Steve Biko was born in King William’s Town, south Africa in 1946. He went to the University of Natal, where he studied medicine. While he was studying, he became involved in various political causes. By the late sixties, he was head of the Black Consciousness Movement, a grassroots anti-apartheid movment.
Biko and the BCM played a significant role in organising the series of protests which culminated in the Soweto Uprising of 16 June, 1976. In the aftermath of the uprising, which was crushed by heavily armed police shooting school children protesting, the authorities began to target Biko further.
On the 21st of August, 1977, he was arrested at a roadblock. He was assaulted while in custody, and suffered severe injuries. On the 11th of September, he was driven, naked in the back of a police vehicle and still badly injured, for 1500 miles to Pretoria prison. He was declared dead shortly his arrival there, which the police claimed was due to a hunger strike.
Biko became a martyr of the anti-apartheid movement, and in a more general sense, of oppressed peoples everywhere.
Oscar Romero was a passionate advocate of social justice and human rights. As the Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador (the capital of El Salvador), this made him one of the repressive government’s most highly placed and widely respected opponents. He repeatedly called for the soldiers who served on the Salvadorian “Death Squads” to lay down their arms and end their brutal repression of their fellow Christians.
In order to send a message in no uncertain terms, he was shot and killed while celebrating mass on Sunday, March 24, 1980. His funeral on the following Saturday was disrupted by further assaults. Although in the short term Romero’s opponents succeeded in silencing him, they made of him a martyr to the cause of all who would oppose them. Today, thirty years later, Oscar Romero is a candidate for sainthood in the faith he gave his life for.
Veronica Guerin was an Irish journalist whose beat was crime. This did not sit well with the criminals whose exploits she covered, even though she used psuedonyms (mostly in order to avoid trouble with Irish libel laws). She received threats to her life and wellbeing, but did not allow this to deter her.
A particular foe of hers was mob boss John Gilligan, who threatened to kill her and rape her son after she confronted him about his wealth and apparent lack of legitimate income. On June 26, 1996, men from his organisation (although, according to Gilligan, acting without his knowledge or consent) shot and killed Guerin in her car.
The murder weapon was never recovered, but an investigation led to several convictions for her murder and for other charges related to their involvement in organised crime. Gilligan was not convicted of the murder, but was put away for drug-related charges.
The most lasting legacy of Guerin’s murder was the formation of the Criminal Assets Bureau, which conducted precisely the sorts of investigation that Guerin had advocated and that led to her death.
Morecambe Bay is located in Lancashire, England, and is the site of a traditional cockle picking area. But as with many low paid manual labour occupations, it has become difficult to attract locals to work in it anymore. Which creates the condition under which low paid workers, smuggled in from another country, may be illegally employed.
In 2004, a group of more than 40 Chinese immigrants was hired by David Anthony Eden, Sr. and Jr., who paid them what they knew to be illegally low wages. The immigrants had been smuggled by a Chinese tried. They had little or no English, little or no training for the work they were doing, and, crucially, virtually no swimming skills. More than forty of them were trapped by the incoming tide, and more than twenty of them drowned.
In the resulting trial, several triad members were given lengthy prison sentences, but no one else was.