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Sister of man who died in custody in Fife calls for virtual Floyd protests

Kadijartu Johnson’s brother Sheku Bayoh died aged 32 after being restrained by officers in Kirkcaldy in 2015.

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Kadijatu Johnson (right) and Adama Jalloh sisters of Sheku Bayoh (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Kadijatu Johnson (right) and Adama Jalloh sisters of Sheku Bayoh (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Kadijatu Johnson (right) and Adama Jalloh sisters of Sheku Bayoh (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The sister of a man who died in police custody in Scotland has urged those demanding justice for George Floyd to protest digitally due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kadijartu Johnson, who is a nurse, issued a joint statement with lawyer and campaigner Aamer Anwar, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and Labour MSP Anas Sarwar.

Her brother Sheku Bayoh died in 2015 aged 32 after being restrained by officers responding to a call in Kirkcaldy, Fife.

His family believes race played a part in his death and a public inquiry was announced by Mr Yousaf in November last year, with which Police Scotland pledged to “engage fully”.

Mr Anwar has previously drawn comparisons to the case with that of Mr Floyd, who died in police custody after a white officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25.

His death has sparked protests across the US and recent rallies in the UK, including Edinburgh.

The joint statement highlights UK Government statistics showing BAME lives have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19.

“We are united in our abhorrence at the scenes of racial injustice in the US and stand in complete solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement and those demanding justice for George Floyd,” it says.

“Like so many we want to stand in unity with millions across our planet to show solidarity with those protesting against racial injustice in the USA but also to support those challenging racial injustice and discrimination in Scotland.”

It adds progress on easing out of lockdown in Scotland is “fragile”.

“The rules in place are there to protect people’s health and ultimately people’s lives,” it says.

“Therefore, as long-term anti-racist campaigners we are still urging people to protest but to use the many other methods available at this time, including digital protests.

“We hope people will understand our position and explore other methods of demonstrating practical solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter.”

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Kadijatu Johnson and lawyer Aamer Anwar (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Kadijatu Johnson and lawyer Aamer Anwar (Andrew Milligan/PA)

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Kadijatu Johnson and lawyer Aamer Anwar (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Speaking separately from the statement, Ms Johnson said she will not be attending protests planned for Sunday.

“In as much as my family would like to be part of the demonstrations taking place on Sunday for Black Lives Matter, I believe that danger of the spread of coronavirus is still too great,” she said.

“As a staff nurse I know the deadly impact of the virus and I would worry about social distancing on the day and the lives of my family and other lives being put at risk.

“Sadly we cannot attend, nor will we encourage others to go because we believe a virtual protest would be far more effective and involve those unable to attend because of the risk.

“I hope that you will join our campaign, we have fought for five years for justice for my dead brother Sheku and believe Black Lives Matter is as relevant in Scotland.”

In a separate plea for people not to attend protests, Mr Yousaf said: “I fully understand and feel the anger and the sadness that leads people to want to gather together and to show solidarity and community at this time.

“Unfortunately, the threat of Covid-19 is still with us and I must urge people not to attend mass gatherings, which pose a clear risk to public health, even with social distancing in place.

“The Scottish Government advice is still that no more than eight people should meet at any one time, and for those people to be from no more than two households.”

He added: “I would encourage people to explore alternative ways to make their voices heard on this vital issue, including for example through social media and by engaging friends, families and work colleagues.

“I hope we will soon be able to gather together to show our solidarity.

“But until then we must continue to do what is necessary to protect the health of everyone, following the guidelines.”

Police Scotland assistant chief constable Kenny MacDonald echoed pleas for those protesting against Mr Floyd’s death not to gather in large groups and to use digital alternatives.

He said: “Like many people in Scotland, indeed across the world, I am shocked and distressed about the dreadful death of George Floyd and subsequent events in the United States.

“Racism in all its forms is disgraceful and unacceptable.

“Those events do not reflect our style of policing in Scotland and we continue to value the strong bond of trust with all our citizens and communities.”

He added: “We are engaging with any known organisers of planned events to provide such advice.

“Police Scotland will have an appropriate and proportionate policing plan in place for the coming weekend.”

PA