The mayor of Lewisham said he “strongly supports” a new memorial to a Black man who died after being restrained by police in Catford. 

Responding to an open letter from Black Lives Matter UK, Mayor Damien Egan said he has also asked a new diversity forum to explore what would be the most “fitting tribute”.  

Kevin Clarke, who had schizophrenia, died in March 2018 after being restrained by officers in a field. 

An inquest at Southwark Coroner's Court last year heard that the 35-year-old told officers “I’m going to die” as he was put into handcuffs, but was “ignored” and then lost consciousness as he was taken to an ambulance. 

The inquest jury concluded that the use of restraints on Mr Clarke “probably more than minimally or trivially” contributed to his death, and the use of police force was “inappropriate”. 

Jurors also concluded that it was highly likely at least one police officer heard Mr Clarke say “I can't breathe”. 

During his inquest a mural dedicated to Mr Clarke was unveiled opposite Lewisham Police Station.  

But developer Balfour Beatty painted over the mural – they said the artwork was “unauthorised” and that the hoardings, used for health and safety reasons, were “private property”.  

Mr Clarke's mum Wendy Clarke said she and her family were “devastated” after the mural was removed.  

In light of this, Black Lives Matter (BLM) UK wrote to the mayor of Lewisham on behalf of Mr Clarke's family asking for the mural to be restored.  

They wrote: “We note that Lewisham Council published a Black Lives Matter statement after George Floyd's death.  

“Also as reported in News Shopper on June 16, 2020, you have committed to establish a local forum to ‘better understand our local landmarks’ and a desire to ‘ensure future memorials and public art celebrates our borough's diversity’. 

“While KC’s death differed from George Floyd's, there were unfortunate similarities.  

“KC’s family have asked the council, the mayor and local MPs for help in commemorating KC and sadly after months of asking, they are still awaiting a response.” 

The letter goes on to ask Lewisham Council to restore the mural dedicated to Mr Clarke as the anniversary of George Floyd’s death approaches.  

“A public commitment to ensure a permanent home for a Kevin Clarke mural to offer healing to the bereaved family and to record an important part of Lewisham's recent history and struggle against racism,” it stated. 

Mayor Egan said he “strongly supports a memorial” to Mr Clarke. 

“I have asked Lewisham’s new Culture and Diversity Advisory Forum to explore with local residents and of course Kevin’s family what would be the most fitting tribute in our borough.  

“Kevin’s death in March 2018 was shocking and obscene.  

“I would urge local residents who are not familiar with Kevin’s case to watch the BBC Panorama documentary ‘I Can’t Breathe’ which tragically highlights the last hours of Kevin’s life.  

“I hope a memorial can help bring our community together, educate people about the suffering Kevin faced and also highlight the racial inequalities that need to be tackled in our society.  

“As mayor I’m ensuring our council has a relentless focus on tackling racial inequalities wherever they exist, particularly in education, health, employment and the criminal justice system.  

“But we need all organisations, public and private, to also be relentless in their commitment to anti-racism if we’re going to make the progress we need to see,” he said.