Stephen Lawrence Day is to be marked on Thursday 21 April, 28 years after the black teenager was murdered by a gang of white youths in a racist attack.
The day, first observed in 2019, encourages communities to open up a conversation about “creating a fairer society”, while empowering children and young people to “make the changes they’d like to see and create a society that treats everyone with fairness and respect”.
Lawrence’s racially-motivated murder and the botched investigation into his death shocked the UK, ultimately leading to changes in attitudes to racism, as well as law and police practice.
This year, Stephen Lawrence Day comes just days after Derek Chauvin was found guilty for the murder of unarmed black man George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, which has brought the Black Lives Matter movement into focus again.
When is Stephen Lawrence Day?
Stephen Lawrence Day takes place on April 22, on the anniversary of his death.
Lawrence’s mother, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, who founded the day in memory of her son, said: “The events of 2020: George Floyd’s death and the subsequent resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, along with societal inequalities exposed and exacerbated by Covid, has made us reflect how we engage with our communities.
“This brought a sharp focus on what I want to be achieved in Stephen’s name.
“I want Stephen Lawrence Day to be a reflective learning experience, and a celebration and a journey toward greater equality and inclusion for all.”
How can I get involved with the day?
In order to support Stephen Lawrence Day you can do the following:
- Join the #StephenLawrenceDay Virtual Assembly on Thursday 22 April, from 9.00 am.
- Spread the word of the theme of ‘Friendship, Respect and Difference’ on social media.
- Watch Baroness Doreen Lawrence’s speech on anti-racism in education
- Watch hate crime webinar with Stuart Lawrence
- Use the www.stephenlawrenceday.org website to support children and young adults in education.
- Donate to or raise funds for the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation – with donations going towards improving lives of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- Ask the schools in your area, or your children’s schools to support Stephen Lawrence Day.
- Ask your employer and ask them to work with the foundation.
- Share a video on social media saying why you are supporting Stephen Lawrence Day 2021.
- Use hashtags on social media such as; #StephenLawrenceDay #StephenLawrence #SLDay21 #ALegacyOfChange #BecauseOfStephen #LiveYourBestLife # #education #Classrooms #Community #Careers #neverforgetstephenlawrence
What happened to Stephen Lawrence?
On April 22, 1993, black teenager Stephen Lawrence was waiting at a bus stop in south east London with friend Duwayne Brooks when the two were attacked by a gang of white youths.
Brooks escaped unhurt, but Stephen Lawrence was stabbed several times, running from the scene before bleeding to death.
Several witnesses came forward in the following days, naming a gang which had been linked with several racist attacks in the area.
Gary Dobson, Neil and Jamie Acourt, Luke Knight and David Norris, were all identified as suspects and arrested between May 7 and 23 June, with Neil Acourt and Luke Knight charged with murder on May 13 and June 23 respectively after they were identified by Duwayne Brooks.
The prosecution was dropped in July, however, with Brooks’ testimony alone deemed insufficient.
A private prosecution against Neil Acourt, Knight and Dobson was launched by the parents of Stephen, Doreen and Neville, but again the evidence from Brooks was deemed inadmissible in court.
The five accused men appeared at a special inquiry into Stephen’s death in 1997, but refused to answer questions.
Were Lawrence’s killers brought to justice?
In the wake of the special inquiry the Daily Mail ran a headline featuring the five suspects with the headline ‘MURDERERS’, calling on the men to sue them if the paper was wrong.
Later that year, the Macpherson Report, launched by Justice Secretary Jack Straw, concluded that the police investigation was “marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership.”
The report also led to the banning of the double jeopardy law, which prevented defendants from being tried more than once on the same charges. The law change meant that Gary Dobson and David Norris could face trial again, following the discovery of forensic evidence and covert footage featuring Norris making violent and racist remarks.
Dobson and Norris were both found guilty of murder in January 2012 and received life sentences.
It was revealed in 2013 that a police mole infiltrated a campaign group supporting the Lawrence family’s fight for justice. Police said in 2018 that the case was “unlikely to progress further.”