On Saturday 7 April, around 4,000 kids and young people on bikes brought London to a standstill. They took to the streets to draw attention to rising levels of street violence, and the tragic loss of life. Politicians continue to bicker about the root causes of street crime. But these young people have drawn attention to a crucial issue: the impact of cuts in services for the young under this Conservative government.
Bikes Up Knives Down
Organised on social media the message was clear:
#BikesUpKnivesDown. Images on Twitter showed young people riding alongside police:
— thank u, next (@jnoahmorgan) April 8, 2018
Saturday’s #BikeStormz event was organised by 19-year-old “Jake100” and “MAC”. The ‘Bikes Up Knives Down’ movement started in 2014 and has support from the Metropolitan Police and the London Mayor’s Office. “MAC” told The Independent:
This is the biggest ride out for the youth against knife crime. We want people to put the guns down, put the knives down and for everyone to love their life, live their life and be peaceful and respectful. Never leave your house with a bad intention.
There was a powerful motive for Saturday’s ride:
— thank u, next (@jnoahmorgan) April 7, 2018
Another rider: "I want to see my friends the next day. I want to remember my friends the next day. I want to see my friends forever. I don’t want to be that kid who goes through life like ‘oh I’ve lost a lot of friends’.” pic.twitter.com/AGalt4Mdgr
— Strategic Cities (@StrategicCities) April 8, 2018
Support for the movement is growing as word spreads on Twitter:
Pedal power on Tooley Street today: 100’s..1000’s!.. of inspiring young people representing & showing how peaceful gathering/protest can be done: w/ passion, skill & fresh wheels! Hey @DavidLammy @coyleneil @labourSJ @sadiqkhan &co please support! pic.twitter.com/0iK51VMT5I
— Sam Skinner (@samwskinner) April 7, 2018
— LADbible (@ladbible) April 8, 2018
As these young people make a powerful statement, their action should draw attention a stark fact. They have been “pushed out” of society:
Well it’s hard for our voices to be heard because we get pushed out by society and then this can cause conflict between us. The #BikesUpKnivesDown ride is a way for us to be heard and to get our message out there if you won’t do anything about knife crime we will.
— Y E E T (@stickerbommusic) April 9, 2018
Analysis by the Labour Party revealed that spending on children and young people’s services has been cut by nearly £1bn in real terms since 2012. Research for the most recent UK Youth Index found young people’s wellbeing is at its lowest level since the study was commissioned in 2009.
This government has targeted young people from the outset. In 2011 the educational maintenance allowance (EMA) was abolished. The EMA gave up to £30 a week for 16 to 19-year-olds from the lowest-income families to support them in education. George Osborne also cut child tax credits which were a financial lifeline for working families with children. And it doesn’t end there:
- Benefit changes in March 2017 removed housing benefit entitlement for 18 to 21-year-olds.
- “Connexions, the government-funded careers advice programme, was axed in 2012.”
- Up to 1,000 Sure Start children’s centres may have been shut down in England since 2010. This is double official estimates.
- Spending on mental health services for children and young people has been cut by nearly £50m.
- As The Canary previously reported, interest rates on student loans have soared. Many young people are reluctant to take on large debt by going to university.
Spending on policing will, no doubt, dominate headlines for some time. It needs to be addressed, as do cuts to the fire and ambulance services, the NHS, education and social housing.
But it’s Tory cuts in their entirety that we need to be talking about to tackle not only the root causes of crime, but the state of our society in 2018. As this #BikeStorm showed, young people are not criminals. But these kids are incredibly wise. So as they take peacefully to the streets, let’s hope those in government start to recognise the true power of the next generation.
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