Last October, David Braniff-Herbert and his partner James were walking along the Albert Embankment when they were forced to take shelter in a pub after a gang of teenagers shouted homophobic slurs at them and threatened the couple with weapons. A week later they were joined by 150 people -including former Lambeth Mayor Mark Bennett- in a vigil and protest walk through Vauxhall where they reclaimed the area and stood up for LGBT rights.
In the wake of Cllr Bennett’s tragic death on February 4, David Braniff-Herbert expresses his gratitude and pays his respects to the former Mayor.
“It is with great sadness that I write to you about the recent and tragic loss of Cllr Mark Bennett, Mayor of Lambeth and lifelong LGBT campaigner.
I am sure that Mark’s colleagues and all those he helped through his years of campaigning will tell you of the depth of Mark’s impact on their lives and the communities to which he served and championed.
I met Mark last October, after my partner and I were chased and set upon by a group of homophobes whilst walking along Albert Embankment. Mark reached out to us to provide support as we quickly scrambled to hold a community march, in response to what had happened.
Attending the march, I made a quip about his Mayoral ‘bling’ but Mark responded not with laughter but with a shy smile. Reflecting on that moment I am now sure that Mark was deeply upset by what had happened to us. He fully understood the gravity of the situation and continued to be sombre and remained at our sides for the duration of the entire march. Even in a pub after the march, he stood at the door, shaking people’s hands and thanking them for coming.
When Cllr Bennett addressed the rally behind the iconic MI5 building, it was evident that he had a burning passion to make our community safer. Indeed, during his tenure as Lambeth Cabinet member for community safety he founded a ground-breaking project to look into hate crime and prevention in the borough.
This gentle giant had actively sought to stop hate in our community. He personally recruited Mark Healey -one of the UK’s best known and highly regarded hate crimes campaigners, to tackle this problem.
Cllr Mark Bennett’s legacy lives on and we will all benefit. Thanks to him, we are able to hold the hand of those we love, free of fear, and knowing that should hate rear its ugly head that justice can –and will- prevail.
Thank you Mark, thank you so much.
Vauxhall LGBT activist