“Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.” Martin Luther King

Over the past few days, Citizens across London have been preoccupied restoring peace across our neighbourhoods. Thousands of leaders from London Citizens institutions have come together, in solidarity, to stress the importance of building relationships between neighbours.

In Tottenham, North London Citizens leaders supported a Peace Vigil of over 200 people on Monday 8th. Members from local schools and churches came together to restore peace across their neighbourhood. Read here.

In Hackney, TELCO leader Fr Rob Wickham, joined by the new Bishop of Stepney Adrian Newman, organised Solidarity Service on the steps of St John-at-Hackney Church on Wednesday 10th, service attended by 200 TELCO leaders and other Hackney neighbours from all backgrounds. Read here and here. The service was attended by Meg Hillier MP, Mayor Jules Pipe, and representatives from the Hackney police. CitySafe was very much at the heart of the Service, with Our Lady’s Convent High School and Cardinal Pole School students giving testimonies about their work across the Borough, building relationships with local shopkeepers and the police.

On the same day, 200 other TELCO leaders gathered on Watney Market, in Shadwell, to unite across faiths and backgrounds. Mayor Lutfur Rahman joined TELCO to show solidarity. He commented very positively about the action, writing about it on his website. See here.

On Thursday, 200 West London Citizens leaders and neighbours gathered at St Paul’s Church, in Hammersmith and met with the Borough Commander. Discussions were held to reflect on the riots and plans were discussed between the police and local community leaders. CitySafe actions have now been planned, as a consequence.

On Friday, West London Citizens community and youth leaders from Kensington & Chelsea met with the local MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind to discuss reactions to the violence – including how the community can support the police during Notting Hill Carnival. See here for his reactions. At the same time, public officials were invited to come on a neighbourhood walk to meet local residents and traders, allowing fears and hopes to be aired. Local community leaders decided to host public debates and open discussions with young people to coincide with the end of Ramadan and to spend two months intensively listening to ideas for community responses ahead of a follow up meeting with Sir Malcolm Rifkind in October.

On Sunday, many churches in membership of London Citizens organised spontaneous neighbourhood walks, visiting shops affected  by the riots, offering flowers and cakes as a sign of peace.

In Hackney, to mark the first week after the riots took place on Mare Street and Clarence Road, 500 local residents answered the call of TELCO leader Fr Rob Wickham and gathered on Clarence Road for a ‘Community Tea Party’. Drinks and cakes were provided by the local M&S store, on the Narrow Way, which had its windows smashed a week before. Great support was shown by the Hackney Police, and Borough Commander and Chief Superintendent Jane Eaton were seen chatting to local people, enjoying cakes. Jennette Arnold, Assembly Member for Hackney and chair of the GLA, was present, as were Cllrs and Cabinet Members McShane and Linden, from Hackney Council. The local, national, and international press  enjoyed a good tea party with locals. See here for photos.

Meanwhile, in Woolwich, cup cakes were baked by dozens of South London Citizens leaders and handed to local shops. A great feeling of solidarity was felt on the streets and the Police enjoyed walking around with young people from across Greenwich. Again, the press enjoyed capturing the moment, reporting that peace can happen when neighbours work together. See here.

Community organising continues and gets even deeper, across London Citizens’ 250 institutions: CitySafe zones are still being developed across London, involving scores of schools, and 1000s of young people who are clearly saying: “We are not the problem, but we are part of the solution!” See here to find out more.

Over the next few weeks, tens of thousands of leaders will have intentional conversations about the riots, identifying people’s feelings and suggestions to address some of the issues made even more apparent over the past couple of weeks. This ‘Listening Campaign’ will be the largest community-led exercise taking place in the UK after the riots, and will engage people from all ages and backgrounds. Not only will it get people talking, but it will also help build teams of leaders across the capital who’ll be able to work together to bring about change. A strategy meeting of leaders and organisers is planned at the end of August to put a plan together.

To find out more, and to get involved, contact your Citizens organiser.

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Posted in All, CitySafe Campaign, Community Organising