Shortly after her emotional and inspiring speech to conference on Wednesday afternoon Doreen Lawrence gave an interview to Activate editor Dave Tilley.
Doreen spoke about a range of issues, including how she feels groups such as PCS have supported her campaign for justice and what she thinks of the government’s austerity measures.
Dave: So Doreen, how have you found the energy, strength and determination to keep going over the last 19 years?
Doreen: I think because trying all the time, especially when there’s nobody been convicted of Stephen’s murder and you know, we all know who they are. To just keep challenging the police, I think they wasted so many years with their inaction.
It’s not that they didn’t have the information. I think that’s probably what keeps me going. That they knew, they had the information, but did nothing with it. What I said at the time was if Stephen had been white, they would have caught his killers by now. Especially as they were told where they went, and if people had been coming and giving that information, they would have done something.
Dave: Do you think that the police are still institutionally racist?
Doreen: I suppose since the recent trial and leading up to it, the officers involved seem to have a different mindset in how they talk to me, and in the information that they are passing over. There is a lot of difference to what I had in the beginning. So in that respect I would say yes, there have been some changes.
But I think we’ve got to be careful not to get too complacent, because the officers that were involved are at retirement age as well, so we’re going to have new officers coming again, and where are we going to be with that lot, I don’t know.
Dave: What hope do you have for the future?
Doreen: If they’d had the information, the other three would have been in the dock with the two. And because the first lot didn’t collect the information, or the evidence, I have no idea where they are going to find the evidence from now. So, to be optimistic about that, I’m not really.
Dave: How has support from groups like PCS helped you in your fight for justice over the years?
Doreen: Sitting there listening to the delegates speaking, how passionate they are about what happen around Stephen, and not just Stephen but other cases. Over the years we’ve had great support from the unions, and PCS. There’s been great support for us, I could never complain about any of that. I just think without the unions, especially in the early days, I don’t think we’d have had much recognition of what’s been happening.
Dave: What do you think of the government’s cuts, particularly on legal aid and to the Equality and Human Rights Commission?
Doreen: this government do not have race on the agenda, they really don’t. Cuts always affect the poorest more, and the black community falls into that category. I think it’s always the black that are first to lose their jobs, the working class, and they go down the chain like that.
I despair really at what our future is going to be like, for my children and grandchildren. This government have no sense of reality because they don’t live in the real world. I remember saying to Theresa May that when my son was murdered the Conservatives were in power, and they did not want to know.
We may have a coalition government now, but I still see it run as a Conservative government. Nothing much has changed as far as they are concerned; things seem to have got worse. We used to complain about Margaret Thatcher, but compared to what was going on now, I think it’s even worse to what it was then.
Dave: What’s next for the Stephen Lawrence campaign and for your own work?
Doreen: We don’t just want to focus on architecture. If you look at other professions where the black community and working class are struggling at the bottom. I want to see big changes there for them. The Trust can make such a difference, hence why I want to see the Trust in a position where it can sustain itself.
The only way it can do that is by having unions like PCS support us in order to make it continue. To say where I’m going to be, I’m not certain. I think after nearly 20 years of campaigning I’m coming to an end myself. It needs someone else to take over.
I think the Trust has, as an organisation, made such a big difference, and I’d like to see that continue. I’d like to see the unions give, not just one-off support, but a standing order or whatever it is that they can do, so that the Trust can continue its legacy.