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Beeston unites for peace in wake of London bombings

Sally Kincaid from Leeds Stop the War Coalition reports from Beeston on how the community has reacted to news that the suspected London bombers came from the area.

Issue No. 1960

The Beeston vigil

The Beeston vigil

At the start of last week Leeds Stop the War Coalition decided to call a vigil that Thusday for victims of the 7 July London bombings.

Little did we know then that Leeds — and particularly the Beeston area I have lived in for the last 15 years — would become the focus of worldwide media attention.

There was shock and confusion across Leeds after the announcement that the suspected bombers had lived, worked and studied in our city alongside us.

The Hyde Park and Beeston areas of the city were the most affected. Houses were evacuated and streets closed off as the press and police descended.

But the community rallied and responded swiftly. On Wednesday night over 150 people from Hyde Park marched through the streets under the slogan “Peace and Unity in Our Community”.

This march was organised by a local woman who approached her church after she found one of her Muslim neighbours crying in her house.

On Thursday lunchtime we held a two minutes silence outside the Hamara community centre in Beeston. It was a very mixed crowd — old, young and of all faiths.

Later that day some prominent members of the Muslim community called for us to march from Beeston into Leeds town centre for the Stop the War vigil that evening.

After a lot of discussion and the argument to march was won. The response was fantastic — people tooted their horns at us, and as we reached Leeds town centre people came out of pubs and offices to clap.

The vigil itself was fantastic. “This evening felt respectful and everyone struck the right note of sympathy for families, condemnation of the bombing and criticism of our government’s foreign policy,” was one reaction.

We decided on our walk down that Beeston activists should organise something else on Saturday, since it was important to keep the momentum going to give people confidence.

Later I went to one of the mosques where a meeting of the elders was taking place. Shahid Malik, the Labour MP for Dewsbury, was chairing the meeting. There was a heated discussion about whether to march or not, and whether the war was important.

We also heard that the fascist British National Party was looking to stir up race hatred. BNP thugs met at a local pub that night — which ended up in a big brawl.

On Saturday about 90 of us met up in Hyde Park and marched through the streets with a megaphone. We carried home made signs, 'Beeston United for Peace', 'Stop the Bombings, Stop the War' as well as white flowers and peace flags.

As we marched round the streets we picked up more people on the way, including a set of Labour councillors. By end of the march even our local MP, cabinet minister Hilary Benn, had joined us to speak up for unity in the community.

By the time we reached the war memorial near the Hamara centre there were over 150 of us. We attached our flowers, flags and placards to the fence and observed a two minute silence.

Since then we have set up an umbrella group under the banner Beeston United for Peace to organise similar events across the area. Our community is rallying together and standing up against racism and for peace.

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Sat 16 Jul 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1960
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