Some 200 people joined a rally organised by Stand Up to Racism in Balham, south London, last night, Wednesday.
It was the first of many rallies planned in towns and cities across Britain to build for the 19 March demonstrations against racism and to welcome refuugees in London, Glasgow and Cardiff.
Aisha Ahmed, who’s planning on joining the London march, told Socialist Worker, "There are a lot of different opinions on refugees, but there is also a significant number of people who support them.
"Even if the demo doesn't immediately shift the government, it will show that people care about the issue and build the movement."
Kate Adams from Kent Refugee Help opened the rally. "Home secretary Theresa May has been shameless in scapegoating refugees and migrants,” she said.
Kate has been supporting Abdul Rahman Haroun, an asylum seeker who walked the Channel Tunnel from Calais and, having arrived in Britain, faces legal charges.
"We should be pressuring Jeremy Corbyn to argue to open the border and give the refugees in Calais safe passage," she said to loud applause.
The Tories pledged to take in 20,000 refugees from Syria over five years because of mass pressure last autumn. But Murad Qureshi, a London Assembly Labour member, said, "Britain's refugee intake is too low, too slow and too narrow."
Aisha and many others agreed that Britain should open the border. "They should let the Calais refugees in," she said.
But the right is now on the offensive—every week politicians send out more messages scapegoating refugees and Muslims.
Finn Brennan from the Aslef train drivers’ union slammed David Cameron for dismissing refugees trapped in Calais as a “bunch of migrants”.
Many speakers emphasised the importance of solidarity delegations to Calais. Sara Tomlinson, who has been organising Trade Unionists for Calais as part of SUTR’s work, said from the floor, "We're going to Calais to for half term next week to help in any way we can.
"When we come back to our workplaces, we'll take up the argument that all the refugees could come here."
The Tories are also carrying out an Islamophobic assault with the Prevent strategy that targets Muslims for “extremism”.
Parent Ifhat Smith told the rally, "The diverse panel reflects how this Tory government is targeting so many people.
“This is McCarthyism—before it was about accusing people of Communism, now it's 'extremism'."
Her 14 year old son was asked if he was affiliated to Isis after using the term "ecoterrorism" in class.
Activists in south London have also launched a statement against the Prevent strategy.
The meeting showed that resisting the racist scapegoating of refugees can also give people confidence to take on Prevent. Imam Suliman Gani said, "Muslims are feeling demonised and marginalised, but with this gathering we know we're not alone."
He urged people to go on the19 March demos. "United we stand and divided we fall," he said.
Weyman Bennettfrom Stand Up to Racism said, “When Jeremy Corbyn spoke on our demo last year that represents a real shift. But we have to turn that hope into something real and it matters how big the demo is.
“I was contacted by the authorities to say the demo might be too close to the elections.
That’s not the real reason they contacted us—they’re scared of lots of people coming out and opposing the government’s policies
“There’s more of us that there are of them—we have to get a voice.”
Other speakers included, NUS vice president for further education Shakira Martin and Labour MEP Claude Moraes.
Future Stand Up to Racism rallies include:
NEWCASTLE: MARCH AND RALLY: Saturday 20 February, 1pm, Centre for Life, Times Square, NE1 4EP
LONDON: EALING Tue 23 Feb, 7.30pm, St Mary’s Church Hall, St Mary’s Rd, W5 5RH
LONDON: HACKNEY Wed 24 Feb, 7.30pm, The Round Chapel, 2 Powerscroft Rd (corner Lower Clapton Rd), E5 0PU
LONDON: ISLINGTON Mon 29 Feb, 7pm, Islington Town Hall, Upper Street, N1 2UD
LONDON: SOUTH EAST Tuesday 1 March, 7pm, Goldsmiths College Main Building, Room 137a near New Cross/New Cross Gate stations
LONDON: TOWER HAMLETS Thu 3 Mar, 6.15pm, London Muslim Centre, 46 Whitechapel Rd, E1 1JX
CAMBRIDGE: Tuesday 1 March, 7pm, Keynes Hall, Kings College, Cambridge CB2 1ST
LONDON: HARINGEY, Thursday 3 March, 7.30pm, West Indian Cultural Centre, 9 Clarendon Rd, N8 0DJ
MANCHESTER Tue 1 Mar, 7pm, Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount St, M2 5NS SHEFFIELD Mon 15 Feb, 7pm, Sheffield Hallam University, Owen Building, Pennine Lecture Theatre, S1 1WB
NOTTINGHAM Thursday 3 March, 7pm, Friends Meeting House, Clarendon Street, NG1 5JD