February 10 2020, 09:30
Sadiq Khan gave a passionate speech praising community spirit at a vigil in Streatham on Saturday.
The Mayor of London and Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy were among the speakers on Streatham High Road, six days after a terror attack in the area left three people in hospital.
Mr Khan praised the Streatham community and the police for their reactions to the stabbing, and how local people have come together rather than letting a terrorist divide them.
Mr Khan told the South West Londoner: “It’s personal, I’m a south Londoner. I live up the road. What’s wonderful about the response of my community has been how resolute we’ve stood in the last six days.
“We have to lobby the government for more resources. The police we’ve got are under-resourced and over-stretched and we need more of them.
“We’ve lost so many police officers over the last ten years with cuts and it’s not sustainable. That’s why I’ve invested from City Hall but also lobbying the government for more help from them as well.”
In his speech, Mr Khan said: “Our love and our unity will always be stronger than the hatred of extremists.”
He also showed his support for Ms Ribeiro-Addy and the work she has done in the two months since she was elected as Streatham’s MP.
Ms Ribeiro-Addy told the South West Londoner: “I’m so proud of how everybody has come together.”
In her speech, Ms Ribeiro-Addy told the crowd: “As a new MP, everybody gets to say something about their community in parliament.
“I was able to say Streatham is a community that has a proud history of faith and activism, and that was demonstrated immensely last week.”
The vigil formed part of a day of events called ‘Streatham Stands Together’, showing that the suburb is open for business.
Dr Hannah May-Miller was involved in forming the plan which tied together the groups and individuals who wanted to do something to support Streatham this weekend.
Dr May-Miller said: “I love my community and I’ve been involved in other events in the past. There was an event after the referendum in 2016 organised by individuals like this called Streatham Stands Together.”
The first week of every February is UN World Interfaith Harmony Week, which organisers said made it easier to engage faith leaders from four nearby churches, a synagogue and the South London Islamic Centre for prayers ahead of the speeches.
The prayers called for peace, justice and love for all, focusing on the strength of diversity in Lambeth, a borough which thrives on the variety of its residents’ backgrounds.
Umar Mahmood, vice chair of the Lambeth Met Police Independent Advisory Group, said: “Reaching out to the Muslim community has been very important to us. So many Muslims are based in Streatham and in Lambeth as a whole.
“Sadiq Khan has been a great help and he’s shown that, as far as the community is concerned, it involves everyone and anyone.
“Sadiq’s been a great supporter of interfaith for us. We’ve been doing interfaith work for the last 20 years, so our borough has a uniqueness about it.”
On the opposite side of the road to the vigil was a City Centre Da’wah stall under the banner of ‘Islam against Extremism’, offering free material to try and correct common misconceptions about the religion.
Shamsi Bensfi, an Islamic teacher, said: “Everyone has to step up and make it clear that not all Muslims behave like this mentally-disturbed individual.
“I believe the best way to defend Muslims is to spread the correct teaching about Islam.
“Police and the media should spread awareness. Islam is free from terrorism. Islam clearly warns against going around killing innocent people.”
Other elements of the day included chalk drawings on the pavement outside the Odeon cinema, and a collaboration between choirs called Streatham Sings In Unison, which brought peace to Streatham High Road through the joy of harmonies.
Choir organiser Zoie Kennedy from South London Singing Mamas said: “Singing together is really different to any other gathering.
“I specialise in getting big groups of people who think they can’t sing to sound amazing.
“A lot of people who think they can’t sing were told that as a kid. With natural voice, you don’t have to sound like someone else, you sound like you, and everyone together sounds really good.”
The open invitation online saw singers from across several local choirs, as well as Canon Anna Norman-Walker from St Leonard’s Church and Ms Ribeiro-Addy.
Ms Ribeiro-Addy said: “I’m not a big singer. It was really nice. Singing Mamas were able to get us to sound amazing. As they said it would be, it was very therapeutic.”