Sheku Bayoh inquiry: We are in this for the long haul, says family lawyer

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Supporters of Sheku Bayoh’s family have taken the knee outside a public inquiry investigating the circumstances surrounding his death.

The group gathered outside the venue where the inquiry is taking place, as members of the 31-year-old’s family arrived to watch the proceedings.

Sheku Bayoh’s mother, Aminata Bayoh, and his sister, Kadi Johnson, arrived on Tuesday morning to chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “No justice, no peace, no racist police” from about 50 protesters.

The protesters had gathered outside Capital House in Edinburgh, where the inquiry is being held, before evidence was heard from officers who restrained Mr Bayoh, including former PC Nicole Short.

Sheku Bayoh inquiry
Former PC Nicole Short (front, centre) arrives at Capital House in Edinburgh for the public inquiry into Sheku Bayoh’s death (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Present with the family was their lawyer, Aamer Anwar.

He died in police custody after officers received calls from the public about a black man acting “erratically” and carrying a knife in Kirkcaldy on May 3 2015.

The hearing got underway earlier this month and Mr Aamer has estimated it could last two to three years.

Speaking about Mr Bayoh’s family, Mr Anwar said: “They have been fighting for justice for some seven years now and this struggle is not over.”

The lawyer told supporters: “When Sheku died in police custody seven years ago, he was a 31-year-old man, he was unarmed which we know is factually correct.

“He was walking down the street, police had been called to an incident after they received reports that a black man had been acting erratically and carrying a knife.

“When the police arrived, Sheku was unarmed.

“People talk about George Floyd. George Floyd had one police officer restraining him. People should know that up to seven police officers were involved in the restraint of Sheku Bayoh.

“His family at the time, didn’t ask for anything special. They asked for justice. Justice should be a right and not a privilege.

Sheku Bayoh inquiry
Sheku’s mother Aminata Bayoh has been attending the inquiry into the death of her son (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“The family spoke some two weeks after Sheku died. They refused to speculate and they always said if Sheku broke the law then the police had a right to act, but any force used had to be reasonable, legitimate and proportionate.

“His family then began a campaign for justice. And some four years later, they were denied that justice by the Lord Advocate and they were told there would be no charges brought. Five years later that was confirmed when the Government announced the inquiry.

“The family are asking for this inquiry to be robust, to be impartial and to deliver the truth to this family because they know without truth, they will never get justice.

Sheku Bayoh inquiry
Protesters and supporters of the Bayoh family took the knee outside the inquiry venue (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“Our justice system in this country likes to talk about being colour blind. As far as Sheku Bayoh’s family is concerned, the colour of his skin, his blackness was used as a weapon. It was seen as a weapon. We are in now for the long haul. This inquiry is expected to last two to three years. Today is a critical day.

“If we march for George Floyd, if black lives actually matter in Scotland then it requires all those hundreds if not thousands of people who turned up for George Floyd.

“They have been fighting for justice for some seven years now and this struggle is not over.”

Sheku Bayoh inquiry
Kadi Johnson (left) and Aminata Bayoh arrive with family lawyer Aamer Anwar (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mrs Bayoh thanked the protesters for coming to show solidarity with the family ahead of the evidence being heard.

Penny Gower, from Stand Up to Racism Edinburgh, said: “We were so shocked at the death of Sheku Bayoh we got together with the family there and we set up Stand Up to Racism in Edinburgh seven years ago so we have been on a long journey and there have been far too many deaths and injuries on the streets of Edinburgh, which is not the image that the tourists see.

“What has been amazing throughout is the dignity of the family of Sheku Bayoh. They have picked the wrong family because they never gave up. They have stood up time and time again.”

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