Tottenham's complex history highlighted in Black Lives Matter protests

The death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minnesota after a police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes has sparked protests across the world with many demonstrating against police brutality and racial inequality.

Mr Floyd's death has rung true with the experience faced by many today.

At anti-racism protests across the UK this week, peaceful protesters held up signs of black and ethnic minority (BAME) people whose deaths have been linked to the police, including Cynthia Jarrett and Mark Duggan, both who died in Tottenham.

The north London district has a long and complicated history with race relations.

Broadwater Farm riots

Following the death of Cynthia Jarrett, a black woman who died of a heart attack during a police search of her home on October 4, 1985, riots broke out on the Broadwater Farm council estate in Tottenham.

Those within the local community had become incensed by what was perceived as the unfair treatment of black people.

Tensions in the ethnically diverse community were already fraught due to a combination of local issues and the Brixton riots in south London, following the death of Dorothy Groce, a black woman who was shot by police during a search just a week earlier.

A night of rioting on October 6, 1985, saw violence break out as riot police tried to clear the streets.

Petrol bombs and bricks were thrown, while cars and homes were badly damaged during the melee.

It culminated in more than 50 police officers being injured and the murder of Pc Keith Blakelock, who was stabbed to death by some rioters.

The Broadwater Farm riots were highlighted by many of those who took to the streets during the Black Lives Matter protests this week.

Riot police in Broadwater Farm in 1985. Credit: PA

Mark Duggan’s death

A Handout photo from the family of Mark Duggan the man shot dead by police in Tottenham Hale. Credit: PA

Mark Duggan was shot dead by police in Tottenham in 2011.

The 29-year-old was shot and killed in Tottenham after armed officers intercepted the minicab in which he was travelling on the basis of intelligence that he was carrying a gun.

A handgun was later found about seven metres away from the minicab.

An inquest jury in 2014 found Mark Duggan was lawfully killed.

His death sparked riots in Tottenham and across the country.

Confusion has surrounded Mr Duggan's death for years and has had a lasting effect on both the local community and across the UK.

At protests in recent days, demonstrators carried handmade placards listing Mark Duggan and the names of others who have died in police custody or following contact with officers.

Many chanted “no justice, no peace, no racist police” and carrying signs which read “the UK is not innocent”.

Deaths in police custody

According to analysis of official statistics by Inquest, a charity which looks into state-related deaths, there have been 1,741 deaths in police custody, or following contact with officers, in England and Wales since 1990.

Of those who died, 14% were BAME which is proportionate to the population as of the 2011 census.

A fire rages at a building in Tottenham following riots in 2011. Credit: PA

Yet Inquest believes force is more of a factor in the deaths of BAME people in police custody, as opposed to them dying of natural causes or taking their own lives.

“BAME people die disproportionately as a result of use of force or restraint by the police, raising serious questions of institutional racism as a contributory factor in their deaths,” a report by Inquest said.

Then mayor of London Boris Johnson talks to people in Tottenham following Mark Duggan's death in 2011. Credit: PA

Stop and search

Black people were more than five times more likely to be stopped and searched in London than white people in 2018/19, figures show.

A greater proportion of those were searched under section 60, a power which does not require officers to have suspicion in order to search people.

In 2018, Tottenham MP David Lammy accused police of racial profiling and unfairly targeting young black men.

Last week, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, dismissed suggestion officers unfairly target black people amid accusations aimed at the force following George Floyd’s death and Black Lives Matter protests in the UK.

Ms Dick said there was a “distinction” between the US and the UK in terms of “history, its culture and policing models”.

She told ITV News: “I completely refute a suggestion that this is because the officers are targeting, for example, young black men.

“We're policing in areas where violence is high.

"We're trying to protect people.

"We are highly accountable, we're highly scrutinised.”

While distrust in police from the community may partially stem from stop and search, depravation in the area remains an issue.

  • 'I completely refute a suggestion that this is because the officers are targeting... young black men'

What is the makeup of Tottenham?

A report published by Haringey council showed that the borough is the fourth most deprived area in London and ranked 49th out of 317 local authorities in England.

The average wage of workers in Tottenham is around 20% lower than the London average, but house prices continue to rise.

In the last 10 years, house prices in Tottenham have almost doubled.

In 2010, the average house price was just over £223,000 in 2010, that figure now stands at £448,109, according to estate agents Foxtons.

Tottenham is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of London, with 38% of residents from BAME groups.

In the London borough of Haringey, in which Brent is in, more than 180 languages are spoken.

Investment and improvement have been welcome, with City Hall pledging £28 million to regenerate Tottenham and “lead the revitalisation of an area marked by decades of decline and scarred by 2011’s riots”.