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Tuesday, 22 February, 2000, 22:23 GMT
Zero tolerance to silence the guns


Three days of prayer and action


By BBC north west correspondent Kevin Bocquet

The rich Jamaican tones of the reggae star-turned-preacher "Lieutentant" Stitchie reverberate around the packed Victorian church.

he reggae star-turned preacher  who is leading the protest against the gunment "Lieutenant" Stitchie
"Tell me again," he demands,"how MUCH tolerance do we give to crime and killings?"

"ZERO tolerance!" they reply, the 400-strong congregation, young and old, crammed into the tiny building.

Three times Stitchie asks them, and three times they reply, each time louder than the last, as if by the strength of their voices, they can get their message through to those sad and stupid people currently making a misery of so many lives.

An armed policeman on the beat in Manchester's Moss Side Armed police are a fact of life in Moss Side
The community in Moss Side, just a mile or so south of Manchester City Centre, is staging three days of prayer and action. It's their response to a recent spate of violence which has taken place across Manchester, which has left eight young men dead, and has seen armed police patrolling the streets of the city.

Toll

It began in the summer. All of the victims died in shooting incidents.
  • JULY 30th 1999: Patrick Logan, shot dead by a hooded intruder at his home in Withington.
  • JULY 31st 1999: Martin Bennett, 25, shot in Moss Side.
  • AUGUST 3rd 1999: Dorrie McKie, 20, killed in Hulme.
  • AUGUST 15th 1999: Anthony Cook, 24, shot dead in Chorlton-on-Medlock.
  • OCTOBER 28th 1999: Judah Dewar, 35, killed in Longsight.
  • DECEMBER 26th 1999: Simon Brown, 27, shot in Cheetham Hill.
  • JANUARY 5th 2000: Roger Ormsby, 34, shot in Whalley Range.
  • JANUARY 12TH 2000: Gabriel Egharevba, 17, shot dead while riding his bike in Longsight.

    Sorrowful


  • Mother whose son was shot dead by drug dealers speaks of her grief Faye Dewar: Grieving mother
    It was following the death of her son Judah, that a sorrowful Faye Dewar voiced the anguish of the whole community. In front of a crowded police news conference, she asked: "How many more mothers..."

    This is not the first time a tiny minority of ruthless criminals has demonstrated an ability to cast a blight on a whole community.

    Gang war

    In the early 1990s, a vicious gang war, fought partly over the control of Manchester's illegal drugs trade, claimed several lives. But behind these latest killings, there seems to be little if any logic. Only one thing appears to link them, a terrifying recklessness on the part of the gunmen, towards the use of firearms.

    Anthony Stevens, a businessman and community worker who's lived most of his life in Moss Side, says: "Even gangsters, who I know from years ago, are frightened. They're thinking, at least when they were involved, there was a reason behind it. Right now, there just doesn't seem to be any reason for all these killings."

    Businessman Anthony Stevens  says there is no readson for the killings Anthony Stevens says even the gangsters are frightened
    Detectives think most of the recent shootings have arisen out of astonishingly petty disputes, possibly a row over a girl, or a squabble over the ownership of a bike.

    Frustratingly for Moss Side, the violence is happening at what is otherwise an encouraging time for one of Britain's most deprived inner-city areas.

    Transformation

    The physical appearance of the place is being transformed with new factories and, in neighbouring Hulme, hundreds of new homes.

    Bulldozers move in to Moss Side to make way fror new factories and homes Rebuilding work is upgrading the area
    A 3m youth and community centre, The Powerhouse, has just opened its doors. Far more than just another youth club, it provides state-of-the-art sports and dance facilities, and is equipped and staffed to provide support for young people in health, education and careers.

    Optimism

    The buzz words are "social inclusion", and the hundreds of teenagers who flock through the doors of the Powerhouse talk optimistically about Moss Side and its future.

    Tyrone Right is a youth who speaks of the respect he feels for the new developments Tyrone Right says there is a feelgood factor
    Tyrone Right says: "It's upgrading, it's getting better, the community feels better, and not just thrown to one side like we used to be. We respect new things, like the Powerhouse, and we treat them good."

    Shelley Williams is puzzled about why people use firearms. She asks: "How can someone get status by picking up a gun?"

    But one problem these teenagers still face, along with a sizeable section of the Moss Side community, is unemployment. At 20%, it's more than double the average for the rest of Greater Manchester, and community workers are convinced that until that changes, the underlying problem of crime will remain unresolved.

    Shelley Williams at the Powerhouse youth club cannot understand how guns can command respect Shelley Williams asks "why the guns ?"
    These are long-standing problems, and experience has shown there are no quick solutions. But while there are still young men unable or unwilling to achieve the status, the respect and the material rewards they crave through work, then a minority will continue to pursue those ends through violence.

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    See also:
    13 Jan 00 |  UK
    Youth latest victim of 'gun culture'

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