More than 60 people attended a Respect public meeting on gun and knife crime in Wandsworth and Merton, south London, on Thursday of last week.
It proved to us what is possible in the area – the audience was very young and 75 percent black.
When we began to publicise the meeting it became obvious that this issue was qualitatively different to others. The response we were getting was brilliant.
We found that many FE students in particular were really interested in the issues.
The response from the churches was muted, but a group of eight did turn up together on the evening from a local Pentecostal church.
We were pleasantly suprised that the local paper reprinted our press release and photo virtually unaltered.
A lecturer at one FE college asked us if we had a sign language interpreter at the meeting.
She then said if any of her students wanted to come, she would accompany them and interpret for them.
I got a call from the editor of a student newspaper who wanted to cover the meeting – she sent along a journalist and a photographer on the night.
I got another call from someone who asked if he needed to reserve a place as he was sure it’d be packed out.
As we leafleted to publicise the meeting, many people we met thanked us for organising the event.
Gun crime touches people in a different way to other issues, such as the war.
This meant we attracted a whole crowd who don’t normally come to our meetings.
We had arranged for four speakers on the night, and we deliberately went for a broader platform.
We had two excellent Respect speakers – both youth workers – Rebecca Townesend and Makola Mayambika, and local gun crime campaigner, Alexander Rose, who was the highlight of the evening.
He made a brilliant speech, straight from the heart, and he brought ten people with him. He repeatedly thanked us for giving him the opportunity to speak.
Now we are thinking we should organise a meeting of this type every three or four months.
Tower Hamlets Respect councillors are supporting a demonstration called by the RMT union against the privatisation of the East London Line.
Assemble Thursday 13 December, 11am outside City Hall, near London Bridge station.