'IN JULY last year I had my jaw broken and face scarred and I was in hospital after a racist attack. It has taken six months for me to be able to start getting my life sorted out. I've had a lot of support from this community. A lot of people came forward to give evidence. But the problems I have had have been mainly with the police. They haven't told us what's been going on. Something needs to be done in the community. We should get rid of these racist people who do things like they did to me.'
So said Lee Evans last week. Lee and his cousin Kassim Evans were victims of a racist attack in Eltham, south east London. After they left a pub, a car drove alongside them and their attackers leapt out, shouting racist abuse and wielding bottles and knives.
Lee spoke out at a meeting of 120 local, mainly white, people who have been shocked by the rise of racism in the area. Lee's mother, Cath Evans, is white. Her husband, Chris, is black. Cath told the meeting, 'I wouldn't want any parent to face what we have been through. Why should racists be allowed to rule the future of our children?'
Cath told Socialist Worker, 'When I saw Lee at the door he was bleeding from everywhere. He doesn't know how he got home. He just stood there and said, 'Mum, they kept calling me racist names.' 'I've lived here for ten years. I've got three other children. They're frightened to go out.'
This attack gives a glimpse of the horror behind last week's headlines of a rise in racially motivated attacks reported to the Crown Prosecution Service. Eltham is one area that has seen a sharp increase in such attacks over the last year.
A man was due to appear in court this week charged with racially aggravated GBH on Lee and racially aggravated ABH (actual bodily harm) on Kassim.
Anti Nazi League Conference
Campaign to halt the BNP
THE ANTI Nazi League (ANL) held its annual conference in Manchester last Saturday against the backdrop of a rising threat from the Nazis, and growing opposition to them. The BNP was forced to cancel a high profile press conference in Boghall, near Edinburgh, on Wednesday of last week after a protest by the ANL.
The ANL again wrecked the BNP's plans in London, holding a 300-strong protest outside a planned meeting in north London's Crouch End last week. Last Saturday's ANL conference saw around 150 delegates discuss how to keep building up opposition to the Nazis, particularly in the run-up to this May's local elections.
The BNP says it wants to stand 200 candidates. Speakers at the conference included Carl St Paul from the firefighters' FBU union, Harriet Yeo from the rail workers' TSSA union national executive and chair of the South East Region Labour Party, Junior Robinson from the GMB race committee, and Julie Waterson, the ANL's national organiser.
They all stressed the urgent need to step up campaigning against the BNP. 'The BNP is gaining from the collapse in the Tory vote,' said Julie. 'They are riding on the back of the racist hysteria over asylum seekers. We have to put up the biggest banner we can against the Nazis. In every school, estate and workplace we need to find people who will stand up to the Nazis and take on the racist arguments. We have to be more media savvy, sending in letters and press releases to take every chance to expose their Nazi face.'
Fran McCall from Wigan spoke about their local campaign: 'We heard the BNP wants to stand possibly four candidates in our area. Around 100 people turned up to a Wigan and Lee Against Racism and Fascism meeting last Saturday. Everyone left with something they can get involved with. Another 40 people have met up since. We feel more confident that we can go forward and take on the Nazis.'
Steve O'Donnell from Burnley, where there are three BNP councillors, added, 'The BNP come round people's doors with leaflets that talk about ordinary things like pensions and jobs. We have to argue that they are hiding what they really think, and tell people that they are Nazis.'
The conference included a panel of musicians discussing Love Music Hate Racism, which has organised gigs across Britain. Chris from Misty in Roots explained the importance of Rock Against Racism in the 1970s in helping to create a popular anti-Nazi culture that helped to break the Nazi National Front.
Jenna G from Uncut said at the conference, 'I've learnt so much here. I want to do more than just scream abuse at the TV. I feel, wow, really proud to be here with so many people who feel the same way I do.'
Guy Garvey from the band Elbow added, 'I don't just think it's my duty to get out there and do something. I feel really excited about it after this.'
Labour MP is playing with fire
THE LABOUR MP Phil Woolas gave comfort to racists last week when he made his inflammatory comment that 'racist attacks on white people are not taken seriously'. He is MP for Oldham East, an area that saw BNP leader Nick Griffin get a 16.4 percent vote in the general election.
Woolas's claim that being 'even-handed' means 'the BNP are the losers' is dangerous. The BNP become more confident with every concession to racism. Where is the evidence that attacks on whites are underplayed? Right wing press, politicians and the police have been cynically stoking up the idea of white people being the main 'victims of racism'.
Yet Greater Manchester Police's Ethnic Minority and Hate Crime report for 2001-2 shows the majority of race attack victims across the whole area are Asian. A spokeswoman for the Commission for Racial Equality said last week that 'nine out of ten cases of discrimination brought to us are brought by members of the ethnic minority communities'.
Analysis of the British Crime Survey shows that over a year a white person had only a 0.5 percent chance of being the victim of a 'racial incident'. But you are eight times more likely to be a victim if you are Bangladeshi or Pakistani, according to the survey. The figure is only slightly less for an Afro-Caribbean person.
'Now we are preparing to take to the streets'
THE ELTHAM meeting was organised by Greenwich United Against Racism and Fascism, a group including the Greenwich Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) and the Anti Nazi League. Dev Barrah, from the Greenwich CRE, said, 'If the local authorities and the police don't do anything, someone is going to die.'
He presented a history of racist attacks in the area, which shot up by 210 percent after the British National Party (BNP) set up their headquarters there in 1989. The audience also saw harrowing photos of recent examples of victims' battered and burnt bodies.
Dev recalled how '65,000 people turned up to march against the BNP's headquarters and shut it down'. Those at the meeting agreed that another demonstration should be organised to oppose the racists thugs who are currently trying to organise.
'A big demo gives us clout. We want it in April, which is also the tenth anniversary of Stephen Lawrence's death,' Dev told Socialist Worker. 'We had a positive response when we went round building for the Eltham meeting. We felt really empowered. We've been out several times and have knocked on 600 doors. Many people have given their names and telephone numbers to be contacted over doing things. We are going to carry on this work.'
This sort of response is vital as the London Evening Standard last week gave space to BNP leader Nick Griffin's claim that they were 'preparing an assault on London'.
Allowing the Nazis to organise will lead to more racist attacks and more victims like Lee and Kassim. It is brilliant that local people have organised in Eltham. They are showing that the racists do not speak for the majority in the area.