Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across Britain last Saturday to defend refugees. The protests were a slap in the face for David Cameron.
In London some 50,000 marched. Anti-war activists, socialists and anti-racists mixed with charity workers and NGOs.
Many marchers brought their children.
Gohar said he’d donated to charities to support refugees but “wanted to do something tangible, not just from my couch”.
Marchers denounced Cameron’s plan to accept just 20,000 Syrians over the next five years.
Mitra said, “We need to take in as many as we can. What David Cameron is proposing is bullshit.”
Student Hatice said, “We need to open the border. We can worry about the paperwork later—people are dying now.”
Refugees from Syria and elsewhere joined the protests. Alex Ssemmanda fled homophobic persecution in Uganda.
He told Socialist Worker, “Anybody can become a refugee due to circumstances outside their control.”
Syrian refugee Ahmed joined well over 5,000 people marching in Glasgow.
He told Socialist Worker, “Many of my friends have been killed, I could not count them all.
“I wish I could go back to Syria but there is no life there. Most of the schools, hospitals and homes are destroyed.”
Syrian refugee Selman Shwaish was on the London march. He told Socialist Worker, “Many of our families, including mine, are still in Syria. I’m asking the government to let me bring them here.”
Selman, like some other protesters, supported Western intervention in Syria. But Ahmed disagreed. “War has caused this refugee crisis and bombing is not the solution,” he said.
Stop the War Coalition placards reading, “Don’t bomb Syria” were popular on the protests.
Some workers brought union banners, including from the PCS, UCU, NUT and Unison. And strikers from the National Gallery greeted the London demo.
Around 3,000 people protested in Bristol and over 700 in Cardiff.
Some 500 rallied in Exeter. Protester Richard said it felt like there had been “a change in the political atmosphere in the city”.
Around 400 protested in Manchester and 500 in Leeds. Up to 200 people rallied in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, chanting, “Say it loud and say it clear, refugees are welcome here!”.
More protests took place in Birmingham, Swansea, Coventry, Norwich and Leamington, among other places.
Protesters rejected the idea that Britain can’t afford to help refugees.
In Swansea one banner read, “Cameron to the rescue—£340 billion to help (when it was banks that were drowning)”.
The protests were called by a number of organisations including Stand Up To Racism.
Weyman Bennett from Stand Up To Racism told the crowd in London, “The demonstration today tells David Cameron—refugees are welcome and you’re not.
“We won’t accept a single death in our name and won’t let David Cameron divide us. Open the border!”
Thanks to all Socialist Worker readers who sent reports and photos.
Build Stand up to Racism
Activists are building Stand up to Racism rallies and meetings in towns and cities across Britain.
In Manchester 55 people met after the city’s demonstration to defend refugees to launch Stand up to Racism in Manchester.
Stand up to Racism can bring together trade unionists and other campaigners to build locally on the mood to reject the Tories’ racist lies.
If you want to set up a group in your area start by collecting signatories of all those who would like to be a part of it.
Set up stalls to collect for the next Stand up to Racism solidarity trip to refugees trapped in Calais on 17 October.