A year after Anthony Walker's killing, racism still stalks Merseyside

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The Independent Online

On a Sunday afternoon 12 months ago, Gee Walker was called upon to articulate her grief in a way that might persuade the racists who had just murdered her teenage son, Anthony, to turn themselves in. When the moment arrived, grief overcame her and so it was her daughter, Dominique, sitting three seats away, who took over, clutching the handwritten notes her mother had intended to read.

"He's my brother, my 18-year-old brother, two years younger than me," said Ms Walker shaking with anger as she eventually abandoned the script in the garden of the family's small three-bedroomed house in Huyton, Merseyside. "He gave much of his life to others."

The power of Ms Walker's oratory fostered a national indignation about the crime which forced the killers' parents to travel to the Netherlands, where the men had taken refuge, and bring them home to face justice. It was her first step on a path which has transformed her from a media studies student into a figurehead for Britain's civil rights movement.

Ms Walker, who has spoken at anti-racist rallies across the country, has just been awarded a grant from Everton FC to help her to front the Anthony Walker Foundation, a charity the family set up to tackle racism.

But it is the force of her arguments about the need for political awareness among teenagers, more than racial tolerance alone, that has most impressed campaigners. "It's down to us - the people - to stamp out the BNP and their attitudes," she said. "It's down to us to understand what parties like that really stand for and to know exactly what we are voting for. We need more young people, under-25s, to do the speaking and engage others in why it's important to vote."

Though Merseyside might have been chastened by Anthony's death, there have been many more examples in the past year of the racism that stalks mainly white districts such as Huyton. Within hours of the conviction of Anthony's killers, Michael Barton and Paul Taylor, racist graffiti was daubed on a memorial to him. A local man, Neil Martin, 29, appeared in court in May for posting racist messages on a website which was a focus for Anthony Walker tributes.

An Asian nurse, who will give only her forename, Jessie, says she endured months of racist abuse after moving to Huyton from multicultural Toxteth. "They have thrown bricks at our car and at our house. Once they threw a brick through the upstairs bedroom window when my daughter was asleep."

May Adeniran, a retired psychiatric social worker who met her Nigerian husband, Stephen, in 1958, also moved from the security of Toxteth. "Toxteth was a lovely little place, with people from all countries supporting each other," she said. "But when we moved to [the white district of] Edge Hill it was different. Whenever we travelled into other areas, like Everton, I and my daughter would be ostracised."

Robbie Quinn, a Liberal Democrat councillor for Liverpool's Anfield district, received death threats after he was placed on a Red Watch hit-list. Red Watch is believed to be run by the Nazi group Combat 18. Mr Quinn was targeted after Alec McFadden, a union leader who had organised an anti-racism festival, was almost blinded by racists in a knife attack. The Merseyside MP Angela Eagle initiated a parliamentary debate about Red Watch, and found her own name on the list.

Merseyside Police are working with schools and social services to secure convictions. Officers are also giving talks at schools to help counteract the racism many children are learning at home. Dominque Walker will be at the forefront of the fight-back. "Making a stand against racism has given me a confidence that I didn't know I had," she said.