Lawrence friend appeals for unity

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The Independent Online
THE KEY witness to the murder of Stephen Lawrence is understood to be planning a breakaway anti-racist movement because he is disillusioned with the way the official campaign has been handled.

Duwayne Brooks's reported split from the broad-based civil rights movement due to be launched at a rally next month by the Lawrence family's barrister, Michael Mansfield QC, follows long-running frustrations with the campaign to date.

His friends say he has been suppressing his disillusion over the way the Lawrence campaign has been conducted and is now ready to act independently. He is understood to fear that Mr Mansfield's organisation will be remote from the south London community and will suffer from the presence of "too many" members of the political and legal elite.

The alternative, grassroots campaign being planned by Mr Brooks and his friends is called the Independent Civil Rights Movement and is to be launched next month, according to the London Evening Standard.

The strained relations between Mr Brooks and the Lawrence family surfaced on Tuesday night, just a week before Sir William Macpherson of Cluny is due to make public his report into the police handling of the affair.

They were all at a meeting following a performance at a London theatre of Richard Norton Taylor's The Colour of Justice, a drama based on the Lawrence inquiry.

Mr Brooks, 24, clashed with Stephen's father, Neville, and Mr Mansfield over their endorsement of a film about the Lawrence inquiry which is due to be shown on ITV today.

He reportedly criticised the fact that Mr Mansfield's wife, Yvette Vanson, co-produced the two-hour "factual dramatisation" entitled The Murder of Stephen Lawrence. He said he felt "very bitter".

Mr Brooks also attacked the family for failing to lend their support to a Movement for Justice march last Saturday, when more than 1,000 people walked from Brixton to Downing Street to demand government action over racist crime.

Mr Lawrence said: "I have never dictated to people what demonstration they should be on or events they should support. I have only ever advised people to support the things we are doing."

Mr Lawrence also expressed his support for the film, The Murder of Stephen Lawrence.

He said: "I was naturally concerned about having a film about our lives and about the murder of our son. But I think the film succeeds far better than I could ever have believed."

Stephen's mother, Doreen, said: "I hope that this film will in some way begin to show people what the last six years has been like for my family and I, and how, but for racism and shocking incompetence, it could all have been so easily avoided."

Mr Brooks, who was with Stephen when he was murdered, feels he has been ignored by the Lawrence family. Earlier this year, he said that he blamed himself for Stephen's death. He said he regretted not forcing him to go a different route home after they both went to Stephen's uncle's home.

At the private prosecution brought by the Lawrence family, Mr Brooks's identification evidence was ruled inadmissible by the judge, leading to the collapse of the case in 1996. He has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and was too upset to give evidence at the public inquiry.

Mr Brooks's solicitor, Jane Deighton, said last night that he would not comment on the new campaign.