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Community outraged after police forced to apologise for 'heavy-handed' arrest

Tuesday August 7, 2018

 Bristol’s Somali community was “outraged” after video footage of a police arrest was posted on social media.

Saed Ali, of Bristol Somali Community Association (BSCA), said the community reacted with “absolute shock” after seeing footage of Hamza Ahmed’s arrest in Castle Park.

The 20-year-old was detained in the city centre park on July 21 after allegedly refusing to provide his details and assaulting an officer - offences he denies.

Avon and Somerset Police has - in private - apologised for the arrest, and the way it was conducted, while publicly the force has confirmed a complaint was received following the incident and that the matter has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

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Mr Ali, who said he had been involved in discussions with the police and Mr Ahmed’s family, said the officers’ conduct in the video was “unacceptable”.

“This happened in Castle Park in the city centre and there was an issue with the police and the youths,” he explained.
“The police admitted excessive force was used and they have apologised to the family of Hamza and to himself.

“At the beginning of this incident, the community was outraged by the way Hamza was arrested.
“The letter shows something is wrong and the police are now doing their own investigation.

“The Somali community was shocked and there have been lots of comments [on social media]. A high number of people who complained said it was unacceptable.

“The community does not expect to see that. Hamza was not being aggressive - he was lying down and they had their legs in his shoulder. He would have died immediately if he did not get any air.”

Why was Mr Ahmed arrested?

According to Avon and Somerset Police , the officers attended the park around 9.10pm and issued two dispersal notices.

Mr Ahmed, who was with friends at the time, was asked to provide his details to an officer but allegedly refused and was subsequently arrested.
During the arrest, it is further alleged Mr Ahmed assaulted an officer.

The university student was later bailed, on the condition he did not return to Castle Park, but was spotted there the following day.
 He was arrested once again - this time for an alleged breach of his bail conditions - before appearing at Bristol Magistrates’ Court on July 23.

Mr Ahmed was charged with assault of a police officer, failure to provide his details and breach of bail.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges of assault and failure to provide his details, while the breach of bail matter was dropped.

Mr Ahmed will return to the Magistrates’ Court for a trial on September 21.

‘If he was white, would they have arrested him in a different way?’

Mr Ali said he hoped an investigation into the matter - by Avon and Somerset Police or the IOPC - would address any existing fears about racial inequality.

“The Somali community is part of the BME community in Bristol and we absolutely see that the police are doing genuine work. There is a way forward from this,” he added.
“We trust that they will do their best and we are looking forward to the outcome of their investigation.

“Hamza now has a shoulder injury, because of the excessive force used. We are not against the police tackling anti-social behaviour but they need to look at how they treat British citizens as a whole.
“I have to ask, if he was white, would they arrest him in a different way? These are the questions we are asking.

“They need to be asked as part of a wider conversation. People should be treated the same regardless of their skin colour.”
‘We welcome scrutiny’

In their official statement, Avon and Somerset Police made no reference to the apology given to Mr Ahmed in a private letter by community liaison officer Keith Openshaw.

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