Dea-John Reid: Hundreds march in Birmingham after Black teenager stabbed to death
The family and friends of Dea-John Reid took to the streets of Birmingham along with hundreds of campaigners to demand justice after the 14-year-old Black boy was “hunted down”, racially abused and killed.
During a trial in March, a 15-year-old was convicted of manslaughter, and two other teenagers and two adults, George Khan and Michael Shields, were acquitted of his murder.
The court heard how the two men, along with the three teenagers, chased Dea-John through a park in the Kingstanding area, on 31 May 2021, before he was fatally stabbed.
Jurors were told how one of the five shouted they were “going to get the Black bastard”, with the court told how the boy was “hunted down”.
Witnesses testified how the two adults, aged 36 and 39 at the time, acted “collectively” with three teenagers and behaved “like a pack, chasing down their prey”. However they were both cleared of all charges, along with two other teenagers aged 15 and 16.
Scores of activists marched through Kingstanding on Saturday afternoon against a backdrop of rallying cries for equity such as ‘no justice, no peace’, reggae anthems by Buju Banton, Aswad and more.
Accompanied by a motorcade of young Black men and West Midlands Police vans at the front and back of the procession towards Alexander Stadium, the demonstration brought one side of the road to a standstill while passing cars blew horns in solidarity on the other side.
On-lookers indicated their support through raised fists and applause while some well-wishers even tossed money at the demonstration from a nearby bus.
Dea-John’s mother, Joan Morris, walked among the crowd and was too overcome with emotion to say more than a few words. Addressing the attendees, she said: “I sat there and watched those five people, white men, chasing down my son and how he was stabbed.”
A 15-year-old, who chased Dea-John in his final moments, was convicted of manslaughter during the trial at Birmingham Crown Court in May 2022.
The teenager, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was sentenced to six and half years in prison, but is only expected to serve just three years in custody. He was captured on CCTV wearing a balaclava and gloves chasing Dea-John with four others before unleashing the brutal stab wound.
Some of the group were masked and armed with a wrench and a large kitchen knife. The court heard Dea-John had been targeted in the “revenge attack” after a member of his group had been accused of trying to steal a bag from them hours before.
Speaking to The Independent at the Alexandria Stadium, march organiser Bishop Desmond Jaddoo said it’s time to end all-white juries and introduce new civil rights legislation to tackle the ongoing issue of racist abuse. The Justice 4Dea-John campaign is lobbying the government to act on these issues.
“Today’s just the beginning. We marched through Kingstanding because we had to make a strong statement,” the religious leader said.
“There is a Black community in this area and they belong there as much as everyone else and, while the actions of a few individuals does not define the people who live in Kingstanding, unfortunately the area had a reputation for racism for far too long and that must now stop,”
“Some may ask why we’re marching. Well, there’s been no justice for Dea-John or his family. We had a jury of eleven white members and all of the defendants were white while the victim was Black. You saw the outcome. You ask yourself one question: why? Because we’re asking ourselves the same thing.”
The jury’s lack of diversity does not reflect the city of Birmingham, the bishop added, which is hosting the Commonwealth Games from 28 July. The event’s organisers have consistently nodded to the area’s multiculturalism as a key selling point – over one third of people in Birmingham are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, according to the 2011 census.
“It’s important that we’re here, at Alexander stadium, of all places today because the opening ceremony for the games will take place here,” Bishop Jaddoo continued. “I want everyone who attends the event to remember that a young Black man was killed a mile away after being called the N-word and a Black bastard.
“Racism doesn’t just exist in London – it exists everywhere. We need a united front to deal with it and it doesnt matter if you’re Labour, Conservative or otherwise affiliated.”
Maxie Hayle MBE, a veteran activist from Birmingham, told attendees at the march: “Did you realise that there’s a thing called ‘joint enterprise’? It’s an ugly law but they choose only to use it against Black people.”
The Crown Prosecution Service has acknowledged that there was evidence that someone present during the attack used racist language towards Dea-John, though say that the convicted defendant did not use any racist comments towards the teenager.
The acquittal of the other defendants meant the court was unable to take into account any demonstration of racial hatred when they sentenced the youth, the CPS added.
“Our thoughts remain with Dea-John Reid’s family following his tragic death,” a spokesperson said.
“The CPS takes hate crime extremely seriously but can only apply for a sentence to be increased where there has been a hate crime conviction.
“In this case, while some witnesses described overhearing racial abuse, this was not by the convicted youth. There was no evidence that the attack was motivated by racial hatred but instead by other factors.
“It is the role of the jury, not the CPS, to decide whether a person is guilty. Our role is to make a fair, independent and objective assessment about whether it is appropriate to take a case to court.”