WHEN a police van pulled up outside her block of flats, Bianca Ali knew to expect officers at her door: “I live in a street full of old people so there was no way they were going anywhere else.”

When the knock came Ms Ali, after a confirmatory peak through her spyhole, left the door unanswered.

Shortly afterwards, she says, another police van pulled into her residential street in Cardiff.

At this point, in early January, Ms Ali was in the middle of a prominent role in daily protests outside Cardiff Bay police station. Campaigners intended to bring pressure on South Wales Police over the unexplained January 9 death of a young black man, Mohamud Hassan, just hours after his release from the police station where had been held overnight.

His family has alleged the 24-year-old had been assaulted while in custody. A post-mortem, on January 12, was unable to ascertain a cause of death.

Outside the station, at a third successive demonstration, Ms Ali was handed a notice alleging she had organised the protests in breach of Welsh Covid regulations which forbid public gatherings.

She could pay a £500 fine, for protesting against the force which was now issuing her with the fixed penalty notice, or face a court hearing.

Ms Ali is part of Cardiff’s Black Lives Matter group and it has accused the force of using the fine and other arrests to strike back at its critics.

“There was probably eight to 12 officers outside my block to issue me a summons for a £500 fine. If that is not intimidation strategies I couldn’t tell you what is,” says the 29-year-old, who is currently challenging the notice and denies organising any gathering.

“I’m a 5ft 2 young woman, I’m tiny. I don’t have guard dogs, I don’t live with huge men, bodybuilders. I live alone. It was a complete waste of police resources and unneeded.”

South Wales Police confirmed it has investigated 12 people for alleged offences during January’s protests. It says it has to consider all legislation and claimed it has responded to “clear evidence of other criminal offences” during the protests.

Eight have either been charged or summonsed or offered out of court disposals, including fixed penalty notices, while prosecutors have yet to decide on charges against two others.

BLM Cardiff has said an unnamed Muslim man, who it’s claimed was dragged from his bed by police, had charges against him dropped at the magistrates’ court. Police confirmed no further action is being taken against one person.

Despite the fine, protesters, including Ms Ali, haven’t been deterred. Recent protests have also highlighted concerns over women’s safety, following the death, in London, of Sarah Everard, and the UK government’s Police Bill which would place new curbs on protest.

Most demonstrations have been staged outside the modern police station, where Mr Hassan had been held, which sits in the heart of the historic docklands where sailors from around the world had settled to establish one of the oldest black communities in Britain.

But there has long been a troubled history between that community and South Wales Police which was acknowledged by Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price, in the Senedd.

He raised Mr Hassan’s death in the days following it with First Minister Mark Drakeford who said an inquiry should be carried out “rigorously and with full and visible independence”.

Since then there has been little comment from Welsh politicians.

South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael – who faces re-election in May – called for “patience” while the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) investigates.

The watchdog has served a total of five misconduct notices to inform four police officers, and a custody officer, they are being investigated for potential misconduct.

The notices relate to Mr Hassan’s time in custody, including whether appropriate welfare checks were carried out and the use of force as he was taken to the station and at his home.

He was arrested on suspicion of breach of the peace following a disturbance and released, without charge, the following morning before being found dead at his multi-occupancy home that evening. The high-profile campaigning by his family and supported by BLM Cardiff has, Ms Ali thinks, been crucial in keeping a spotlight on the investigation.

“Of course, Mahmoud’s death would be investigated given the circumstances.

“But would it have been as big, would they have felt as much pressure on their shoulders to come up with answers?” she asked.

“I don’t feel as if anybody would have taken this as seriously, even the IOPC and South Wales Police, had it not been for pressure from BLM Cardiff and the community.

“I believe that police brutality happens a lot of the time within the black community but most of it, 99 per cent, is not brought to light or to justice or even has any type of media coverage.”

She feels the near-silence from Senedd Members over the fine she was issued, and the fact that vigils or demonstrations in the wake of the death of Everard, including one outside Cardiff Bay Police Station, haven’t attracted similar sanctions, illustrate a double standard.


Ms Ali, who doesn’t vote, has mixed feelings about politicians becoming involved but thinks their voices could help see some of the demands made by protesters met.

“Not one member of the Senedd has been in touch,” she said. “Maybe they think, ‘it’s under investigation, what more can we do?’. But the community needs transparency.

“If members of the Senedd got involved maybe they could put pressure on to release the (bodycam) footage.”

South Wales Police said it continues to “fully co-operate” with the IOPC investigation and has provided information and material, including CCTV and body-worn footage to that investigation.