Protesters demanding justice for Chris Kaba approach New Scotland Yard last week (Photo: SWNS)
The U.S. isn't the only country where police shootings of Black people are common. Chris Kaba is the latest victim of what UK police call a "hard stop."
This article was originally published in the Pluto Books blog.
Over the past week, people in Britain and the world have been educated or reminded of some of the most archaic rudiments of its constitutional monarchy. Some of the population mourned the monarch. Others were puzzled or pissed off as Premier League football bowed to national grief. Society’s diversions locked down again, though wage-labour and rent were deemed “respectful” enough to continue as normal. Meanwhile, cancer patients’ appointments and “ordinary” funerals were shunted aside for the pageantry of national mourning and a coronation designed to symbolise the passing of British sovereignty from one deceased human body into that of the son and heir.
Elizabeth II lived in the most extreme wealth and comfort imaginable. She died in one of her palaces at the age of 96. Her death was received by many with shock despite her advanced years. Three days earlier Chris Kaba was shot dead by a Metropolitan policeman in Streatham Hill. He was 24 years old but his state murder was treated as normal by many.
On the evening of September 5, Kaba was pursued by five police cars and a helicopter. The car he was driving, not his own, had been flagged by an Automatic Number-Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera, which indicated, the “Independent” Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) states, that the vehicle had been involved in a “firearms incident in previous days.”
This ambiguity was sprung upon by social media racists, assuming that ANPR systems only tag “criminals.” Kaba was hemmed in by police vehicles and shot dead through the windshield. Chris’ family said: “We are devastated; we need answers and we need accountability. We are worried that if Chris had not been Black, he would have been arrested on Monday evening and not had his life cut short.”
The circumstances of Kaba’s death strongly resemble the killing of Azelle Rodney in 2005. Also from London, also 24, also about to become a father to a child he wouldn’t live to meet, Rodney too was shot dead by Met police in a “hard-stop.” He was shot on sight, six times – four of those shots in his head. The final two shots that killed him had the calling card of a “double tap” execution.
Rodney’s body was left on the pavement for sixteen hours. It was another eight before his family were informed of his death. After a decade-long battle through the courts – a legal system designed to delay and torture families – the policeman who killed Rodney, Anthony Long, was eventually tried and ultimately acquitted of murder in 2015. This despite a 2012 inquiry where a high court judge strongly criticised Long’s conduct and stated that Rodney’s killing had no lawful justification. Long admitted he didn’t see a gun in Rodney’s hand but “believed” he had one, which is usually enough for judges and juries alike.
There is a historical pattern of hard fought for and painfully delayed inquests and inquiries criticising police only for officers to receive acquittals in court or prosecutions not to be brought at all. Azelle Rodney’s mother said her son “did not deserve to die…we do not have a death penalty in this country.”
With Chris Kaba, as with Mark Duggan (also unarmed and killed by police in a “hard-stop” in London, precipitating the 2011 uprisings), and the many other Black and racialised people killed by police, the work starts early in the press, in police statements, and now on social media, to paint a picture of the victims of state violence as people deserving of death, regardless of the circumstances.
The Institute of Race Relations, who have assiduously logged and documented racist killings for decades, note the persistent racialisation of Black people in Britain, colonial in origin, to explain the acts of officers: “The stereotypes that black men will be ‘mad or bad’ and if not prone to violence will be faking illness are still, judging from evidence at inquests, apparently behind police reactions.” James Trafford notes in The Empire at Home, in Britain in the 1970s (and beyond): “Black people were configured as axiomatically lawless, uncontrollable and outside the law, yet subject to its harshest implementation.”
No officer has been prosecuted for a death in custody since the killing of David Oluwale in 1969. Oluwale, who came to Britain from Nigeria in 1949 was hounded to his death by two cops who had persistently targeted him. His body was found drowned in the River Aire. In 2022, a blue plaque was put up to mark Oluwale’s life and the racism behind his death. It was removed (stolen) the night of its unveiling.
Fifty years before Oluwale’s murder, Charles Wootton, a seaman from Bermuda who served in the British navy during World War One, was chased by police and a huge white mob in Liverpool. Wootton was forced into the Queen’s Dock and pelted with rocks and racist insults until he drowned.
Like Kaba and Rodney, Wootton was 24 when he was murdered. The mob spirit that day had begun with white seamen attacking Black seamen, as happened at sea ports across Britain in 1919.
State violence, disproportionately inflicted upon people of colour, by police as well as in prisons and psychiatric settings, is one of the most persistent features of British racial regimes. It was not ended by Labour governments and would not have been ended by a Corbynite manifesto promising thousands more police on the streets. It persists across changes in government and huge transformations in capital’s regimes of accumulation and exploitation, right across the seventy year reign of Elizabeth II and before it.
