8th May 2021

On the tragic death of George Nkencho

The killing of George Nkencho has created huge debate and wave of reaction on social media. Leaving aside the outright hate messages, we have been asked about our stand on this tragedy that we like to respond to.

We issued our first statement on 31 December 2020, the day after the incident. You can read it on our Facebook page.

It said,

We extend our sympathy to the family of George Nkencho, a young Black man shot dead by the Gardaí and we stand in solidarity with to the community in Blanchardstown.

People are in shock and want answers.

More than a dozen trained Gardaí were at the scene. Instead of de-escalating the situation as they have done numerous times before, the young man was fatally shot. This did not need to happen. No one needed to die.There are reports of George Nkencho having a history of mental illness. Why were there no social-psychological support resources available that could have helped de-escalating the situation. The man was seen walking towards his home, followed by Garda cars. Could some time and space not be given to help the situation?

There are lots of questions.

The death of George Nkencho was a huge shock to the community in Blanchardstown and elsewhere, especially to the Black people in this country.Our statement was a clear expression of solidarity with the mourning Nkencho family and the wider community in Blanchardstown.

We have also raised valid concerns that were in many peoples’ mind and we asked for answers.

George was dead within 30 minutes of the Gardaí arriving to the scene at the Eurospar.

Shortly after the news of George Nkencho’s death and the start of the protests by the Black community, social media was full of racist and very hostile reaction. There was no humanity and decency in the posts circulated by thousands of accounts, many hiding behind the anonymity of Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.

Some of this response was undoubtedly based on the misinformation that was being circulated.

These attacks were happening in a number of ways:

1. SPREADING LIES ABOUT GEORGE NKENCHO

There were deeply racist lies circulated about George Nkencho which were extremely disturbing for his family and friends.

Lie 1: George Nkencho had 32 previous convictions – he had none

Lie 2: George Nkencho was out on bail because he attacked his girlfriend with a hammer. This was totally untrue

Lie 3: He had a machete – He had a kitchen knife.

Lie 4: He slashed the face of a shop worker – and there are pictures to prove it. The picture was a fake. George Nkencho punched a shop worker – and this was totally wrong. He never slashed anyone’s face with a knife.

Lie 5: George Nkencho was a thug. Nobody condones his actions but he was not a thug, He had a history of mental illness.

2. TARGETING THE BLACK COMMUNITY IN BLANCHARDSTOWN AND ELSEWHERE

There were serious levels of racism directed at the community in Blanchardstown and Black people in general.

3. TARGETING PUBLIC REPS and ORGANISATIONS SUCH AS UNITED AGAINST RACISM

Principled public reps and organizations that expressed solidarity with a mourning mother and siblings and asking reasonable questions were attacked by hateful posts. There were many posts of solidarity and genuine questions, respectfully discussing the matter but the overwhelming majority of responses were hate messages.

We thank the principled public reps for their stand.

As we expressed in our first statement, standing in solidarity with the mourning family, regardless of the circumstances of the death, is most basic human decency.

Asking questions and raising serious concerns about the circumstances of this killing is not jumping the gun but standing firm on human and civil rights.

When vile racist lies are circulated to attack a dead man (who can’t defend himself anymore) and his community, standing up to racism is an important duty for us.

Whether it is recognized or not, Black people have racism as an ongoing reality in their lives, both street and institutional racism. And when it comes to institutions, there have been many issues on resources, training, mental health and indeed discrimination and racism.

As seen on RTÉ PRIME TIME, (7 January) recommendations going back to 2009 are still not implemented.

Dr. Lucy Micheal wrote in Irish Examiner

The questions raised by this case also include whether garda training on bias is sufficient to address the interplay of racial stereotypes, mental health concerns and risk assessment in policing which have been the subject of political inquiries in other countries, such as the Bradley Review in the UK a decade ago.

Those judgments on threat may be based in biases that perceive some ethnic minority groups, particularly people of African descent, as more aggressive, particularly in the course of mental health problems. Policing of Black communities worldwide suffers from this bias problem, as do investigations into lethal force by police.

Police services rarely acknowledge these biases, nor do those bodies that investigate them. The intersection of race and mental health issues here is key.

The speakers at the rallies have expressed their disappointment with what happened at the Eurospar shop. Nobody condones the actions of George Nkencho but they have also spoken about their real life experiences of racism.

We in UAR have a proven track record of standing up to racism and building networks of unity and solidarity. Why would our response be any different now, given what has happened immediately after the death of George Nkencho.

It is not a danger to our society that organisations such as United Against Racism are standing in solidarity with people of colour and any other victims of racism. But it is a grave concern for all of us that within a number of days tens of thousands of racist lies being shared. The poison of racism is a danger for all of us.

The community wants justice and meaningful change in state institutions, especially in the Gardaí. Proper justice, transparency and equality is not always guaranteed. Protests are a form of putting democratic pressure on political rulers and institutions to achieve justice and bring about change.

Ireland has many examples of change by people power!Supporting protest, by taking care of COVID19 safety measures, social distancing and masks etc. is not a disruption to our society but a push for fairness.

As our principles say, our main focus is to campaign against racism but we are also opposed to all other forms of oppression and discrimination including sexism, anti-trans discrimination, homophobia, discrimination against the disabled, people with mental health difficulties and religious minorities. We stand in solidarity with groups, movements and campaigns working to oppose all these forms of oppression.

In the world of Trumps and dangerous far-right lies, we are proud to express our solidarity with the #JusticeForGeorgeNkencho campaign and with the Nkencho family.

And, as we said before, we wish a speedy recovery to the injured shop manager.

We are clear on our actions: Peaceful campaigns and protests for justice are the backbone of progress, that we all must cherish.The opportunism in this case wasn’t by the ordinary decent anti-racism activists showing solidarity and opposing lies and racism but by the lying far-right and racists.

Time for building unity and solidarity in our communities.

#NoToRacism directed at the Black community

#JusticeForGeorgeNkencho

In solidarity

United Against Racism

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