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‘These were not black riots’

TRIBUTE: Flowers are left on the roadside in Birmingham where three men, thought to be protecting their business, were mowed down and killed

COMMUNITY LEADERS in Birmingham anxious to find the root cause of the disturbances in their city are sure of one thing: these were not black riots.

As senior members of the Council of Black-Led Churches (CBLC) met with police and other community leaders, they spelt out this message, but agreed there was much to be done among the churches themselves to help the current lost generation.

There are plans to hold prayer meetings and a march for peace from Handsworth into the city centre to unite all those affected.

And Chief Inspector Sean Russell, of West Midlands Police, who runs the area of Winson Green where three men were mown down and killed by a car, said: “This has been a very difficult time for the city but the crisis has brought people together and I am proud to police such a multi-faith community.”

“My officers out on the streets of Soho Road in Handsworth have been getting feedback from residents and they have been saying ‘it’s not the fault of the police or the community. It is simply mindless thugs.’

While Bishop Dr Derek Webley, who is also chair of the West Midlands Police Authority, said he was anxious to see the city get back to normal and was pleased to see football matches planned for the weekend.

He said Chief Constable Chris Sims was keen for a peace march to go ahead, but he added: “This march must not be seen as a reaction to what has happened. We need a purpose and an outcome. We must move from being a protest people to a people of change. The quicker we can all return to normality the better we will feel.”

Sgt Winston Christie, who is the interim chair of the Black and Asian Police Association, said how as a custody sergeant he had been dealing with many young people charged with looting.

He said he felt this was a generation without hope whose “hearts are sad.” But he said it was also disturbing that many felt they had done nothing wrong by stealing a couple of pairs of trainers.

“I think the reason behind these riots is people wanting something for nothing,” he said.

Nathan Dennis, of the black youth forum First Class network said: “This has been in the pot cooking for years and young people spilling out their frustration is their way of connecting.

“They are trying to show us what they are going through internally. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Rev Robin Thompson, of the charity Bringing Hope, added: “These were not black riots, but this is a generation that we have not reached.”

He called on the church to get out of the pulpit and on to the streets in order to reach young people, while Rev Carver Anderson, who is also involved in the charity said he wanted to see members of the church ‘tithed’ and trained to mentor young people.

They both felt the current problems went back several generations, involving issues that had never been dealt with decades ago.

Pastor Peter Pennant, who chairs CBLC, added: “I think all of this is encapsulated in example and this is what we need to give our young people.”

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