Members of the community stood side by side with councillors, police officers, priests and a member of parliament as they paused to remember 17-year-old murdered Kwame Ofosu-Asare, brutally stabbed to death in Brixton on Friday.
More than 50 people were gathered at the Community Police Consultative Group (CPCG) in West Norwood on Tuesday to discuss a community response to the build up of knife violence that ended so tragically on the Moorlands Estate.
After borough commander, ch supt Matt Bell, described in graphic detail the attempted murder of Garfield Stuart on the upper deck of a 432 bus and the murder of Kwame four hours later, anxious parents, community leaders and politicians got to their feet to voice their reaction to the violence.
Former mayor Lloyd Leon MBE, honoured for his service to the local community said: “When I arrived here in 1962 we weren’t killing one another. But now we have our people killing each other. And for what?” Leon blamed the Government and judiciary system for failing to impose tough enough sentences on the perpetrators of knife and gun crime.
Streatham MP Chuka Umunna said: “One of the reasons we find this so difficult is that this is a cultural thing – It is deeply engrained.
“If you’re in that culture then a completely different set of rules apply.”
He added: “The young people that I talk to see the gang as a surrogate family. It’s a way of life.”
Umunna told the crowd he was frustrated that government funds available to deal with violent gang crime are “tiny”. He called for a more joined up approach between the council, police, schools and other agencies like youth clubs and charities.
Canon rev Ivelaw Bowman attended despite being ill. He said said “This is a time for all of us to come together and share our process, that’s the only way we will get on top of this.”
Stuart Horwood, from Brixton Market Traders, said that everyone who lives in an around Brixton needs an answer to why a 17-year-old boy could be murdered. He said: “I am sick of trying to make excuses to people to get them to come to Brixton.
“The answer I need is when are the council and police going to sort this out. Where are the parents in all this?”
Council officer Ann Corbett, and cabinet member for communities Rachel Heywood, cited the Young and Safe programme and the Families Forum as ways in which they were working with young people and parents to tackle the violent crime.
The comments of the borough’s top cop, Matt Bell, resounded as he said: “These problems go beyond policing or the council. We need a community solution.”