Forms of colonial policing deployed in Kenya, Malaya and elsewhere in the early years of her reign were adapted to a domestic context, particularly the policing of Black and Asian migrants and their children. Racialised people in Britain were spatially concentrated in cities, excluded from employment and policed by occupying armies run by men who cut their teeth in the North of Ireland or Palestine or Uganda, bringing counterinsurgency strategies home to Brixton, Toxteth and Handsworth.
The transposition of colonial counterinsurgency into racist policing at home has incited resistance in communities for decades. The idea that some ex-officer in the IOPC, or the IPCC before them, or the Police Complaints Authority or the Police Complaints Board before that, can deliver justice for the state’s bullets and batons is hardly believed today, if it ever was.
Yet it remains the only idea of justice on offer.
The state defers the justice demands of grieving families and communities to internal procedures that work to draw out and manage crises. We need only remember Mark Duggan’s community confronting Sir Mark Rowley in 2014, who has just been appointed as the new Met commissioner. After the officers that killed Duggan were acquitted, Rowley defended the professionalism of the operation: “We send out well-trained, professional armed officers thousands of times a year to combat this threat, only firing shots once or twice. These careful tactics have significantly reduced gun crime.” Rowley struggled to be heard above the jeers and anger of the community, who repeatedly shouted “murder.” Setting out his vision for the Met in 2022, Rowley declares, as if all is forgotten, “we will begin the journey of reform to renew policing by consent.”
“Policing by consent” is a British approach to policing that is supposedly “judged by ‘the absence of crime and disorder,’ and not by the visible prominence of policing itself,” but as “data-driven” modes of “predictive-policing” intensify, aggressive military-style operations become even more reliant on information-gathering framed as benign and community-orientated. The input of public relations agencies and policy think tanks continue to manage this contradiction. Coupled with an increasingly broader reliance on AI-driven database-building and the extraction of ANPR traffic data–data that led to the hard-stop of Chris Kaba– “neighbourhood policing” (i.e. community intelligence gathering) and “multi-agency approaches” (mandatory disclosure of information from school, prisons etc. for the purpose of police surveillance)–all disingenuous public relations terms –a grim picture begins to emerge of the insidiousness of modern day policing.
This approach seeks frictionless collaboration between public, local authorities and police. Electoral politics is the means to build consent from one part of the population for law and order reforms that intensify oppressive policing in areas where consent has been withdrawn. And even where consent has been withdrawn, there are efforts to recruit police from those communities, and fund representative structures and figureheads.
State “antiracism” has further emboldened the racist doublespeak of a Met that wants to “build trust” with the communities they oppress and surveil. What conscious role could communities have in how they are policed when they’re simultaneously subject to a dragnet of data-driven “predictive policing” which is supplying firearms officers with targets? 
“The renewal of policing by consent” will not only leave this infrastructure untouched, it will further entrench it. Just two years ago Rowley introduced a Policy Exchange report:
Reflecting back, I regret that when I was responsible for tackling gang violence in London I was not more assertive in publicly confronting those who are more focused on stop and search than they are on the concentration of crime in a few communities… we should have been bolder in what we said. 
As London grinds to a halt this weekend ahead of the Queen’s funeral, and Rowley swears his oath to the new King, Chris Kaba’s loved ones mourn and demand justice.
Chris Kaba was killed by the police and he should not have been. Nobody should be. Prosecuting and imprisoning individual perpetrators almost never happens, and even on the rare occasion when it does, it does not bring back to life those taken away by the state’s violence.
Abolitionist movements have to wrestle with the question: how can we ensure that this never happens again? And what does justice for Chris Kaba look like? It is critical that we think expansively and proactively. In Becoming Abolitionists Derecka Purnell writes: “Rather than thinking of abolition as just getting rid of police, I think about it as a way to create and support a multitude of approaches to the problem of harm in society.”
This ceaseless violence necessitates a mass withdrawal of consent and a movement for fundamental social change. There can be no justice for Chris Kaba in the world as it currently exists, so the world must be changed. Neither the police, the state, nor its class collaborators will do it. We have to.
The national day of action for Chris Kaba will take place on Saturday 17th September at New Scotland Yard (12pm) and multiple locations across the UK.
 Follow the journalism of Nadine White for updates on the case and the family’s demands, “Chris Kaba: Black people ‘terrified’ after fatal shooting of unarmend rapper by police“, The Independent
 See “Dying For Justice” by the IRR (2015)
 For a historical definition of “policing by consent” and consequences for abolitionist strategy and discourse see Mediocre Dave, Policing by Consent, https://abolitionistfutures.com/latest-news/policing-by-consent
 See “Policing by Machine“, published by Liberty
 Mark Rowley cited in Sophia Falkner, Knife Crime in the Capital (2021) Policy Exchange, 7
 Derecka Purnell, Becoming Abolitionists, Verso, p.127
Michael Richmond was a co-editor of the Occupied Times and of Base Publication. He has written for publications including OpenDemocracy, New Socialist and Protocols. He tweets @Sisyphusa.
Alex Charnley was illustrator and co-editor of the Occupied Times and of Base Publication. He tweets @steinosteino.