MOVING: Derek Webley speaks at his rally
RIVAL GANG members stood shoulder to shoulder on an altar in a Birmingham church to show their united support for Bishop Derek Webley – the man they want to vote in to become the West Midlands first elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).
Young people from the city’s ‘Burgers’ and ‘Johnson’ crews took the unprecedented step of standing together publicly in the New Testament Church of God, during an election rally attended by more than 1,000 people on Tuesday night [Nov 13].
It was Webley’s final push in a ‘bring out the vote’ rally in his Lozells church, just 48 hours before the country goes to the polls to elect a series of PCCs across the UK.
Clearly moved by the gangs’ show of unity as they stood behind him on the altar, Webley told the packed church: “Win or lose we have won. This is more than the election of a PCC – this is a spiritual journey which is finally uniting our community.
“The Johnsons and the Burgers standing together on this stage could be the start of a new chapter in the life of our community. People are uniting in the common purpose of humanity.”
During the talk he also revealed the many times he had worked behind the scenes when trouble arose in the community, such as the Handsworth disturbances of 2005, a death in custody, a difficulty for someone in prison, or a family’s grief over the loss of a loved one killed on the street.
SPEECH: Desmond Jaddoo
“How many other PCC candidates have held meetings for you to come to?” he added. “They don’t want to be tested. But I have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. We love our young people – you may not always get it right but we will never walk by and leave you for another community to pick you up. We’re proud you belong to us.”
As the outgoing chair of West Midlands Police Authority, Webley said people had been tough on him about the issue of stop and search.
“People have said to me ‘what have you done about it?’ I’m not a police officer but I know what it’s like to be stopped and searched. It has a place in policing, but it is the way it is done and the way people are treated.”
Desmond Jaddoo, founder of the Birmingham Empowerment Forum and a leading figure in the national campaign to mobilise the black vote, gave a thundering speech, urging everyone to use their vote tomorrow (November 15).
“We want representation,” he said. “Don’t be the people passing through – no more under representation, no more disrespect, no more underlings. We need to stop complaining and work together in unity.”
Last month he launched the national black voting registration campaign in Birmingham with Simon Woolley, the director of Operation Black Vote.
Webley’s ‘bring out the vote’ rally had all the razzamatazz of an Obama campaign and even carried the sound bite: ‘Obama in the White House, now Webley in Lloyd House’ which is the name of West Midlands Police headquarters.”
One of the rally’s hosts ‘G-Man’ joked that Webley was possibly the first black man fighting to get in to Lloyd House.
While fellow hosts Nikki Tapper, of BBC radio WM and John Simmit, praised Webley for stepping up to the plate and underlined the importance of voting.
Entertainers who took part included Witness, Claire Angel, DJ Proclaima, Tenna Star, George Street Community Choir, D’Shy, Michael Wassifa Brown and Cie.
After the rally Jaddoo said: “The two rival gangs coming together like that was an historical moment for our community, but having talked to them they said they have been looking for role models and someone to lead them for a long time.”