AP Photo / Lefteris Pitarakis
Duggan was gunned down by armed Metropolitan Police officers in Tottenham on the evening of August 4, 2011. Officers at the scene claimed that Duggan was armed, although ballistic evidence showed that he did not fire a gun, nor had one in his possession.
Later it was revealed that an illegal firearm was found over a fence, approximately 22 feet from where Duggan was shot dead, and an inquest heard that he may have thrown the weapon over this fence as he was shot.
Forensic researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London, earlier this year challenged the conclusion that Duggan was in the process of throwing away a firearm as he was shot.
Despite being presented with this evidence, the Independent Office for Police Conduct this past May refused to reopen the investigation into Duggan’s death.
“I wasn’t surprised. What’s clear is that the Metropolitan Police are willing to be accountable only in as much as they are forced to be accountable or that public scrutiny is so great that they will be accountable to the extent that is necessary to satisfy, or to tick those boxes, or to be in a position to say ‘well, we’ve done as much as we can about that and now we have to move on’,” Amponsah said.
In 2015, Amponsah released his highly acclaimed film
The Hard Stop
, which documented the police killing of Duggan and the widespread civil unrest that followed.
On August 6, 2011, roughly 300 people from the local community gathered outside the Tottenham police station to demand justice for Mark Duggan and his family. The protest turned violent after police officers allegedly harassed a teenage girl.
The violence quickly spread across the whole country, leading to the deaths of five people,
“Because Mark’s killing led to subsequent rioting, which led to a further five people also losing their lives in those disturbances, as well as millions of pounds of damage to people’s homes, property, and businesses. That’s why, in many ways, it’s actually why we’re having this conversation right now, because if it hadn’t have been for that subsequent riot, then I don’t suppose I would have ended up making a film about it,” Amponsah said.
The filmmaker added that the deaths of many unarmed Black people at the hands of the police have gone under-reported by UK media outlets in the past.
The Hard Stop
, Marcus and Curtis, two associates of Mark Duggan, reveal their stories of how they dealt with the death of their childhood friend, and Amponsah said that telling these human stories was of vital importance to him.
“We tried to have a defining quote at the beginning of the film, which is a quote from Martin Luther King, which is ‘a riot is the language of the unheard.’ That wasn’t actually meant to be a bit of political sloganeering. It was really meant to be about the documentary purpose or the raison d’etre of the film, which was to just give human voice to people that aren’t widely known about unless they end up on the 10 o’clock news,” he said.
Amponsah followed up
The Hard Stop
A British Story of Resistance
, which was broadcast on the BBC earlier this year.
The director said that unlike in the United States, little was known of the UK’s own Black Power movement in the late 1960s.
“I was just amazed by how little I even knew about this subject matter, and I consider myself to be quite in the know about these sorts of things. Since I was a teenager, I’ve known all about the Black Power movement in the United States and I read the autobiography of Malcolm X when I was a teenager … but I didn’t know very much about the likes of Darcus Howe, Barbara Beese, Altheia Lecointe, and Farrukh Dhondy,” Amponsah remarked.
He added that he was “very proud” to have been involved in this project, which is currently available as a BBC learning resource for schoolchildren, as the UK government faces calls to decolonise the school curriculum.
The UK’s biggest teaching union, the National Education Union, said in a report published this past July that the country’s schools are “shaped by colonisation,” adding that the current education offered to children “lacks honesty and transparency.”