Go Fund Me campaign has been launched and has already raised £37,000 to help the family with funeral and legal costs.

Hundreds reportedly gathered in Cardiff yesterday, calling for ‘justice and answers.’ Wales’ first minister Mark Drakeford also described the case as of ‘deep concern,’ with an investigation now critically awaited.

The protests yesterday, despite toughening lockdown rules and peak infection rates, were a reminder of the protests that began in the UK in late May following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

At that time, the UK government seemed initially quite genuinely surprised. While not denying outright that racism also exists in the UK, Boris Johnson at first implied it was historic, and highlighted the ethnic-background diversity among his Cabinet members. He also argued that racial violence and murder committed by police officers was a feature or the US rather than the UK.

Families of victims, activists and lawyers would disagree, pointing not only to a disproportionately high number of men from non-white backgrounds being taken into custody, and also the disproportionately higher number of deaths occurring in the process, with cases like those of Sheku Bayoh, Christopher Adler, Sean Rigg, Rashan Charles and Darren Cumberbatch to name some.

Following complaints also of the disproportionately higher number of Black or ethnic minorities being subjected to stop-and-search by police, the IOPC launched an investigation last July into whether or not police across England and Wales are institutionally racist.

The IOPC, itself, has also faced criticism, partly for the slowness of its investigations, and for the notable lack of success in prosecutions against the police. The United Families and Friends Campaign, which comprises relatives of those that have died in custody, is one of the campaign groups that has called for it to be overhauled.

With a post-mortem underway yesterday, further information should be announced soon. Meanwhile, the family of Hassan has said that it will be fighting for justice.

Raoul Walawalker is a feature writer at ImmiNews, part of an organisation of UK and Ireland immigration lawyers.

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