Six police officers were injured and four protestors arrested after a riot broke out in Forest Gate, in East London, on Sunday (June 25) over the death of Edir Frederico da Costa, a 25-year-old Portuguese father.
The young black man, whose girlfriend is pregnant with his second child, died six days after being stopped in a car by Met Police officers and arrested in East London.
He had been in the car with two other people in Beckton at the time and it is alleged officers used force and sprayed Costa with CS gas spray.
He fell ill shortly after and was rushed to hospital in critical condition, dying six days later.
Costa’s father, Ginario da Costa, told Lusa news agency that police stopped the car because they suspected it had been involved in a robbery.
He said that when officers asked to search the occupants his son resisted, saying he had done nothing wrong.
Witnesses apparently told Costa’s father that his son “fell to the ground and a policeman put a knee on his throat.”
The issue now centres on whether police did indeed use excessive force, and whether it was what caused the young man’s death.
Costa’s family claims they were told by his doctor that he suffered a series of extensive injuries, such as a broken neck, but the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said a preliminary postmortem suggested he had not.
“The preliminary postmortem found that Mr Da Costa did not suffer a broken neck or any other spinal injury during his interaction with the police. It found he did not suffer a broken collarbone or bleeding to the brain,” the IPCC said, adding: “Rigorous investigations into the cause of Mr Da Costa’s death are continuing, including into the use of force.”
The news sparked a wave of outrage, with many taking to the streets to demand “justice”.
According to the Sun, tensions spiralled in a clash at Stratford bus station yesterday afternoon before street fires were started and cars set alight after crowds marched to a police station just a mile away in Forest Gate.
Four people were arrested for offences including disorder, arson and criminal damage, while four of the six police officers that were injured had to be taken to hospital.
British media reports how the local borough commander Supt Ian Larnder stood in the middle of a group of protesters trying to answer their questions and calm tensions, with many aggressively pressing him about alleged police brutality.
“I am here because l care deeply about what is going on,” Larnder said.
“Police officers are all accountable to the law, they are being investigated … I genuinely feel for you. I will ring the IPCC and ask them ‘what are you doing?’”
When one of the campaigners asked if the officers involved in the incident were still working, he said: “I am pretty sure they have not been suspended but removed from operational duties.”
The Sun adds that Costa moved to Britain from Portugal in 1996 and was a dad to a young boy and was expecting a second child.
Meantime, a fundraising page has been set up to help with funeral and legal costs.