- Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt
Anti-knife crime campaigners including bereaved mothers have blocked Westminster Bridge in London as they call for action over recent bloodshed.
The demonstration, dubbed #OperationShutdown, saw supporters initially gather near Downing Street on Wednesday with demands including a Cobra meeting to tackle the surge in violent crime in recent years.
Michelle McPhillips, whose son JJ was stabbed to death in north London in 2017, told ITV News: "I just miss JJ. I managed to get to the ambulance just in time.
"I'm considered a lucky mother because I got to see my child before he actually passed and the last thing my son did was sit up and call me mum.
"And that makes me very proud."
She said they would like to see a victims' law brought in to the courtrooms, so the public hears about the victim's life and "not just the predator's".
"We would also like a Cobra called [an emergency Cabinet meeting] in the next 48 hours because we're losing too many of our young people on the streets," she said.
She thanked Home Secretary Sajid Javid who earlier this week admitted the bloodshed on Britain’s streets has left him fearing for his children’s safety and revealed he could have been drawn into a life of crime.
Ms McPhillips added: "I think that's really important that someone of his level in the Government has actually admitted we have this crisis.
"I just hope that the money gets used in the right areas because it's not just about policing, it's about mental health, it's about poverty, it's about education, it's about all of these things together and they have to get all the governing bodies to work together.
"If just one person does the job and the rest don't, then there's no point in doing anything. What we need is less talk and more action."
The Josh Hanson Trust, set up in his name to campaign against knife crime, tweeted a 15-point list of demands.
It included that those guilty of knife crimes serve the full prison term, putting more bobbies on the beat, the introduction of a young people's tsar and the restoration of police budgets.
(See the full list below)
The organisers of #OperationShutdown said in a statement: “We are taking this extreme form of civil disobedience as Her Majesty’s Government are yet to give this crisis enough care, or the proportionate attention it deserves, or allocate substantial measures and funding to effectively tackle this head-on, as a matter of emergency – hence we demand a Cobra now.”
They spent just under two hours in Whitehall before holding a minute’s silence near the Houses of Parliament in memory of Pc Keith Palmer, who was murdered by a terrorist while on duty in 2017, and then moved to stage a sit-in on Westminster Bridge.
Grieving parents including Tracey Hanson, whose 21-year-old son Josh was murdered at a bar in west London in 2015, are taking part in the march.
Ms Hanson said their protest was being supported by London Mayor Sadiq Khan but said of the current situation: "In the three and a half years since Josh's death it has escalated... it hasn't been reduced."
With campaigners coming from all over Britain, Ms Hanson said there is a "sense of desperation" among them, adding how they are all grieving, with some doing so for "many, many years".
"Should we be here doing this? No, we should not, but we are and I hope we are going to make a change."
Another of the organisers of the protest, Lucy Martindale – whose cousin was fatally stabbed, said they were demanding an emergency Cabinet meeting - Cobra.
“If there is a terrorist attack and one person is killed there is a Cobra. Several people daily are being killed on our streets, why is this not being treated as the national emergency that it is?” she asked.
The group is also calling for an independent investigation into school exclusions, better rehabilitation of prisoners to stop them going on to kill, and for full jail terms to be served for murder and manslaughter.
Some of the country’s most senior police officers have already said the highest levels of Government need to come together to deal with the causes of violence.
Former National Police Chiefs Council chairwoman Sara Thornton said co-ordinating the response was a job for Number 10, while Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said all official bodies need to “step up” their efforts.
The Government held an anti-knife crime summit earlier this month and granted an extra £100 million for police in the areas worst affected by knife violence as well as giving officers beefed-up stop and search powers.
But plans to make police officers, teachers and nurses accountable for failing to spot the warning signs of violent crime were criticised.
Chairman of the Police Federation John Apter called the proposals “a bit of an insult”, while Royal College of Nursing acting chief executive and general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said the duty would put increased pressure on frontline staff.
Operation Shutdown organisers said the summit was “non-inclusive, tokenistic and with responsibility being passed onto hard working, already under pressure, nurses, teachers, police and charity front line workers”.
- The 15-point list of demands reads:
1: We demand the Government immediately call a COBRA meeting on this national emergency and crisis, calling on the Civil Contingencies Secretariat (CCS) to begin preparations immediately
2: We demand the Government halt and reverse further planned cuts to local council budgets and restore adequate funds for local council to be able to fund statutory youth and community services that are then, able to serve their communities needs fully
3: We demand the reversal of cuts to UK police budgets to ensure adequate police numbers, staffing and resources and to allow the police to do their jobs, without undue pressure, so they can investigate crimes; keep communities safe and respond to crime in a timely and effective manner
4: We demand the reversal of cuts to education and schools to allow our teachers to teach and other specialist staff to support our children with early intervention and prevention
5: We demand the mandating of early intervention at keep stages of primary school education and to fund complimentary and specialist support staff working in schools
6: We demand the Government and Home Office bring back our community bobbies on the beat and within our local communities
7: We demand the Government and Parliament review sentencing guidelines for repeat weapon offenders, we believe their is little deterrent in law, for those found to carry weapons
8: We demand prison reform legislation and arrangements made, so that every minute of incarceration is spent on rehabilitation activity
9: We demand those found guilty of murder to serve a full life term, the maximum sentence possible in law
10: We demand mandatory requirement for prisoners to undertake training, qualifications, courses and therapies, prior to release and before granted any reduced sentence or time off on good behaviour
11: We demand the Government to create the role of a Young people's Tsar and Serious Violence Tsar
12: We demand all local councils provide meaningful opportunities and forums for their constituents to be both briefed on local and national initiatives and for those most impacted to have their voices heard by decision makers on a regular basis
13: We demand introducing a law guaranteeing a VICTIMS charter- for victims' families, loved ones and survivors of serious violence
14: We demand the Government mandate youth work as a profession, as we have done with teachers, nurses and social workers, give youth work the respect it deserves as a specialist and highly skilled occupation and profession
15: Finally, we demand the Government and its appropriate ministers and departments meet with us, so we start a meaningful dialogue and relationship, to work together, this cannot be solved without including those in the grassroots.