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

Cherry Creek firefighters mourn former deputy chief

Brian Brick is the second Alberni Valley firefighter to die of work-related cancer in January

Port Alberni to consider the future of McLean Mill

City council will be holding a committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 21

Intern gives Port Alberni’s museum artifacts an update

St. John’s man travelled more than 7,000 kms to assist with curatorial duties

BCHL: Bulldogs best Salmon Arm at home

Bulldogs face Powell River in Sunday matinee Jan. 20; puck drop is 2 p.m.

UPDATE: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

B.C. man fined $10,000 after leaving moose to suffer before death

Surrey man was convicted last week on three Wildlife Act charges

‘Blue Monday’ isn’t real, but depression can be

CMHA encourages people to prioritize their mental health

Anti-pipeline group wants NEB to consider impact of emissions, climate change

Stand.earth filed NEB motion asking to apply same standard to the project as it did with Energy East pipeline

Parole granted for drunk driver who killed B.C. RCMP officer

Kenneth Jacob Fenton will be able to attend alcohol abuse treatment, nearly three years after crash that killed Const. Sarah Beckett

B.C. man charged in 2014 snake venom death of toddler

Henry Thomas was taking care of the North Vancouver girl the day before she died

B.C.’s largest public-sector union wants inquiry into money laundering, drugs

Union officials say Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have not ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry

Teen in confrontation with Native American: I didn’t provoke

Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School said he was trying to defuse the situation

Vancouver Island senior dies after medical emergency and rollover crash

Incident happened Saturday in Nanaimo on Poplar Street

Most Read