Camden murders: Community campaign launched to fight knife crime
But still no visit from London Mayor Sadiq Khan or Home Secretary Amber Rudd
08 March, 2018 — By Tom Foot
MOTHERS, community workers, and ex-gang members stood united in the wake of Camden’s knife murders and last night (Wednesday) vowed to “save our boys”.
They came together at a meeting organised by singer and businesswoman Gemma Fox in response to the deaths of three Kentish Town teenagers, two of whom died on the same night. She told those gathered inside the Queen’s Crescent Community Centre that people had to respond to Camden’s bloodiest night of knife violence.
“We’re starting this campaign tonight because we have to do something,” she said. “Let’s see what we can do together.” Abdirkarim Hassan and Sadiq Aadam Mohamed were stabbed to death within two hours of each other on February 20. Another stab victim, attacked in Somers Town that night, was said to be “lucky to be alive”.
In a separate case, Lewis Blackman, an aspiring rapper and talented rugby player well known in Kentish Town, died from a knife wound in west London, two days earlier.
Mr Aadam was the third man in his family to die from a knife attack on the streets of Camden; his brother Mohamed was killed just five months ago in Mornington Crescent, while his cousin Mohamed Abdullahi died in 2013. The sequence of events has left families in mourning and the community in shock, but last night came new resolve that history must not keep repeating itself.
Krista Brown, a gang specialist who runs an apprenticeship project guiding young people into the world of work, said: “They say these kids are hard to reach. They’re not hard to reach, it’s just you got to know how to reach them.” She also said parents needed to “step up” when tensions began to show, telling the meeting that teenagers had to be “guided not by schools, not the police – but from home”. Ms Brown said: “Snapchat is a problem. If you aren’t on your son’s Snapchat you need to be. Check your children’s search history. They can be on Amazon Prime and have a zombie knife delivered the next day while at you are at work.”
The meeting heard suggestions for parents worried about their children including a clamp-down on other forms of social media, sweeping bedrooms for weapons and drugs and even calling the police if things get out of hand. She added: “Every single mum dad here today – you have to go out and challenge these kids. You have to say ‘What are you doing?’ I’ve called the police because no, he’s not going out on that stolen bike.”
Junior Smart, from the SOS Gangs project, told the meeting he had been given a 12-year prison sentence after making some “serious choices”. He said: “They say it takes a community to raise a child. Well we have to change to that mentality. We have to all start thinking like every child is our own.”
But he warned: “Social media has changed everything. They are not talking about ‘jinking’ or ‘jooking’ anymore. They are talking about taking those zombie knives and putting it all in. It’s coming from social media. The price of life has gotten so cheap.”
Chris Preddie OBE, who grew up in an estate in Finsbury Park and is the cousin of one of Damilola Taylor’s killers, said: “I used to be a bad man, but I went to WAC [Weekend Arts College, Belsize Park] and I got into ballet. There were 25 girls in my group and one gay guy. We have to not be afraid to change. We have to show these kids not to be afraid to jump somewhere.”
In a moment of light relief from the heavy discussions around stabbings, Mr Preddie had the audience laughing when he recalled meeting “Lizzie” – the Queen – at Buckingham Palace to receive an OBE for youth work. The meeting also heard about the successes of youth projects around London and there were calls to take back derelict council-owned buildings into use.
The meeting heard an extraordinary story from another guest, Michael Pusey MBE who set up a BMX track for young people on a Peckham estate and turned them into Olympic GB team riders and world champions. Mark Hall, from the Headcorn block in the Malden Road, close to the scene Sadiq Aadam’s murder encouraged residents to come and help him start youth projects in the estate hall.
There was also a contribution from DJ “Jumpin Jack Frost”, whose track Leviticus was one of the biggest jungle dance tracks of all time, said: “Watch out. Pay attention to your children. When you’re not paying attention, they are paying attention to someone on the street.” He said: “This knife crime situation is so out of hand now. It’s time for us to stand up and do something. Knife crime has got to stop. It’s affecting the whole of London. And it’s in fact an epidemic and a cancer in our society.”
Garage group The Heartless Crew, singer Kele le Roc, DJ Spooney and “Sharkey P” have sent video messages of support to the campaign. A poet, Mark Cleasey, read a poem “for our boys”. It ended: “The world is your lobster, there’s more to life than being a mobster.”
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
The New Journal revealed last week that members of the community, including members of Sadiq Aadam’s family, felt the gravity of recent knife attacks warranted a visit from London Mayor Sadiq Khan, but so far there are only plans for Sophie Linden, his deputy, to liaise with the community. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has also not made plans to come to the area. Council leader Georgia Gould said the next all-member council meeting will be turned into a debate over knife crime among youths as the search for answers to halt the cycle of killings continues.
Plan for ‘silent march’
PARENTS and teachers are to unite on a “silent march” in a moving protest against the knife crime killings.
The vigil will take over the streets as it makes its may from Queen’s Crescent down to Camden Town on March 22. The march is being backed by the National Education Union – formerly the NUT – which is encouraging its Camden members to attend in a show of support.
One of the organisers Renée Horsford, who lives in Kentish Town, said that the killings were taking a huge emotional toll on teachers who were coping with “empty chairs” in the classroom. She said: “I have a 13-year-old and on the night of the Mayweather fight we heard some bangs going off and saw two boys running through my estate with guns. After that, my son didn’t want to play out any more – he was scared to go out.”
She added: “It started there, the feelings for me. Then, basically these stabbings happened. I woke up on Wednesday morning and I just cried. I’d gone on my phone and seen these killing on the next road from where I live. I thought I’ve got to do something. We have had meetings. We’ve done the research and fliers are out tomorrow (Thursday).”