The man Tasered by Greater Manchester Police in front of his terrified child speaks about George Floyd’s brutal death in police custody in the US.

Floyd’s death has seen the US gripped with riots and peaceful protests, with many demonstrations in the UK showing solidarity with the civil rights movement in America.

A man who was Tasered in front of his child by Greater Manchester Police last month has spoken publicly about the death of George Floyd, saying “that could have been me” if the police were allowed to carry guns in the UK.

Desmond Ziggy Mombeyarara spoke at an online anti-racism rally organised by Stand Up To Racism in solidarity with the “Black Lives Matter” protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in the US while in police custody. At the rally last Sunday Mombeyarara reflected on managing the trauma of his five-year-old son, who had witnessed the GMP Tasering incident. “He had to witness an egregious event… me falling, me being pointed with a taser, the blood, the continuous tasering when I was on the floor.”

Mombeyarara said his son had told him he thought the police had killed him. “When they pointed the Taser at me, he does not know what a Taser is. He’s only five years old, he just assumed that was a gun, and when I fell to the ground he thought I was actually killed by them… It is a very painful thing you have to live with as a parent.”

On George Floyds murder Mombeyarara said:

“It is a sad situation, what happened in America, that a brother had to lose a life…. Someone lost their life and that video was very graphic… and when I look at that in hindsight, that could have been me, that could have been me.”

It was only because “in this jurisdiction [the UK] that you do not have guns,” Mr Mombeyarara reflected, that his situation had been different to George Floyd’s.

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Having reportedly pleaded guilty to a number of charges after appearing at Manchester Magistrates’ Court, including speeding, drink-driving, and unnecessary travel, Mr Mombeyarara admitted to having made “mistakes”, but said that “injustice” was “being peddled by the people we expect to protect us.” He went on to say:

“I do not want to sort of act as if I know I was in the right… but they [the police] try to make you out to be a monster… they actually sort of antagonise you to get a reaction and when they do so they know that power lies with them and then they can use them against yourself. You are just a subject to be trampled upon.”

Former Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott MP, appearing alongside Mr Mombeyarara at the rally, said the UK was not immune to the problem of state-sanctioned racism:

“All of the elements that have made the situation in the United States so combustible exist in the UK… the Covid death toll… the very high levels of unemployment we are about to see as a result of Covid, the intensification of austerity we are about to see and of course the history of police disproportionate use of force — they have made the situation in America combustible and that is what will make the situation here in the UK combustible.”

George Floyd mural in Manchester
George Floyd mural in Stevenson Square, Manchester

Nahella Ashraf, Co-chair of Stand Up To Racism Manchester, said the Covid-19 pandemic had laid bare the UK’s own problem of state-sanctioned racism, telling The Meteor:

“It is important that we stand in solidarity with our sisters and brother in the US in their fight for justice. We recognise that the institutionalised racism of the state that results in police officers killing black people with impunity in the US is the same institutionalised racism that means black people here in Britain are four times as likely to die from this [corona]virus.

“The British government likes to say we are at war with this virus. As antiracism campaigners, we know this is not the whole picture. It is this government’s decisions that has meant a disproportionate number of our black sisters and brothers have died.”

Speaking on behalf of the Northern Police Monitoring Project, Laura Connelly told The Meteor:

“We know that what happened to Desmond Ziggy Mombeyarara is not an isolated incident. Rather, it follows a national ramping up of the use of Conducted Energy Devices [tasers], and GMP seem to be leading the way.

“Home Office data shows that GMP reported more incidents involving CEDs than any other force in 2018-19, apart from the Met Police. And black people are 10 times more likely to have a CED used against them by GMP than their white counterparts.

“NPMP continues its fight against police brutality and racism, and continues to work towards the abolition of the police. We are currently organising within the Resistance Lab Coalition Against State Violence around the abolition of Tasers.”

Figures published by the Home Office last year for England and Wales show that black people were subjected to 12% of use-of-force incidents by the police in 2017-18, which is disproportionately high as black people make up 3.3% of the population. Use-of-force incidents is an umbrella term which includes the use of firearms, tasers, spit hoods and handcuffing. By contrast white people, experienced 73% of the 313,000 use-of-force incidents. White people constitute 86% of the population of England and Wales.

The same data set showed that police use of firearms on black people was proportionally higher with 26% of the total in 2017-18. With Tasers or AEPs (attenuating energy projectiles) black people were subjected to 20% of the total uses. White people were proportionately less likely to be subjected to the use of firearms (51%) and AEPs or Tasers (67%).

The online event came amidst peaceful protests that took place last weekend in Manchester to raise awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of George Floyd.

After footage of the incident involving Mr Mombeyarara and GMP went viral online, Labour BAME activists penned an open letter to Mayor Andy Burnham and Deputy Mayor Beverley Hughes demanding they meet with BAME groups and councillors to talk through the incident and assure BAME communities that Greater Manchester Police is meeting its Public Sector Equality Duty. The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has confirmed it has launched an inquiry into the incident.

Ekua Bayunu, a Labour activist who edited the letter, told The Meteor. “There has been no response from either Mayor Burnham or Deputy Mayor Hughes to the letter and they appear to be disinterested in the views and concerns of ordinary Manchester BAME activists.”

The organisation Stand Up To Racism held a day of action on Wednesday 3 June and there is a peaceful protest in Manchester city centre planned for 1pm on Saturday 6 June.

By Alex King

Featured image: Twitter

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  • Alex King

    Alex is a reporter at Planning Magazine. Prior to working there he was a freelance journalist specialising in climate, employment and politics. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, Politico, Novara Media, Tribune Magazine, The Bristol Cable, The Mill and Red Pepper. He also set up and co-manages Green New Deal Media, an independent media outlet based in Greater Manchester devoted to addressing climate breakdown.


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