Benjamin Zephaniah on how Colin Roach’s death sparked a movement 35 years ago

Colin Roach
Colin Roach

source: Hackney Gazette
published: 23 January 2018

The death of Rashan Charles, and its aftermath, has tragic echoes of the case of Colin Roach. The 21-year-old was shot inside Stoke Newington police station 35 years ago, with the community convinced cops had a hand. Poet Benjamin Zephaniah was at the first protest after his death, he tells the Gazette.

Events surrounding the death of Colin Roach 35 years ago remain a mystery to this day. He died inside the foyer of Stoke Newington police station on January 12, 1983, from a single gunshot wound through the mouth.

Police officers said the 21-year-old had committed suicide. But his family and friends were suspicious because Colin was shot in the back of the head, and discrepancies emerged in police officers’ accounts.

Right from the start people believed something “fishy” was going on, and demonstrations were held outside the Stoke Newington High Street station soon after his death.

Poet Benjamin Zephaniah, who was a couple of years older than Colin when he died, attended the first one.

“The mood in the community at the time wasn’t just about Colin Roach,” Benjamin told the Gazette this week. It was about all the other cases of racial injustice taking place at the time, and he represented the extreme.

“There was a tangible feeling of: ‘Who is next? It could happen to me.”

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