Campaigners against gun and knife crime in Tottenham, north London, are gearing up for a protest march on Sunday of next week.
This protest aims to tackle some of the issues behind 'gang culture' and the use of weapons. March organiser Gary McFarlane spoke to Socialist Worker about the campaign.
The campaign started following a 50-strong Respect meeting on gun crime a few months ago. We had a lot of parents and youth workers at the meeting. Most people were convinced that the current agenda, in which young people are often demonised, is not helping.
Lots of people wanted to talk about the lack of facilities for young people, and how few decent jobs are available. We all talked about what drives people to pick up weapons.
There was a strong feeling that our education system is letting down black children – particularly on the question of school exclusions.
Some parents mentioned that one local school had excluded more than 100 children in the last year. But another school – which had received special short-term funding as part of a project to control the number of young people who are excluded – had managed to keep even pupils with behavioural problems in school.
That public meeting was followed by a smaller planning session held in the office of a local adventure playground. There we drafted the beginnings of a programme of what we are against, including school exclusions, locking up children as young as ten years old, poor housing and institutional racism.
We added some demands, including youth drop-in centres in every ward, well-paid training and apprenticeships, a fully funded mentoring service for every child, and that the national curriculum should include 'real' black history.
By using this approach, we got away from blaming young people for their own predicament, and instead put some demands upon the state.
If the march is a success, we plan to hold a conference of the gangs in north east London. If we can harness young people's energy into a positive campaign we can undercut some of the territorial fighting that is going on in this area.
Families march against gun and knife crime with Danny Bryan, Sharron Lewis, Gary McFarlane, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Classford Stirling, Cheryl Garvey.
Assemble Clapton Pond, Hackney, at 12 noon on Sunday 14 October for march to Tottenham Green.
Organised by Communities Against Gun and Knife Crime – for information phone 07930 240 095 or email [email protected]