MY ESF began on Thursday morning.
I travelled down to London on a coach organised for asylum seekers from Manchester. The coach was made possible by donations from trade unions in the city.
There was a real feeling of excitement building up on the coach.
People knew they were going to the ESF because ordinary members of the RMT rail workers’ union, the civil service workers’ PCS union, Unison and other union branches had voted to donate money to them.
And they knew they were going to an event where, instead of being marginalised, they would be welcomed and respected.
Even the three-hour delay to the beginning of our journey, caused by a mix-up over the coach, didn’t dampen people’s enthusiasm.
On the coach I spoke to Mittra, an asylum seeker from Iran.
She told me how important it was for her and all refugees to have a chance to tell their stories, to meet other asylum seekers and share their experiences.
Doreen from Jamaica said she was very interested in hearing from, and forging links with, campaigns and campaigners from as many different backgrounds as possible.
Ziadah from Uganda told me that she was excited about being with people sympathetic to her case.
Siad, also from Iran, explained to me that he wanted to go to meetings where he could expose the truth about the so called war on terror.
Peter from Zambia is the chair of a refugee organisation in Manchester. He talked to me about how he wanted to discuss overcoming the injustices in the legal system.
Peter, an asylum seeker with Asperger’s Syndrome, talked about how he was looking forward to meetings on issues around disability.
This was the incredibly rich mixture of people travelling to the ESF on just one coach. I know the event will be amazing.
I was at the ESF in Florence in 2002. I couldn’t believe the number of people there and the enthusiasm they showed.
The demonstration was enormous. I thought I would never be on another one that size—but then came 15 February 2003.
That global protest was launched at the ESF in Florence. I hope this ESF launches simliar initiatives.
In tomorrow’s Socialist Worker
Part two of Arundhati Roy on ‘Public power in the age of empire’. Lindsey German takes us on a tour of radical London. Interview with photographer Martin Jenkinson with photos from the ESF exhibition… PLUS reports from meetings, gigs and more.