People filled the plaza outside Surrey city hall during an anti-gang rally on Wednesday evening (June 14). (Photo: Ethan Reyes)

Thousands call on politicians to end gang violence after Surrey teens murdered

‘We have to do something’ says organizer of ‘WAKE UP!’ event outside Surrey City Hall Wednesday

  • Jun. 14, 2018 9:00 a.m.

By Ethan Reyes, Now-Leader contributor

The murder of two Surrey teenagers drew thousands of people to city hall Wednesday evening, with speakers calling for elected officials to help curb recent violence on local streets.

Gurpreet Sahota, organizer of the WAKE UP! rally, said it was the culmination of years of community outrage that drove him and others to host the event.

“Twenty years ago, we were seeing gangsters dying at the age of 30, 35. Now, we are seeing kids not known to police, innocent kids, dying at the age of 16, 17. We have to do something,” Sahota said.

Jaskarn (Jason) Singh Jhutty, 16, and Jaskaran (Jesse) Singh Bhangal, 17, were both found dead following a late-night shooting in South Surrey’s Campbell Heights on June 4.

Police have not linked the murders to gang or drug violence, but are calling the incident “targeted.”

Although the deaths of the teenage boys are two prolific cases in recent memory, they are not unique in a city which has seen many shots-fired incidents.

The double-murder was Surrey’s 22nd shots-fired incident so far in 2018 – almost one a week.

This, after years of double-digit shootings in Surrey: There were 88 in 2015, 61 in 2016 and 59 in 2017.

RELATED STORY: Teen murder victims attended different Surrey schools

GANGS IN SURREY: The search for solutions

SEE ALSO: Premier’s discussion of teens murdered in South Surrey turns to ‘gang lifestyle’

Sahota said he believed a lack of resources for both the Surrey School Board and Surrey RCMP are contributing factors to the violence the city faces.

In 2017, Ottawa announced the allocation of more than $327 million of federal funding to combat violence and gang activity nationwide, but Sahota says a lack of accountability means this funding isn’t going to where it is needed most.

“When I talk to police officers, they are asking me ‘where is this money?’” he said.

Pravjit Takhar, a Surrey resident of 17 years, said it was his concern over what his community was becoming that drove him to attend the rally.

“The street I live on was once a very safe street,” he said. “I wouldn’t see anyone dealing on the street. Now, it’s just a routine; it looks like it’s part of this city.”

Nikhil Mutti, 16, said he and his friends attended Thursday’s rally to show their support for their community’s efforts to reduce violence.

Mutti said he hoped young people attracted to the gang lifestyle would take heed to listen to what was said by impassioned speakers at the rally.

“People want to have that stuff, but you have to work for it,” he said. “If you take the easy way out by doing the drug and gang thing, it messes your life up. It’s a one-way trip.”

Meantime, a free Youth Empowerment Forum has been organized for Thursday (June 15) inside Surrey City Hall to discuss “youth gangs, drugs and violence.”

See also: South Asian Family Association plans youth forum on ‘gang, drugs and violence’

See also: VIDEO: The inspiration behind a Surrey gang presentation in elementary schools

The public event is organized South Asian Family Association (SAFA) and has been in the work since March, said one of the organizers Rina Gill.

While some have assumed the event was planned after two South Asian teenagers were killed on June 4, Gill said this event has been in the works since March.

But, Gill noted the issue has “always been a hot-button issue in Surrey.”

A media release notes while “Surrey and other areas have attempted to address the gang violence that is taking place on the streets of Surrey. However, despite exploring means to put an end to this issue, it doesn’t appear to be going away.”

The forum aims to delve into solutions, such as making parents aware of what to watch out for.

“What are some signs that may indicate that a person is involved in drugs and gangs?” a release states. “There are so many leaders in South Asian and mainstream community who can be the role model or facilitator for mobilizing the community to address this need.”

Gill said Andrew Bacchus from the Ministry of Ontario will be keynote speaker at the event, who she said is “considered a national gang expert.”

She emphasized the event is not about “criticizing or judging Surrey, in terms of what is in place, we simply want to know what other cities and provinces are doing to tackle the issue” and brainstorm ideas as a “united front.”

The event, inside city hall’s Centre Stage (13450 104th Ave.), will run from 6 to 9 p.m., and will kick off with Bacchus as keynote speaker.

“Then we will break off into groups which will be led by each of the community organizations involved,” Gill explained, including KidsPlay and Youth Transforming Society. There will then be a breakout sessions and a speaker panel discussion.

“It’s an opportunity for it to be interactive, where attendees can share their ideas, thoughts and suggestions,” she said. “We will compile a report at the end, and submit it to city hall and the RCMP, and present what we think are solutions…. We appreciate experts in the field but we also want to hear grassroots, from the community, from youth themselves. That’s why we took a different approach.”

Organizers say there’s no need to register for the event.

-With files from Amy Reid

 

Just Posted

The Postmen collect 45 boxes of supplies for wildfire relief

Prince Rupert donations of food, water and toilet paper to be delivered to Burns Lake first

Coastal police unit operating with half its members

RCMP report to Port Edward council reveals low numbers on the coastal force

Sound of Prince Rupert’s cherry trees to be played around the world

Salvaged wood from chopped sakura trees is being crafted into taiko drum sticks

In Our Opinion: How to lose an ammonia tank— ask the city

How did a 68kg cylinder of ammonia remain unseen after multiple audits and assessments

Donation drop off tonight for B.C. wildfire victims

The Postmen have set up a three-day depot at the Moose Hall in Prince Rupert for disaster relief

This Week Podcast – Episode 98

From the Prince Rupert Golf Club, catch up on sports, entertainment and news highlights

The Northern View 2018 Readers Choice

Vote online or at the Prince Rupert office before noon on Sept. 7

Minister optimistic after 2 days of Columbia River Treaty negotiations

Canadian and U.S. officials met in Nelson Wednesday and Thursday to discuss future of the treaty

Man dies in B.C. police cell while awaiting court hearing

An independent investigation is underway after a man died while in Penticton police custody Aug. 16

RCMP appeal for tips, dashcam footage in German tourist shooting west of Calgary

The Durango crashed into the ditch after the shooting near the Goodstoney Rodeo Centre

2 nurses attacked at B.C. psych hospital, union calls for in-unit security

PHSA says that in-unit guards would do more harm than good

Former B.C. optician won’t be jailed for sexually assaulting minor

Kenneth Pilkington sentenced to 24 months’ probation for offence three decades ago

Red Cross now accepting donations for those impacted by B.C. wildfires

The Canadian Red Cross is asking for help now and in the weeks and months ahead.

B.C. program to educate parents reduces ‘shaken baby syndrome’ by 35%

Period of PURPLE Crying was launched nearly a decade ago

Most Read