Hundreds join march against knife violence in wake of Camden murders
29 March, 2018 — By William McLennan
PARENTS, teachers and children turned out in their droves as around a thousand people marched across Camden to call for action to end knife violence.
Crowds snaked for several hundred metres down the road as the procession, led by the mother of two of the latest victims, made its way from Queen’s Crescent, through Kentish Town and Camden Town on Thursday afternoon.
At the front, carrying a banner that declared, “Stop the violence, invest in our youth”, stood Fowsiya Abdi, whose son was one of two young men killed during three linked knife attacks across the borough last month.
She had lost another son to knife crime six months earlier. The event was organised under the newly formed Camden Against Violence group, which was set up by Renee Horsford and Elaine Donnellon, who were moved to act after watching the violence unfold last month. Ms Abdi paused the procession at the spot that her son, Sadiq Aadam, was killed in Malden Road.
He died at around 10pm on February 20, less than two hours after Abdikarim Hassan was stabbed to death near his home on the Peckwater Estate. Police believe the two killings were linked and have also connected them to a third stabbing in Somers Town on the same evening that left a 17-year-old “lucky to be alive”.
Teachers from La Sainte Union and William Ellis schools joined the march.
The horrific night of violence unfolded just two days after Lewis Blackman, who grew up on the Peckwater Estate, was stabbed to death in west London. The procession ended in Harrington Square, next to the site that Ms Abdi’s other son, Mohamed Aadam, was killed in September last year.
Ms Donnellon said: “We cannot as a society accept that any young child should have their life taken away from them and just accept it at as the norm. We are here to say this is not the norm. We want investment from central government.” She added: “We need investment for our community, family services. Over the last seven years our social services, statutory services, youth and voluntarily services have been cut to the bone. We need investment in our young people so they can go on to live long, full, prosperous lives.”
The event was supported by the National Education Union, and teachers from schools across the borough joined marchers. Both Sadiq and Mohamed Aadam had attended Haverstock School, while Abdikarim Hassan left William Ellis in 2016. The school described him as a “capable student, charming, cheerful and outgoing”.
Children from the NW5 Play Project with Sharley Peet-Newitt
Claire Ozkaya, a school development officer at William Ellis, said the loss of a pupil was “truly awful” and had “lots of repercussions,” adding: “The kids are scared, the kids are angry. It’s difficult.”
She said the government had failed to get to grips with the problem because “none of them are living with it on their doorstep”. She said: “You can’t keep shrinking a budget and not expect there to be a repercussion. I want the police back, they’ve been taken away. I want my education budget brought up to where it should be, so we can work to the best of our ability, which we can’t now.”
Gerald Clark, of the NEU, said teachers wanted to “show our solidarity with the community,” adding: “Everything that teachers do in school is to try and build the best possible future for the children. When their future is taken away from them, that belies everything we are doing in school. I know teachers have found this very difficult, in some cases we teach the victims and the perpetrators of these crimes.”
Politicians from all parties joined the march, including Camden’s two MPs, Sir Keir Starmer and Tulip Siddiq, and council leader Georgia Gould. Both the Home Office and City Hall are under pressure to fund more police, while government, centrally and locally, have been asked to improve services for young people. Councillors were given a picture of the challenge at Monday’s full council meeting in which they were told some teenagers were suffering from post-traumatic shock disorder.
“I’ve not had a time since I’ve been an MP where so many people have come up to me in the street to express how grief-stricken they are about this,” Mr Starmer told the crowd. “We can’t just come today and feel like we’ve made a contribution. All of us, including myself, have got to take responsibility for this. That means changing things, not just coming here, grieving. It’s all of us. “Look around yourselves and say, ‘what are you going to do, what am I going to do to change this and to make sure we are never here again having an event like this?”
Olivia Okoro, a pupil at La Sainte Union, said that when she heard about the killings she thought: “This needs to be sorted now.”
She added: “We are in education but we are not getting taught how to prevent these things. All the youth clubs that have been cut aren’t helping the problem. Kids my age are going out going to gangs, getting involved with knives. It should be fixed. “When we were in primary school there were so many youth clubs we could go to and it felt like more of a community. As I’ve grown up it becomes more distant. I blame the cutbacks and I think the government should help. The Mayor of London said it’s going to improve, but nothing’s improved yet, so I question if it’s ever going to happen.”
Family’s agony Victim’s uncle tells of their ordeal
A GRIEVING family who have lost three young men to knife crime said “there is no cure” for their pain and agony.
The uncle of one of the latest victims, whose own son was murdered in 2013, explained the family’s shock at being hit by a knife death for the third time. Aydarus Ahmed said: “We were all devastated. The pain and the agony that we have been through, our family, over the years, there is no cure for it. We have to live with it.”
Mr Ahmed’s nephew, Sadiq Aadam, 20, was killed in Queen’s Crescent on February 20. Six months earlier Mr Aadam’s brother, Mohamed Aadam, was stabbed to death in Hampstead Road. Mr Ahmed’s son, Mohamed Abdullahi, was murdered in York Way in 2013. All three were aged 20 when they died. Mr Ahmed stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Fowsiya Abdi, the mother of Sadiq and Mohamed Aadam, at the front of the Camden Against Violence march.
Keir Starmer MP speaking with Aydarus Ahmed and event organiser Elaine Donnellon, front left, and Cllr Georgia Gould
The family moved to London in search of a safe environment to raise their children. Addressing a crowd of hundreds in Harrington Square, he said: “It’s beyond unimaginable, at the age of 20, they are all gone. Last month, it’s a night we cannot be forgetting at all. It’s a night that is actually very painful to our community. It is a night that, I don’t know how to express and say the words. I have to thank you all for your support.”
Mr Ahmed has campaigned for an end to knife crime since his son’s death, calling for education and intervention to begin in primary schools. In December last year he addressed the launch of Camden’s youth safety taskforce, which was set up in the wake of his nephew’s death in response to rising levels of violence. He told the meeting that more must been done to teach children from an early age that “taking knives to harm someone is going to hurt both sides – the victim’s family and the offender’s family”.