Anti-Gun and Knife Crime Rally – Wolverhampton
4th September 2018
Wolverhampton has not been immune from the wave of youth knife and gun crime that has swept across the cities of the UK in recent years. Just last month figures showed that gang-related crime has almost doubled across the West Midlands in the past five years and the possession of illegal weapons has also skyrocketed.
This increase has also seen the number of young people caught with guns or lethal weapons up by 20 per cent in the last 12 months alone. In April of this year 12-year-old Viktorija Sokolova's dead body was discovered in a park in the city. This was the catalyst that started a discussion between Adrian Roberts and Donna Palmer, members of the Wolverhampton Great Brickkiln and Central churches. They felt passionately that the church should in some way take a stance against the meaningless loss of young lives. Adrian had already chaired a community discussion between the police and the community on gang violence which included local leaders and victims of violence. From this meeting they felt that more could be done to highlight the issues facing our community.
So, on Sabbath 25 August Adrian and Donna organised an anti-knife and gun rally in the city centre. The two-hour event included youth motivator Leslie Fairclough, Joe Jackson from the organisation Men for Positive Change and Jenny Taylor from the Engage Youth Empowerment Services. They all provided encouragement and highlighted what they were doing to address the issue and also related their own personal experiences, as this infestation had touched their lives too.
There were powerful speeches from the stepfather of teenager Keelan Wilson who was fatally stabbed just yards from his home in Merry Hill, Wolverhampton in a late-night attack in May of this year. This particularly moved spectators, few more than the mother of the lad and the natural father of the victim who had somehow heard about the rally and came along to witness the event and being moved to tears was comforted by young church brethren.
It was the testimony of Andrew Graver, a newly baptised member of Birmingham, who gave up his life of crime to a life with Christ, that led to a reality and a hope to the journey as he related how he was changed by the power of Christ.
Audrey Reid spoke very emotionally as a mother who had suffered the violent loss of a son in a car crash and the of incarceration of another (now reformed). She also had given Bible studies to Andrew Graver. The Wolverhampton Central Pathfinder Drum Corps opened and closed the event which attracted the attention of those passing by.
Many in the crowd were visibly moved by the real-life experiences of the parents who had lost loved ones or had sons who barely survived but were also inspired and encouraged by the words of Andrew Graver and Michael Danzie. Throughout the rally the crowd were led in songs by a number of artists such as B J Taylor and Karin Williams, Tristan and Miranda Roberts, Ian Palmer, Esther Putzgruber, Ray Augustine Jr and Michonne Palmer.
Throughout the event, our host Clive Palmer the North England Conference (NEC) Men's Ministries sponsor, kept the crowd focused on why we were there and the seriousness of the issue. He repeatedly united and focused the crowd in a rousing rallying cry to stop the violence. Those in the crowd held placards with powerful slogans written on them. Passers-by on foot and on public transport were able to see the slogans and engaged with the church in a way that was wonderful to see. Many Wolves fans, returning home after the football passed by and some also stopped to listen and ask more about what we were doing.
Literature supplied by the NEC Personal Ministries director Pastor Michael Simpson, was readily received by the public and The Express and Star came, took pictures and put an article online with a short video and an article in Monday's edition of the newspaper. See here.
A local radio station subsequently contacted Donna and Adrian, who were interviewed on Sunday 2 September.
The rally has enabled the church to begin the process of talking about the real issues that affect people in the community. The youth that attended felt it was a positive event especially as they have friends and family who have been affected by youth crime.
The rally was given the go-ahead and blessing by local pastor, Patrick Herbert, but was overseen by our Heavenly Father who also drew back the rain that had threatened to descend on the event.Pictures by Jason Daley