Hundreds attend public meeting to tackle youth violence in Forest Gate following killing of Sami Sidhom
- Credit: Annu Mayor
Hundreds of Forest Gate residents came to a public meeting last night which was held in response to rising levels of youth violence and the killing of 18-year-old university student Sami Sidhom.
Speakers including politicians, youth workers and young people addressed the crowd in Durning Hall and there were large group discussions on what strategy is needed to protect Forest Gate’s young people from crime.
A minute’s silence was held in memory of Sami and a statement from his family, who did not attend the event, was read out by their neighbour, Annu Mayor.
It said: “We are devastated and shocked by the killing of our beautiful young boy.
“We are vigorously supporting two outcomes, working with the authorities to ensure justice for Sami by bringing his killers to account and secondly bringing change driven by the community and the authorities to prevent further waste of life.”
The newly elected mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, also spoke at the beginning of the meeting and pledged her support to tackling youth violence and said it is important to involve young people in conversations about the problem.
“I am going to be making sure that they are round the table with me,” she said.
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Michelle Edwards, speaking on behalf of Newham Council’s youth offending team, said violence “could effect any young person”.
“The holiday time is a trigger,” she added, saying that “there is no structure to children and young people’s lives” when they are off school.
In the hall there was a pledge wall where attendees could promise to give up their time by doing things such as run youth activities or offer work experience to young people from the borough.
Jonny Boux, from Canning Town-based youth charity Ambition Aspire Achieve, said the opportunities that are opening up in east London need to be made available to those growing up in the area to encourage them to stay away from crime.
He said: “One of the things we do is take young people down to Canary Wharf and to the City just to introduce them to role models and show them what is possible.”
Asad Rehman, who attended the evening, added: “An important first step in local people coming together to call for real action to stop the violence which has become a brutal reality for so many young people in our community.
“Local people are clear that we have to stop demonising young people and take real steps to tackle the structural inequalities and despair that is failing to give young people any hope for a better future.”
Another attendee, Prity Patel-Bedia, said: “The diverse mix of local residents from parents to professionals working with young people showed that we are all wanting to drive change and deliver initiatives to support our local young people.
“But it is important that their voice leads this change. It should be central to any work that comes out of this process.”