Over the past week Harry and other Youth Leaders in Sheffield, (such as Young Advisers, Youth Council and UK Youth Parliament), have been working to promote peace in the city and to get out the message that not all young people are involved in rioting and looting. As they called for calm on local radio, in the papers and in letters to Sheffield’s MPs, the city’s Youth Leaders were pivotal in ensuring that Sheffield’s young people were represented in their anger towards the rioters elsewhere.
Shaffaq Mohammed, the leader of the Liberal Democrats on the Council, wanted to recognise the efforts made by Youth Leaders and the peace maintained by all the young people in the city. Mr Mohammed requested that the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP meet with these youth activists as a gesture of support from central government.
In their meeting, Mr Clegg and the youth activists discussed the excellent response to potential disorder in Sheffield made by South Yorkshire Police. The youth leaders commended the police for striking the balance between being a visible presence, but in a way that did not cause alarm. Mr Clegg praised the youth leaders for effective communications they kept up with the police and the work they did on social networking sites to condemn the riots.
Mr Clegg responded in person to the letter Harry had sent to all of Sheffield’s MPs and said that the idea of focusing the anger felt onto the criminals themselves and not all young people, was the right thing to do. Ultimately there was a consensus between Harry, the youth leaders and the Deputy Prime Minister, that violence was absent in Sheffield because of the sense of ownership young people here feel over their community.
Following the meeting, Mr Clegg went onto BBC Look North where he talked about the positive work that Harry and youth leaders in the city had been doing. Mr Clegg echoed the pride Harry had stated in young people and referred to the stake that he felt they truly had in Sheffield.
“Over the past week young people in Sheffield have been a great symbol of a big city’s young people, rising above the criminality we’ve seen. There was no temptation for them to resist, and they have condemned the groups in society who have destroyed their communities and local people’s lives. Nick Clegg’s visit was a sign of recognition for Sheffield’s young people as good citizens. We do not want violence on our streets and we have made that message clear. The emphasis must now be on prosecuting criminals, not persecuting all young people” – Harry Carter MYP