“Who killed Mark Duggan? The police killed Mark Duggan,” demonstrators chanted at a protest in London over the weekend.
Duggan was 29-year-old black man who was shot dead by an unidentified Metropolitan police officer in Tottenham, North London, during his attempted arrest on Aug 4, 2011. While protests were initially peaceful, the days that followed saw some of the most extensive rioting in modern British history.
“The images of violence — with hundreds of youths looting shops, setting businesses ablaze and clashing with police in almost a dozen neighborhoods — deeply shocked Londoners, dealing the city an enormously damaging blow,” The Washington Post’s Anthony Faiola wrote at the time. The unrest soon spread to other cities, including Birmingham and Manchester.
Prime Minister David Cameron faced pressure at the time to bring in the army, as police reported nearly 3,000 arrests and five deaths in connection with the nationwide rioting — a trajectory of events with which today’s protesters have found resonance.
Police claimed they believed Duggan was carrying a gun and acted in self-defense at the time, while his grieving family have always maintained he was executed. Last year, the family settled their damages claim against the police force for an undisclosed figure.
“Instead of putting my son on trial they shot him, not once but twice,” Duggan’s mother, Pamela, told the Guardian in 2014 after an inquest into his death ruled he was lawfully killed, although the jury found that while he may have been armed earlier he was unarmed and surrounded by police officers when he was shot.
“My son was a living human being until the police got hold of him,” she said.
On Wednesday, British police issued a statement saying they stood with those “appalled” by the death of Floyd, and that “justice and accountability should follow.” In the statement, constables across the country acknowledged that “policing is complex and challenging and sometimes we fall short."
Activists also invoked the name of Sean Rigg, who died in 2008 after he was restrained by police officers and put face down into the prone position for seven minutes.
Rigg, who suffered from schizophrenia and had been living in mental health facility, died at Brixton police station after pressure was applied to his back and neck.
“All I could think about was Sean, because that’s exactly what they did to him,” Rigg’s sister, Marcia, told Elle magazine, describing her reaction to the video of Floyd’s death. “I was mad as hell,” she said.
Floyd’s death sent shock waves around the world, sparking rallies in cities across Europe as activists spoke out against systemic racism and inequality. Viral footage of the 46-year-old’s last moments prompted Britain to confront its own history of police brutality and its impact on the black community. A similar reckoning has begun to occur in the wake of the killing of Floyd.
“The outrage feels different,” 23-year-old protester Victoria Monari told The Post after attending the solidarity demonstrations in London’s Trafalgar Square last weekend. “The George Floyd video has made everyone feel something. There is this level of collective grief."
Monari, who was born in Kenya and moved to London 10 years ago, said that racism exists on British soil just as it does in other countries. “We have an injustice problem and we have a much longer way to go, so the protests are vital,” she said, adding that she was heartened to see Americans take a stand after centuries of oppression.
“I’ve never been prouder to be black right now,” she said.