Chris Thorley, Socialist Alternative (our sister organisation in England, Wales and Scotland)
On the evening of 5 September, Chris Kaba, a 24-year-old unarmed black man was shot dead driving through the streets of London. A single bullet had been fired through his windscreen by the Met Police’s specialist firearms department, piercing his skull and killing him instantly. Chris’ partner, to whom he was engaged, was due to give birth to their first child next year. The ensuing mass outrage was expressed in thousands-strong demonstrations across the city.
This brutal killing now joins a long list of extrajudicial killings at the hands of the Met Police – killings which have been disproportionately aimed at black men. Kaba now tragically joins the list which includes Mark Duggan, whose shooting in 2011 triggered revolts and protests across London, as well as Jean Charles de Menezes, gunned down in 2005.
The response of both the police and media to Chris’ death will be familiar to anybody who witnessed the events around the global Black Lives Matter movement. Now, as was the case then, the response from the state seems quite clearly to be one of misinformation and victim blaming.
Kaba’s family were kept in the dark by the Met until 11 hours after the shooting took place. The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) proceeded at a snail’s pace in responding to the killing. Four days passed before they agreed to open a homicide investigation. It took until 12 September – a week after the shooting took place – for the officer who fired the gun to be suspended.
But it would be wrong to describe this as a ‘step forward’ prematurely. Often officers facing suspension will be quietly transferred to different departments away from community scrutiny. Following the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes, not only did Cressida Dick not face justice for her role in leading the operation, but she was actually made Met Commissioner!
Of course, Dick’s role became much greater known in later years. Despite having being hailed by the capitalist establishment as a ‘trailblazer’ in being the first woman and the first LGBTQ+ woman to occupy her post, under her rule the Met remained absolutely saturated with racism and misogyny at every level. The decision to brutally crack down on protests in the wake of the murder of Sarah Everard (herself killed by a serving officer) threw the legitimacy of the institution into the air, causing Dick to stand down under significant pressure.
Under constant, round-the-clock coverage of the Death of Queen Elizabeth II and the accession of Charles III to the throne, Kaba’s killing has faced a disgraceful media blackout. It is a testament in fact to the cruelty of this capitalist system, which relies on violence, division and exploitation, that the peaceful death of a 96-year-old multi-millionaire with several palaces is considered more important news to the establishment press than the violent death of a black working-class 24-year-old.
When the media have covered the story, it has followed the typical pattern of trying to shift blame away from the police. One way they have done this is by dragging up old convictions for the victim and then behaving as if this somehow justifies them being executed by police. This is part of a clear pattern.
When George Floyd’s previous convictions were forced into the spotlight by the right-wing media in the US, the clear intention was to defend Chauvin’s crimes and delegitimise the mass anti-racist rebellion. Similarly, when black man George Nchenko was killed by the Irish Gardai (Police) on 30 December 2021, the racist right-wing threw up questions of George’s ‘criminal past’.
Now the same rotten games are being played in the case of Chris Kaba. First off, the Met tried to claim that Kaba was armed. After this was discredited they finally admitted after two days that he was not, nor was a firearm found in the car or in the vicinity of the chase. Then came the mention of a previous jail sentence he served at the age of 19. However, it is totally irrelevant what previous crimes Chris Kaba may or may not have committed.
Similarly, the fact that Chris Kaba ‘ran from police’ is not a justification for lethal force. Although police are supposedly trained to use lethal force as a ‘last resort’, it is almost certain that had Kaba not been black, he would almost definitely be alive today. He would have almost certainly been arrested had he been an unarmed white man, as opposed to an unarmed black man.
Despite the lack of media coverage, thousands marched in central London in protest against the killing. This did receive media coverage, although shamefully this was because Sky News anchor Sarah Jane Mee mistook the protestors for a crowd arriving to mourn the queen. Although this could have potentially been explained as a merely unfortunate mistake on Sky’s part, no clear apology was provided at all.
Black lives still matter – rise up against the racist system!
This case underscores most brutally how the state’s war on black lives still continues. The BLM mass movement showed the massive groundswell of outrage at this reality, not just among people of colour, but also large swathes of white working class youth determined to stand in solidarity with their black and brown brothers and sisters. Despite the movement ebbing, it is clear that struggles to defend black lives will continue going forward.
A new movement will need a clear strategy based on mobilising mass struggle and mass demonstrations to take the huge power of the racist capitalist state. It will require a clear, bold programme with socialist ideas at the forefront to not just challenge, but fully dismantle systemic racism and the wider system which breeds it.
- Justice for Chris Kaba! No faith in the ‘Independent’ Office for Police Conduct. For a genuinely democratic, transparent and community-led investigation, with full rights for Chris’ family to take part and lead the process
- Build demonstrations across the country for black lives! Organising assemblies should be formed, with community leadership and trade union involvement to fight for justice for Chris and all victims of police violence. Enough is Enough should also give its full support and endorsement
- Black people are ten times more likely to be stopped than white people. End use of stop and search immediately!
- Defend the right to protest – no trust in the police to keep us safe! We need to organise against aggressive policing such as charging crowds on horses, the use of kettling, tear gas etc. Protests must have elected stewards from the movement to democratically organise self-defence where needed.
- Disband the armed units of the police! Armed police on the streets and on protests needs to end, as well as the spying and infiltration by the police and ‘intelligence agencies’ into campaign groups and political organisations. We need a reorganisation of the police service, under democratic community and trade union-led control. This must include full powers over the hiring and firing of officers, to allow for a purge of known racists from police ranks.
- You can’t have capitalism without racism – we need system change! Capitalism cannot be reformed to remove inequality and oppression. We need a fundamental change in the way in which society is run – we need socialism, where wealth and resources are publicly owned and democratically planned collectively by workers and communities in the interests of the majority. Join Socialist Alternative