By Linn Washington Jr.
Marchers protesting police brutality in London roughed up by police
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London -- For a dozen years they had marched peacefully to the street containing the residence of Britain's prime minister, asking the current occupant of #10 Downing Street to investigate the scourge ripping at the soul of this nation.
That scourge is the thousands of suspicious deaths occurring while in the custody of British police, in British prisons and in British mental health facilities.
Eight persons died in police custody just during the first nine months of 2011, according to official British government statistics. That's more than double the custody deaths last year.
One of those deaths involved a 49-year-old reggae music singer who police claimed had committed suicide by plunging a butcher knife into his heart while making tea in his kitchen, allegedly for officers who were in his house conducting a drug investigation.
That knife contained no fingerprints of the dead singer.
This year, on their thirteenth march to Downing Street the demonstrators endured, for the first time -- the very thing they were protesting against: abuse by police.
This year police responded to this annual march by the United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) by roughing up some demonstrators, and by denying them their desire to simply pin their demands to the gate blocking entrance to Downing Street as they've done without incident in past years.
"That the families of those who have died in custody can be treated in this way is an outrage," wrote Lee Jasper, a respected social justice activist who served as the head steward for the latest march, on his blog .
UFFC personnel at the protest march passed out a broadsheet containing the names of 3,180 individuals compiled by UFFC as having died suspiciously since 1969 while in the custody of police, prisons, psychiatric units and immigration detention centers throughout Britain.
"Too many have died in questionable circumstances," stated a message on that broadsheet. "Too many killed unlawfully"and pitifully too few held to account for the deaths of those we name here."
Jasper criticized London's conservative Mayor Boris Johnson and the capital city's new Police Commissioner Hogan Howe for the aggressive policing. Jasper served as the policy Director for Policing and Equalities for the mayor Johnson replaced in 2008.
Jasper, blasting police for attacking peaceful protesters, including children and the elderly, characterized police-black community relations as being at a "historic low," and he warned that the police fracas during that protest march will make an "already bad situation much worse."
The fatal police shooting of Mark Duggan in August 2011 ignited days of rioting that rocked London and other British cities.