Funeral of man whose death sparked English riots

AFP , Friday 9 Sep 2011

Mourners attend the funeral of Mark Duggan, the man whose death triggered the London riots, as the police increase the number of officers in London

Mourners embrace as the funeral cortege carrying Mark Duggan arrives at the New Testament Church of God, in Wood Green, north London (Reuters)

Mourners attended the funeral on Friday of the man whose death at the hands of armed police sparked riots across London and other cities in England in the worst unrest for decades.

The funeral of Mark Duggan took place near the Tottenham district of north London amid lingering tensions over the circumstances of his death.

Relatives were expecting more than 1,000 mourners to pay their respects after the cortege left the church and made its way through the ethnically mixed Broadwater Farm housing estate in Tottenham before a private burial.

Duggan's coffin, in a white carriage pulled by four white horses with plumes on their heads, was adorned with flowers spelling out the words "grandson", "son" and "dad".

An increased force of around 10,000 police was on duty across London in case the tensions of the funeral boiled over to other parts of the capital.

Duggan, a 29-year-old father of four children, was travelling in a taxi which was apparently stopped by a police unit investigating armed crime in the black community.

Initial reports that he had opened fire on police were dismissed by ballistic tests which showed that a bullet which lodged itself in one officer's radio was of a kind issued to police.

A non-police issue handgun, converted from a blank-firing pistol to one that shoots live rounds, was recovered close to the scene of the death.

In a statement handed to journalists before the funeral service, senior pastor Bishop Barrington Burrell said Duggan's death was "still a mystery" which had raised "grave questions".
He said that while "angry responses" may be understandable, the ensuing riots were "unjustifiable".

The churchman also took issue with the government's hardline response to the violence, including proposals to remove the social benefits from the families of convicted rioters.

"I do believe that drastic remedial measures need to be taken as a matter of urgency, in order to restore some degree of sanity to our society," he said.
"The government should be absolutely aware that proposals to withdraw benefits from convicted rioters or their parents may only heighten the problem."

The tensions between the police and the black community could only be resolved with a shift in thinking, he added.

"On the one hand the police respectively need to change their attitude towards the black community and the black community also needs to change their attitude in response to the police."

On the eve of the funeral, Duggan's brother Shaun Hall, 42, accused officers of operating a "shoot-to-kill policy", questioning why police had shot him in the chest rather than another part of the body.

Duggan's family have rejected suggestions he was embroiled in gang violence. His mother Pam Duggan, 53, described her son as a "loving boy with a good heart".

A peaceful protest against his death on 6 August, two days after the shooting, descended into riots in Tottenham, with shops looted and business premises and flats burned to the ground.
The violence was the touchpaper for riots to break out across London before disturbances spread to other cities including Birmingham and Manchester.

Across the country, five people were killed and hundreds of shops were looted, with some set alight.

A police watchdog probe into the death of Duggan, who grew up close to the scene where a policeman was hacked to death during riots in 1985, is expected to last up to six months.

A Tottenham lawmaker, David Lammy, said the dead man's family was "left floundering" by the police investigation and a "lack of communication" between the police and relatives "did not help".

Scotland Yard said: "The IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) has not concluded and is likely to take some months before they have collated all of the evidence and produced their final report and conclusions.

"We have met with Mr Duggan's parents. In line with the family's wishes, the policing will reflect the family's desire for a local, peaceful and dignified funeral."

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