The conviction and sentencing of two people involved in the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence should not distract political leaders from the wider problems of racism in the UK, the US civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson has said.
Addressing a press conference in London before the sentencing of David Norris and Gary Dobson, Mr. Jackson said: "Justice must be implemented and it must be a deterrent against this behaviour. These two young men must not be trophies; it rather takes away from the deeper malady of expanding violence.”
He said: “There is too much of violence against immigrants and people of colour” in the UK.
Mr. Jackson pointed out that three other suspects in Stephen’s murder are on the loose. "The community has incubated them – all these years many people knew who they were and they would end up being convicted on the strength of a drop of blood or a strand of hair,” he said. "It was much more obvious down through the years who was involved in this killing."
Mr. Jackson condemned racism in the UK saying that black people in the country are still treated as "second class citizens – free but not equal, not adequately protected by law."
He praised the persistence of the Lawrence family in seeking justice for their son. "Where there is a case like this, hats off to the mother and father, whose love never dies and who would never give up on the killing of their child," Mr. Jackson said.
Addressing the same press conference, Bishop Wayne Malcolm of Christian Life City Church London said Lawrence’s case marked a “turning point in the way racial crimes are handled” in the UK.
“We are very much glad that attention is being paid to the wider issues that Stephen Lawrence has come to represent,” he said adding that the church community would like to see “a new chapter in the way race crimes are treated in the UK.”
Superintendent Leroy Logan acknowledged “the determination and tenacity of both Neville and Doreen Lawrence” in seeking justice.
“Race equality is fundamental not just for the black minority ethnic community but for the wider community,” he said.
Supt Logan asked the government to take leadership to hold chief constables to account.
Lee Jasper, Chair of London Race & Criminal Justice Consortium & Executive member of Operation Hope and Recovery, said he was glad for the relief the conviction brought to Stephen’s parents.
He criticised the British justice system for being “incapable of bringing justice to the black people.”
“I’m not celebrating with those wish to give the British system a pat in the back,” Mr. Jasper said. “The multidimensional reality of racism in Britain is now resurgent.”
He added that all the recommendations of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry “have dissipated, evaporated and disappeared.”
The relationship between the police and black community is now as bad as it was in 1993 and 1986, Mr. Jasper said.
Ms. Audrey Adams, mother of Rolan Adams who died in a race attack in 1991 said their fight for justice was very similar to the Lawrence family. “We were considered to be the public enemy number one, we were considered to be the troublemakers,” she said.
With tears, Ms. Adams said: “It has been very difficult and what I’m really angry about is that Neville and Doreen Lawrence have had to fight and fight and fight for over 18 years to get justice for their son.”
She said time had come for the British society and justice system to stand by victims of crime. “We pay our taxes, we’ve been part of the society not just for 50 years, for many years, we’ve build this country from the proceeds of the transatlantic trade, we’ve done our bit,” she said.
“What I don’t want to see continue for my grandchildren is that when you are a victim of circumstances, when you are a victim of crime, then you become a public enemy number one,” she said.
By Stephen Ogongo Ongong’a