Reformed gangster urged to condemn homophobic crime

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Labour MP Meg Hillier has called on a controversial reformed gangster to use his visit to her constituency as a platform for stopping homophobic crime.

Nicky Cruz a former gangster turned preacher was last week told that he could not conduct his Truce organisation’s outreach event at the Ocean scheduled for tomorrow and Friday night after outcry from local campaigners highlighting previous anti-gay comments.

Mr Cruz has been reported to have called homosexuality a “sexual perversion” and an “evil practice.”

But the ban has been rescinded after Mr Cruz apologised to the gay community in the Hackney Gazette, his statement said: “I have nothing against gay people.

“I just want to help…that’s all.”

Truce is an organisation which aims to stop gang warfare, their latest session takes place in Ms Hillier’s area of Hackney South Shoreditch, she told that the council and police have personally warned Mr Cruz against making homophobic remarks.

Ms Hillier, who is also Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Equality Minister Ruth Kelly said: “If Hackney Council and the police thought he was going to be homophobic he wouldn’t be given a platform.

“I hope he condemns the five homophobic incidents there have been this year in Hackney as part of his anti-crime platform.”

She highlighted the importance of organisations such as Truce in combating the problems of gangs in her area, “We need to tackle gangs in Hackney but I would never want to see homophobia sanctioned. Truce is made up of reformed gang members from America, they happen to be Christian but the reason they were brought here by the police was to tackle gang culture not because of any religious affiliation.”

Hackney Borough Police Commander Simon Pountain said: “After careful deliberation, during which time I have worked closely with representatives of both the Church and the lesbian and gay community in Hackney, I have decided not to oppose the events at Ocean this week, where youths from the local community will be showcasing their experiences of the Truce initiative to parents and visitors.

“I delayed making this decision until I was sure that Nicky Cruz had been spoken to, in person, about the values of the Metropolitan Police and Hackney Council, and that the assurances we sought had been given unequivocally.

“Subsequently, I am reassured that the sole purpose of this event is one for our young people, as Truce have demonstrated their understanding and shared their expertise in the growing issue of youth gang culture.

“We are committed to working with all our communities to make Hackney a safer place, and the overriding principle in this case is the benefit that has been given to our young people. I will work with all involved and endeavour to ensure that the event goes ahead peacefully, in the hope that it is used to showcase the encouraging efforts from the young people of Hackney.”

But local gay councillors have not been so welcoming, Alan Laing, Labour councillor for the Hackney Central Ward told the Evening Standard, “As a councillor and a gay man, I am disappointed to hear any comments by any individual along the lines of what was reported. We would not knowingly give support to a homophobic organisation.”

Eric Ollerenshaw, leader of the Hackney Conservative party, told “You would have thought that given the mix of communities someone would have done a bit of homework.

There has never really been any problems between Hackney’s different communities, the whole thing is extremely unfortunate.”