Last year, on 30 October 2009, 10,000 people descended on Trafalgar Square to commemorate the first International Day against Hate Crime. The event was organised by the visionary 17-24-30 founder Mark Healey in the lead up to the 10th Anniversary of the 1999 London Nail Bomb attacks where nail bombs were left in Brixton (17th), Brick Lane (24th) and Soho (30th) targeting the black, Asian and gay communities of London.
This year’s vigil which was held on Saturday 23rd October in Trafalgar Square, London. It included letters of support from the Prime Minster, David Cameron, and the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband. There were numerous contributions of uplifting, empowering words from notable speakers including Peter Tatchell, Equality Minister Lynne Featherstone, Deputy Mayor of London Richard Barnes and Harvey Milk’s eloquent and inspirational nephew, Stuart Milk who said: “We have lost too many of our brothers and sisters, we have had too many grieving families, we have lost all the amazing gifts these people would have brought into the world and make no mistake, the world is less with the stamping out of Ian Baynham’s life and the murder of Matthew Shepard.”
Similar events also took place in Norwich and Brighton and in Vancouver on Oct 23rd there was also a No to Hate Crime Vigil of “Hope and Remembrance” – borrowing from London’s terminology and deliberately recognising that they were a solidarity event with London.
These vigils of both HOPE and REMEMBRANCE unify and galvanise ALL individuals and communities who share a vision to eradicate bigoted behaviour and, through showing support for ALL victims of Hate Crime, publicly assert that together they will no longer be ineffective minorities but instead a powerful and united voice to affect change in London and the wider world.
Mark Healey, organiser of the vigil, who is, as Harvey Milk was, acutely aware that there are common causes which connect us all said: “We are remembering all victims of hate-crime. Harvey Milk said, ‘you have got to give them hope’ and I think that ‘hope’ is what this event is about. Hope that we can work together and put an end to all forms of hate-crime.”
Healey has vision and with greater support will continue to do great things in this world. He told me, “I was really pleased with the outcome of the Vigil on Saturday. I think that 3,000 people despite the poor weather conditions this year was brilliant and shows that there is a lot of support for what we are doing.
I’d like to express my thanks to everyone involved, especially those who have been on our steering group this year and helped to make this event happen. Thanks also to so many volunteers without whom we could not have put this event on. There are so many people to mention individually, but in particular Emma Hands, Ali Press, Trevor Edwards, Chris Flaherty, Martin Brophy, Anthony Townsend, Mark Mackenzie, Claire Cahill, and my partner Ryan Parkins, all of whom have played vital roles this year.
Thanks also to all the speakers and organisations that supported us on the night, especially actress Heather Peace who stepped in at the last minute to host the event.
What a mix of people we had this year from the first openly gay Mayor of Camden Jonathan Simpson, and his Mayoress the lovable Amy Lame; Rikki Beadle-Blair, David Watters, Peter Tatchell, Paul Burston, Paul Harfleet, Sue Sanders, Anne Novis and Clare Dimyon who has just been awarded an MBE for her work promoting good relations across Europe and Pride Solidarity.
It was good to promote the STOP HATE UK’s Helpline number 0800 138 1625 and I hope we see an increase in confidence when it comes to people reporting hate crime. We highlighted the good work of several campaigns and organisations including Enough is Enough, the Disability Hate Crime Network, GALOP, Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, Schools Out, LGBT History Month, A Day in Hand and the National Aids Trust. All these organisations need our support now more than ever in these tough times due to the pending spending cuts, support to protect these vital services, and to ensure that they are there for those that need them.
32 years after the assassination of Harvey Milk I was proud that Stuart Milk was able to join us in London to support our campaign.
We would like to encourage feedback from people who attended the event this year, either through our Facebook group and pages or by e-mailing me directly firstname.lastname@example.org. It is important that we look at how things went and what we can improve for next year. I know we did not raise as much money as we’d hoped but still want to thank everyone who has donated and helped raise the funds we need to carry on our good work. We are still taking donations through the charities trust website. Hopefully with more funds next year we will be able to develop an even better event – there is still a lot of areas that we need to improve but I am still impressed by what we achieved this year.
I hope that we don’t stumble here. I know at times things were difficult and we made mistakes, went about things the wrong way. Damn at times we even upset each other. But working together we’ve also made a real difference, started a ripple which hopefully will go around the globe and change things for the better. Already we are seeing people post positive comments and pictures on-line, which is a good thing because it all helps spread the message”.
In order for us to effectively tackle prejudice-based crimes we all must engage in actions which address discriminatory attitudes in every area of our society; our schools and universities, our workplaces, our communities and our shopping malls.
Each and every one of us has an obligation to take responsibility for making our society safer, fairer and more inclusive and we should not rely on the good will and hard work of others to secure that just and equal society, whilst complaining that we ourselves are powerless. Whatever your strengths, whatever your core character traits, there is something that you can do to influence change in the world and by attending this vigil, the public have shown solidarity and a commitment to embracing diversity, tackling bigotry and creating real social change.
For more details go to: 17-24-30