Black people suffer police brutality in the UK, George the Poet tells Newsnight

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A poet who was interviewed about the politics of race on the BBC’s Newsnight programme this week insisted there were parallels between the riots in the US following the death of George Floyd, and black deaths in custody in the UK over a number of years.

George Floyd died in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes during an arrest. His death has resulted in protests and riots across the US, and demonstrations worldwide.

During the Newsnight interview, Maitlis suggested that the UK had not experienced the height of racism and police brutality seen in the US.  “You’re not putting America and the UK on the same footing … our police aren’t armed, they don’t have guns, the legacy of slavery is not the same,” she said.

The spoken word artist replied with the names of a number of black British men and women who have been subjected to police brutality in recent years. ‘If it’s not the same then you have to explain to me why Julian Cole is not an exception, what happened with Nuno Cardoso, what happened with Edson Da Costa, what happened with Sarah Reed who died under very similar circumstances with Sandra Bland in the American context,” he said.

“This is contemporary, when you talk about the history of race relations, you have to consider the role of the British empire, as I’ve spoken about extensively, on the African content. The political and economic consequences of that interaction.

“I hope this is a learning point for many people who think along the lines that you just expressed, that this is an American and not a British issue.”

Earlier in the interview, George, aka Cambridge graduate George Mpanga, talked about the case of his childhood friend Julian Cole who was left with a broken neck and spinal cord injury after being restrained by police during an arrest in 2018.  Julian, a university student and talented athlete, was severely brain damaged and almost completely paralysed as a result of the incident.

Last year on his BBC podcast George said he turned down the offer of an MBE because of the “pure evil” perpetrated by the British empire.



◄ 'Poetry is a conversation, not a proclamation – it can’t happen in a vacuum': Elizabeth Rimmer

Kate Tempest, Manchester, 2014 ►


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