Socialist Worker

Olympic icon John Carlos electrifies packed meeting

by Ken Olende
Issue No. 2304

John Carlos (left) was joined by Samantha Rigg-David  (speaking, right) and a packed audience (bottom)  (Pic: Smallman )

John Carlos (left) was joined by Samantha Rigg-David (speaking, right) and a packed audience (bottom) (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Some 800 people crowded into a meeting in central London last night (Monday) to hear Olympic legend John Carlos speak alongside Doreen Lawrence, Janet Alder and other justice campaigners.

Hassan Mahamdallie opened the event, called Resistance—the best Olympic spirit, by saying this wasn’t just a meeting about the past, but what can be done today.

Doreen Lawrence talked of her struggle over 19 years to get justice for her son, Stephen Lawrence. She concluded by saying that this January, with the conviction of two of his murderers, she’d got somewhere. But new revelations of police corruption made her think, “Here we are again.”

She added that after all the investigations and inquiries the black community was “still in the wilderness. They still don’t listen.”

Janet Alder told the story of how her brother Christopher died in police custody. She said the official investigation was so poor she had to go to court herself.


John Carlos, famous as one of the athletes who gave black power salutes at the 1968 Olympics, told the meeting, “My life has not been about winning medals, it’s about being a freedom fighter.”

He added, “I love the Olympics, but how come the royals get the royal box and we just get a royal shove?”

“Racism, bias and prejudice are woven into the fabric of our society. The police try to divide us and tag us, they see us as black or white, but the reality is right versus wrong.”

John added, “Now I’m an old man so we have to find young recruits to take the baton.”

People stood and cheered when he said there was one thing people could learn from him, “I am not afraid to offend my oppressor.”

“In the end there’s no neutrality. Either you’re committed or you’re not.”

Samantha Rigg-David from the Sean Rigg Justice and Change Campaign said that meetings like this gave her the fire to go on campaigning. Fahad Ansari from the Babar Ahmad campaign pointed out how extradition laws that have been used to persecute Muslims are now used against wider sections of the population.

Weyman Bennett from Unite Against Fascism said that the success of efforts to push back the fascist British National Party and the English Defence League showed what united, militant campaigns can achieve.

Campaigners called out the names of people who had faced injustice and racism from the police.

David Zirin, the co-writer of John Carlos’s biography, said of the Olympics, “Don’t stand by while your city is occupied.

“Don’t look to the Olympic flame look to the other torch the Greeks have lit—the torch of resistance.”

Unjum Mirza of the RMT transport union explained why activists in the union had called the meeting and how important collective organisation is in challenging oppression.

The meeting unanimously voted to demand a public inquiry into police corruption.

For a video of the meeting visit the SWP TV Youtube channel

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