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Black Britain decides

HOT SEAT: Ken Livingstone, Jenny Jones, Brian Paddick and Boris Johnson at the 'Black Britain Decides' rally in Kiburn, north-west London on April 12, 2012

POLICE RACISM, social housing and youth unemployment were the main topics of debate at a mayoral rally with black Londoners last night.

The five main mayoral candidates addressed nearly 500 black and minority ethnic Londoners at the Ruach Ministries, Gaumont State Theatre, in Kilburn, north-west London.

Under the banner of ‘Black Britain Decides’, a coalition of churches, community activists, business leaders and faith groups hosted the rally to help black Londoners decide who will be the next Mayor for London.

For three hours, Labour’s Ken Livingstone, Conservative Boris Johnson, Liberal Democrat Brian Paddick, Green Party candidate Jenny Jones and Independent Siobhan Benita all stated their pledges to improve London life.

They appealed to black Londoners to carefully consider their vote at the polling station.

But Simon Woolley, director of Operation Black Vote, urged the audience not to trust the candidates but to rely on themselves.

He said: “This was a robust conversation for an empowered black community. But it’s not about the candidates – this is about our community being strong together. We need to find our pathway to success, justice, equality and opportunity.”

All candidates fielded questions from concerned Londoners on issues like support for black businesses, education and training and deaths in police custody.

Marcia Rigg-Samuel, the sister of Sean Rigg, who died at Brixton Police station in 2008, attended the rally and questioned the candidates about their policies on police investigations into deaths in custody.

She told The Voice: “I’m not waiting with long breath, but I do believe that it’s the climate that something has to be done and the candidates are aware of it.

“And now, with the recent allegations of police racism, it’s just a matter of when, where and how quickly.”

Clare Eluka, from Islington, north London, is the co-director of the Young Women’s Foundation. She believes it’s time for a fresh political direction.

“These guys have had over a decade to change things. Whether it’s Ken or a new face in Boris, they go back and forth with minor politics. It’s time for a change.”

London's mayoral elections will take place on May 3.

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