Duwayne Brooks: “The smart young man with a clipboard in one hand and Liberal Democrat leaflets in the other”

Last month, LDV brought you the news that Duwayne Brooks, one of the best friends of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, will be fighting a council by-election for Lewisham Lib Dems on 19th February. Today’s Times carries a feature article about Duwayne:

Ten years ago Duwayne Brooks was known mainly for being the best friend of Stephen Lawrence. As a witness to the murderous attack on his friend, he found himself on a collision course with the police, the courts and even the Lawrence family. Now he is seeking a title that is decidedly more establishment-friendly: councillor.

This month marks not only the tenth anniversary of the devastating report that branded London’s police force “institutionally racist”, it also heralds Mr Brooks making his first formal steps into local politics when he stands in a council by-election in Lewisham, southeast London.

“Duwayne Brooks,” he said, reading his name out loud from the leaflets. “I like that. It makes me sound official.” …

“Obviously, my name has got a background to it,” he said as he went from gate to gate, dispensing posters and badges. “People will still go, ‘Oh, isn’t that that guy’, but I won’t be known by the label of ‘Stephen Lawrence’s best friend’. I will be known for something else. And that’s a good thing. There is a sense of pride in being chosen by people. It means they trust me. And to be trusted by people you don’t know, that is a privilege. Maybe in five years’ time I’ll be an MP. Who knows?”

Mr Brooks had left school and was living in a hostel when he and Stephen, both 18, were assaulted by a gang, one of whom called out: “What, what nigger?” He dialled 999 but claimed that the investigating officers ignored his evidence. He sued the Metropolitan Police Commissioner for wrongful arrest and negligence, and 13 other officers for breaches of the Race Relations Act. The case was settled out of court after he agreed to discontinue it.

In the years that followed, Mr Brooks was arrested repeatedly. He was once charged with attempted rape but the allegations against him were dropped. So is becoming a councillor a way of gaining the credibility he feels he is due? “To be honest, because I’ve had such a s****y life, this is something I can show to people, look what he did, look at his success.”

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  • i bought the times today for the first time in a very long while as the newsagent had run out of the guardian and independent. i was very pleasantly surprised to find both this and nick clegg’s op-ed in there. is the times secretly going lib-dem?

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Feb '09 - 10:48pm

    I currently live just a couple of streets away from where Stephen Lawrence was killed in Eltham. People in Eltham resent the way our place still seems to be known mainly for this killing. Those alleged to have been involved came from a mixture of places in south-east London. Eltham is no more racist than many other middle London suburbs.

    I was councillor from 1994 to 2006 for Downham ward, where Duwayne is now standing. A racist killing could so easily have happened there – it was a nearly all-white council estate, with a huge amount of resentment against what it saw as being ignored by the council in favour of more ethnically mixed wards in the north of the borough. At one time it was perhaps the BNP’s key target ward in London.

    The Liberal Democrats fought off the BNP in Downham. We stood up for the people who lived there, accepting they had a genuine case for more attention from the council, while never ever doing anything which could be interpreted as “pandering to racism”.

    During the time I was councillor, I did see the ward gradually change and become more mixed. I’m not saying there isn’t racism there, but I do think it’s died down from what it was. My experience is that across Lewisham even in Downham, racial mixing is now normal and unremarkable. This I believe has finished off the BNP’s chances.

    Downham’s old reputation means it would be a particular milestone to see Duwayne elected as a councillor there. Duwayne, quite correctly, is not making anything of what happened to him years ago, but standing for what he is now: a bright and energetic young man who has a lot of skills to offer. He will make a great councillor for Downham.

  • The very best of luck for tomorrow, Duwayne.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Feb '09 - 8:57am

    The results:

    Jenni Clutten (Lib Dem) 1075
    Duwayne Brooks(Lib Dem) 1067
    Labour 655
    Conservative 654
    Labour 635
    Conservative 632
    BNP 287
    Green 63
    Green 62

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