The Wokingham Paper

Almost 2,500 sign petition for victim memorial at Forbury Gardens

The petition is calling for a memorial to be placed in Forbury Gardens. Picture: Phil Creighton

ALMOST 2,500 people have signed a petition for a memorial at Forbury Gardens to honour the victims of the weekend attack. 

On Sunday morning, Reading resident Arya Babollah created the petition, which he has since called an “embodiment of Reading being a strong community.”

The 19-year-old said: “I couldn’t sleep that night, I was hurting like many individuals across Reading.

“I didn’t know the victims, but I knew I had to do something. And then I found out that one of them was an American expat, like myself.”

Mr Babollah moved from Oklahoma to the area five years ago, where he then studied at Maiden Erlegh School.

He added: “[The petition] is trying to encourage people to come together, we owe it to them to honour their legacies and remember them as they were. 

“It’s bringing the focus back on them — the victims and all the individuals affected.”

Currently, James Furlong (36) and Joe Ritchie-Bennett (39) are the only victims to be named from the attack. 

Mr Furlong, who was a teacher at The Holt School, was honoured this morning in a two-minute’s silence outside the school gates. 

Hundreds of students, alumni, teachers and parents gathered at Joel Park to pay their respects to the head of history, and lay flowers.

St Paul’s Church then opened its doors for people to light a candle in his memory. 

And the chief executive of Reading Pride has paid tribute to both Mr Furlong and Mr Ritchie-Bennett, who he said were “great supporters” of the LGBTQ+ community.

Mr Babollah, who has connections with Reading Borough Council, wants the petition to gather hundreds more signatures before a decision is made. 

He hopes the page will be a space for tribute messages, to amplify the voices of friends, family, students and colleagues who knew the victims.

For more information, and to sign the petition, visit: www.change.org/p/reading-borough-council-build-a-monument-in-forbury-gardens-to-honour-the-individuals-killed-and-injured

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