CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Operation Shutdown: Demonstrators close off streets with demands action over knife crime

Council leader joins protest in central London

18 April, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

The Operation Shutdown protest

MOTHERS, youth workers and campaigners “shut down” a bridge in central London as they demanded action on knife violence in the capital yesterday (Wednesday).

The #OperationShutdown march called for those in power, including the government, to hold an emergency meeting to find a way of bringing the ongoing killings to an end.

Betty Braimah, 25, gave an impassioned speech about her cousin Kwasi Anim-Boadu, who grew up in Camden Town and was stabbed to death in Finsbury Park almost a year ago.

Standing alongside Kwasi’s mother, Susan Anim-Boadu, Ms Braimah told the New Journal: “We are here today because it’s coming up to a year since my cousin was sadly killed. He was murdered just before his 21st birthday.”

She added: “Every day we are dying inside, every day we are having sleepless nights, we are crying, we are in pain. This pain is never ever going to go.”

Nobody has been charged with Kwasi’s murder.

Betty Braimah and Susan Anim-Boadu

“When we can find out who did this or the people that did it, this is when we can be at rest,” said Ms Braimah. “It’s very nice to see so many people come out here today, but at the same time it’s very, very sad that we are here for one reason: that we’ve all lost somebody so close to us and unless you come out today you don’t know so many people have been affected by what you are going through.”

Hundreds marched from outside 10 Downing Street to Whitehall as a reminder that more than 30 people have lost their lives to knife attacks in London this year alone.

Most recently in Camden, Calvin Bungisa, 22, died after being ambushed in Gospel Oak on April 1. Police continue to search for his killers.

The group then took over Westminster Bridge, marching past supportive crowds from the Extinction Rebellion protest which has also taken central of London streets this week demanding action on climate change.

The protest was aimed at the government, councils and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who has still not visited Kentish Town despite calls to be more proactive since the Camden murders last February.

Ms Braimah said: “It’s getting worse and worse each day. The government are so quick to say ‘we are going to do this we are going to do that’, which is good, but when are they going to do it? We need it to happen now, today – not tomorrow, not next week.”

The latest Met Police statistics obtained by the New Journal reveal that in Camden there were 77 victims of knife attacks on victims under the age of 25 last year. In 2017, that figure peaked at 92, compared to 46 in 2016.

Camden Council leader Councillor Georgia Gould, who attended the protest, said: “I’m here in solidarity with the families who’ve lost their children to violence, and to support their call for government to reverse the harmful cuts to police and communities. We heard mothers, brothers and sisters describe the unimaginable pain of having someone they’ve loved and nurtured violently taken from them. Mothers asked, ‘where is the outcry?’, and they pledged never to let anyone forget the names of their children. If they have the courage to speak up then we must have the courage to stand with them.”

More than a year since last year’s Camden murders and with more young men dying on the borough’s streets, Sadiq Khan has faced criticism for not visiting Kentish Town; he is pictured here at an election rally on the other side of the borough in Fortune Green

Local and national leaders have a responsibility to remember their names, hear their stories and work to stop this violence.”

Elaine Donnellon, one of the organisers said: “Operation Shutdown had a really successful peaceful demonstration today and we are really proud of the fact that in a matter of six weeks we brought together dozens and dozens of bereaved parents and families to have their voice heard uncensored. This morning we gave notice to the government, we’d like them to call a Cobra meeting within 48 hours and basically recall Parliament. We will be watching and seeing what the government do.”

Terry Ellis, a former armed robber, has helped found A Band of Brothers in Camden, a group to offer young men in the borough male role models.

He told the New Journal: “All mothers got a chance to speak to each other and get a message out there. This is a chance for the government to listen to exactly what all of these mothers want. Hopefully they can come to some sort of resolution where we can find a solution.”

Mentors initiative ‘brilliant’

BROADCASTER Nina Myskow is among the backers of a new voluntary programme giving young men mentors in Camden.

The New Faces panelist, from Hampstead, said A Band of Brothers was “absolutely brilliant”.

Showing her support in a video for the programme, she said: “I’m here to support the Band of Brothers, a voluntary organisation run by volunteers, here to help heal Camden.” Several men have already signed up to become role models and offer guidance, amidst a battle against violent crime in the borough.

Terry Ellis from A Band Of Brothers, orange vest, joins the demonstration yesterday

A Band of Brothers was formed earlier this year with the aim of helping young men by linking them with an older man from a range of backgrounds in their community to act as a role model. Dozens of people, including ex-offenders and local men, turned out to their first meetings in Kentish Town over the last weeks – one gathering just days after Calvin Bungisa was murdered in Gospel Oak.

Roberto Atiko, who co-founded the Camden branch, said: “It was a very encouraging meeting, there was a lot of energy, a lot of authenticity and an acknowledgement for this vehicle to be created, which is about linking these two groups of men together.”

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