Page last updated at 18:25 GMT, Saturday, 20 September 2008 19:25 UK

'Save lives, stop the knives'

By Sarah Bell
BBC News

Claudia Smith and Charlie Appleby-Johnson
Friends of Ben Kinsella, who was killed in July, were out in force

Over 1,000 people have marched through London to a peace rally, calling for an end to knife crime.

Their faces shone out from T-shirts worn by their families and friends - the victims of knife and gun crime in recent years.

The images of the young men and women captured in happier times were framed by their names and poignantly, the dates of their births and deaths.

The peace rally, in terms of noise, was anything but peaceful. Whistles and horns punctuated chants of 'save lives, stop the knives' as the marchers headed for Hyde Park.

The friends of Ben Kinsella, who was stabbed in north London in July, formed a large group in the contingent. Many were wearing bright sunglasses, and chatted to each other as they walked in memory of their friend.

'They're mugs'

Charlie Appleby-Johnson, 16, explained why he thought people carried knives: "They make them feel hard, feel powerful. They're mugs. If this march can stop just one person from picking up a knife, that would be good."

John Dermott, 18, who used to play football with Ben, added: "We have got to get knives off the streets. It's just getting worse and worse. People think when they've got a knife they can do what they want, but it's not like that."

It seemed everyone on the march had been affected by knife crime and for them the message was simple, it had to stop.

Some cited the need for stiffer sentences, better role models, and more activities for youngsters, as the only way to stop them arming themselves.

Robert Warrington, Shannice Warrington-Samuels and Kedisha Wilson
The family of Julien Warrington called for tougher sentencing

Sarah Armstrong, 21, was slashed across the face by youths who tried to steal her phone in Croydon in 2007. She has now started a charity called Say no 2 Knives to support people who are affected by crime.

She explained how the attack had affected her: "I don't really go out now anymore. We used to be out all the time. They say they are carrying them for protection, but if no-one carried them, they wouldn't need them."

Julien Warrington, a father-of-six, was fatally stabbed in Camberwell in September 2007. His brother, Robert, said they had joined the march to call on the government to introduce tougher sentences for murder.

"Instead of 15 years they should get life. Fifteen years is nothing to these people. If we all come together it won't stop, but it will send a message and hopefully will put pressure on politicians to do something about it", he said.

The march culminated with a rally in the park and the crowd bowed their heads for a minute's silence as the names of the dead flashed up on big screens.

They then watched in the bright autumn sunshine as speakers took to the stage to urge young people to put down their weapons.

One possible role model for young men is Olympic boxing gold medallist James Degalle, who attended to offer his support.

He said one of his friends was stabbed seven years ago. "It's got to stop. I call people who carry knives cowards. I could have gone that way. But how about being a man in the boxing ring instead?"

Peace march against knife crime
20 Sep 08 |  London

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