Waltham Forest steps up campaign against hate

The first wave of Waltham Forest’s No Space for Hate Ambassadors ‘graduate’ this week as the council steps up its campaign against hate.

This initial group of 30 residents have learned how to recognise hate in the community, workplace, and other settings, how to safely intervene and stop it, as well as support victims. Nearly 60 residents have registered for the training in March.

With nearly two thirds (66 per cent) of the borough’s residents saying they had been the victim or a witness to a hate crime or incident, the local authority recently launched several programmes recommended by the community to stamp it out.

Lead member for Community Safety, Cllr Ahsan Khan, said: “Almost seven in 10 residents feel that hate is a serious issue, but it’s programmes like this which show this community won’t stand for it. Perpetrators must learn that they have no place in our community.

“Too often cowards prey on the defenceless, thinking that they can get away with it. Well, not anymore.

“As our No Space for Hate Ambassador programme grows there will be more eyes and ears in the community alert to stamp out behaviour that physically harms, destroys confidence and blights communities.

“This is our next step towards making Waltham Forest a hate-free borough where our differences are our strength.”

Hate crime in London has risen by 17 per cent in the past year, a trend reflected in Waltham Forest where reported instances of racist and religious hate crime, homophobia and transgender hate crimes have increased.

The idea behind the No Space for Hate Ambassadors came from the council’s first ever Citizens’ Assembly on the topic of hate in early 2020.

Acting on the assembly’s recommendations, the council recently launched a new reporting helpline with Stop Hate UK to make reporting and accessing support easier for victims and submitted its response to the Law Commission, formally supporting the strengthening of hate crime legislation to include misogyny as a protected characteristic nationally.

Why residents are doing the training

Farah, from Leytonstone was a member of last year’s Citizen’s Assembly on hate. Speaking about the training and playing an active role in the community, she said: “Over the past few years, I’ve really wanted to be more part of where I live and have a positive impact. Hate is such a real human issue; the issue is prevalent and it’s important that we open our eyes to it. It’s not just about acknowledging that this is happening, it’s about realising what we can do to stop it.

“I know why people with the best of intentions don’t get involved when they see a hate incident or crime. In big cities we tend to mind our own business, but sometimes we shouldn’t. Better understanding and training will help everyone to feel and be safer. It will also teach me about how I can influence and support the people I know on how they can safely intervene when they see it happening. By doing so we can all play a part in stopping people from becoming victimised.”

Ewan is a 20-year-old from Walthamstow who is participating in the training.

He said: “As someone who is gay and genderfluid and likes to express that through what I wear and how I look, there is always a certain risk when I’m out and about, particularly when I’m with my boyfriend. This is unfortunately something I’ve had to get used to. Just last week I was out for a walk and a person cycled past shouting ‘batty boy’ at me.

“Although I can initially brush incidents like this off, they build up over time and can have a detrimental effect on my mental health, and I would hate for other people to have to go through this and worse, which is why I’m engaging with the programme. People aren’t always aware of what the true impact of hate in nature is. They don’t know how to recognise it and help. We should take pride in being a welcoming place and work hard to foster that.”

For more information on the No Space for Hate programme and to participate in the training visit: walthamforest.gov.uk/nospaceforhate

Mick Ferris

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