The Mayor of Hackney, Jules Pipe, has been criticised for his response to the shooting at 3.30pm on Saturday of a man in London Fields. The man was wounded as two groups shot at each other during festival on Saturday at London Fields, organised by Hackney Council and attended by hundreds of residents and their families.
The Mayor told the BBC, “Despite this very worrying incident, hundreds of people were able to enjoy the event in London Fields safely and without interruption.”
Local people who heard of the remark were appalled that mayor had downplayed the impact of the violent act on the festival.
Criticising the Mayor’s response, local resident Darrell Berry said, “The mayor’s comments of the events in London Fields are wholly inappropriate…
“I’d suggest he refocus on the reason his opinion was asked by the BBC in the first place: a member of the public suffered life-threatening gunshot wounds in a mid-afternoon gang battle at a Hackney Council-organised event.
“That’s an unforgivable failure of the Council’s duty of care towards those in London Fields on Saturday, and an equally unforgivable failure of their ability to uphold the rule of law.”
Hackney local Karen dubbed the remark ‘Crass Comment of the Year” on Twitter, to wide approbation from the borough’s twitteratti.
Other critics have asked whether Hackney Council should be authorised to hold events at which it may not be able to guarantee people’s safety, saying that if the shooting had happened outside a club, it is likely that the venue would have its licence revoked.
Businessman Liam O’Hare said, “This incident just proves that gang violence is a societal problem and not related to licensed premises. Maybe now councils will better understand the difficulties in providing entertainment rather than over react and punish good operators.”
Hackney Council has been asked to comment.
Update 12:20pm: A Hackney Council spokesperson said that the Mayor’s comment to the BBC was in response to a specific question, and that a full response to the incident will be provided shortly.
Update 2.55pm: A Hackney Council spokeperson said, “The Mayor’s statement was quoted out of context. It was originally given as a response to a question from a journalist asking about the general safety of the event for the public who attended, and included a witness appeal which was not included in all media reports.
“It was also given before any details about the nature of the shooting or its victim were available. We are of course deeply concerned for the welfare of the injured man and are in close contact with the police to get updates on his condition.
“The Mayor and Hackney Council take gun and gang crime extremely seriously and are working hard with the police to support them both in the context of this incident and the wider context of controlling gang activity in Hackney. All public events are risk assessed in partnership with the police. While the incident took place some distance from the event, we will be looking into whether there are any further measures we could take to ensure visitors are as safe as possible.”
Update 4.15pm: Chief Superintendent Steve Bending, Hackney’s Borough Commander, said, “London Fields was packed with thousands of people on Saturday afternoon, many attending a festival and many more simply out with family and friends to enjoy the weather. It would appear that there was a disturbance between two groups of youths and then two shots were fired, resulting in an entirely innocent member of the public being shot. This was a callous, reckless and brazen act, without any thought by those responsible, for the fact that they were in a crowded park. This was quite simply, appalling.
“The incident is being investigated by officers from Operation Trident. I know there were many witnesses to this incident and I would ask that if you witnessed the actual incident, or the events beforehand or have still or video footage that would assist, that you contact the investigation team on 020 8217 7377 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
“In the last three weeks, officers from Hackney Borough have undertaken an intensive operation targeting gang related violence. This operation has so far resulted in 125 arrests for offences including firearms possession, GBH, drugs supply and robbery. Three firearms have been recovered including a Mac10, there have been over 2,000 stops and the execution of 17 search warrants. Whilst strong enforcement activity does not provide a long-term solution, it does bring to justice those who choose to commit gang-related violence. The operation will continue and now intensify.”
The ‘culture clash’ at east London Fields (BBC news London, Saturday 29 May 2010)
London Fields shooting likened to Los Angeles gang wars (Guardian, Friday 28 May 2010)
Letter: There is no ghetto of the rich in Hackney (Guardian, Tuesday 1 June 2010)