Banners and posters of dead loved ones adorned the walls and stage, the hall was crowded with stalls of books and DVDs and information on families and organisations campaigning on deaths in custody, films were shown and family members and campaigners gave speeches. And, in a grand finale to the evening, entertainment was provided by Yaz Alexander, Lennox Carty, The Trooperz, Genesis Elijah and The Broombusters – which went down a storm.
Priya Thamotheram, the manager of the Highfields Centre, opened proceedings by talking about the centre having a history as a base of community campaigns and how the Leicester Civil Rights Movement (LCRM), which will be celebrating its tenth birthday later this year, was established at the centre to meet the needs of vulnerable asylum seekers being dispersed to the area. Asylum seekers are still there and now, increasingly, experiencing destitution as a result of inhumane asylum laws.
The day marked what would have been the forty-fifth birthday of Mikey Powell, who died in September 2003 after being detained by police in Birmingham. Mikey, who was suffering from mental health problems, was knocked down by a police car, restrained with batons and CS spray and taken to Thornhill Road police station where he was found not to be breathing. In November 2009, an inquest jury found that Mikey died as a result of the position the police officers had placed him in the van.
Tippa Naphtali from the Friends of Mikey Powell Campaign for Justice and 4WardEver UK asked the meeting a simple question, ‘why are we here?’ He went on, ‘the people we pay are killing members of our families. They have a duty of care to people in detention.’
Jane Deighton, solicitor for the family of Mikey Powell, commended the inquest jury for having seen through the evidence presented by the police to bring in a verdict that had helped the family gain some sort of justice. The family of Mikey Powell, in turn, paid tribute to the hard work and support of their solicitor and barrister.