The family of Sheku Bayoh has called for public support at a vigil to be held on the day an inquiry into his death begins.
In a message released seven years to the day after he died while being arrested by police officers in Kirkcaldy, Bayoh’s sister Kadi Johnson said her brother had been “criminalized, stereotyped and smeared.”
Bayoh died aged 31 while being taken into police custody on May 3, 2015. A post-mortem found he had multiple injuries.
Johnson and the family’s lawyer Aamer Anwar have asked supporters to gather at a peaceful vigil to be held in Edinburgh next week in Festival Square – at the start of a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Bayoh’s death.
In a video shared on Twitter Johnson, who has fought tirelessly for answers following her brother’s death, said: “Four officers confronted Sheku as he walked open-handed and unarmed down the road.
“Why did they not de-escalate the situation? When they put my brother’s body in the ambulance he was still shackled like a slave.
“He was criminalised, stereotyped and smeared.
“We the family need your practical support to continue to raise awareness and we hope you will attend the first of many peaceful vigils.”
Sierra Leone-native and father-of-two Bayoh had moved to Scotland five years prior to his death and was training to be a gas engineer.
Officers surrounded him after members of the public called 999 reporting a man with a knife in the street.
He was then restrained by a number of officers and lost consciousness. Cops tried to revive him but he was pronounced dead at hospital.
The death in custody sparked a furious response from Bayoh’s family and an investigation by police watchdogs, but Scotland’s top lawyer the Lord Advocate ruled that none of the officers involved would be prosecuted.
However, the Scottish Government later announced the public inquiry, chaired by retired judge Lord Bracadale, that will begin on May 10.
The probe will seek to establish exactly how Bayoh died, how investigations were carried out afterwards and whether police actions were influenced by his race.
Despite having not yet begun the inquiry has already courted anger after police chiefs unsuccessfully fought to protect cop witnesses from prosecution earlier this year.
Lawyer Aamer Anwar, who represents Bayoh’s family, has praised the family’s resilience in their ongoing fight for justice.
He said in the social media clip: “I never knew Sheku Bayoh. He wasn’t a rich man or a powerful man with lots of connections.
“But he had a stubborn family – all of whom have refused to be patronized, bullied, lied to or silenced.
“Six police vehicles at Kirkcaldy Police Office responded to an alert following calls from members of the public.
“We know that within 42 seconds of the first police officers being on the scene that Sheku was face down on the ground. He lost consciousness and he died.
“Sheku’s body was covered with multiple separate injuries: bruises, cuts, lacerations and a broken rib.
“A public inquiry is due to take place starting on Tuesday 10 May in Edinburgh.
“The dead cannot cry out for justice, but it is the duty of the living to do so for them.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.