From Texas to Tottenham. A journey of around 5,000 miles and not much obviously in common. Until last week.
On Thursday 7 July I saw the film The Hard Stop, while across the pond, five police officers were killed and several more officers and civilians were wounded by a lone gunman on the streets of Dallas.
The gunman allegedly expressed anger at the killings of black men by police, and mentioned Black Lives Matter. Yet his actions overshadowed that campaign’s peaceful demonstration and have sparked a new and potentially violent phase of race relations in the United States.
It was another peaceful demonstration outside the police station on Tottenham High Road that immediately preceded the riots of August 2011. The demonstration was in response to the shooting of Mark Duggan, following the ‘hard stop’ manoeuvre carried out by officers on the taxi he was travelling in. And this is more or less where The Hard Stop begins.
In this case too, what followed overshadowed the legitimate actions of family, friends and supporters in going to the police to ask for answers. In the film, we learn how loss, pain, generational mistrust of the police and lack of communication set in motion a chain of events that went national, leading to the 2011 England Riots.
‘They wanted to show who the real Mark was.’
The documentary outlines how the portrayal of Mark as a ‘gangster’ was quickly fuelled by the biased coverage of his death. The Duggan family is still seeking justice nearly five years later, after the inquest into Mark’s death ruled that he had been killed lawfully.
Kurtis and Marcus – the main protagonists of the film – were close friends of Mark Duggan. They say they wanted to show who the real Mark was. The Broadwater Farm Estate was where the three friends grew up, and those days are talked about with fondness and pride.
What struck me most was the extent to which Kurtis and Marcus opened up, let us into their lives, shared their fears and struggles, laughed at themselves. It was refreshing and endearing. I don’t feel like I know much more about Mark Duggan’s life directly, but I understand a lot more about his friends. And I like what I see, in terms of the change they are trying to be in the face of considerable adversity.
The Hard Stop is an important film about Tottenham, black communities and the police, and it couldn’t be released at a more relevant time.