Socialist Worker

Go all out for 19 March anti-racist demos

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2493

Protesters joined an emergency demonstration in solidarity with the refugees in Calais on Monday night

Protesters joined an emergency demonstration in solidarity with the refugees in Calais on Monday night (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Activists across Britain are building for monster demonstrations on Saturday 19 March to say refugees are welcome.

The protests in London, Glasgow and Cardiff, called by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR), are also against Islamophobia and other forms of racism.

The TUC, National Union of Students and unions including Unite, Unison, GMB, NUT, NASUWT, Usdaw, CWU, FBU, PCS, Aslef, Bfawu, POA and Equity all back the demonstrations.

Campaigners are pulling out all the stops to build at a local level. Big meetings and rallies are being held to promote the demos.

Over 150 people went to The Round Chapel in Hackney, east London, on Wednesday of last week.

Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of SUTR, insisted, “The key question today is are we going to treat the refugees in Calais and Dunkirk as human beings or not?”

Local MP and shadow minister Diane Abbott brought a message of solidarity from Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party.

She said, “David Cameron is whipping up a toxic narrative over immigrants. It is a myth that migrants lower wages.

“This myth is alive and well in the government and the Tory party more generally and is, sadly, also accepted by some in the Labour Party.

“But it is a myth. It is untrue. Migrants don’t lower wages. Employers pay low wages.”

Ifhat Smith, whose 14 year old son was pulled out of class and asked about “connections to Isis” for using the term “ecoterrorism”, spoke about the government’s Prevent agenda.

She told the meeting, “Prevent is the new McCarthyism. We have to unite against its racist agenda.”

NUT union deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney sent a message of solidarity.

The meeting ended with the audience chanting “Say it loud, say it clear—refugees are welcome here!”

More than 70 people attended Oxford’s rally last Thursday night.

Councillors John Tanner from Labour and Ruthi Brandt from the Green Party slammed the Tories’ refusal to take more than a tiny number of refugees.

Tanner said only two refugee families had been housed in Oxford in the last six months.

Coverage 

The SUTR group in Chelmsford, Essex, got coverage in their local paper for the demo last week.

Another 50 people attended a rally in west London and 40 in Islington, north London.

Finsbury Park Mosque chair Mohammed Kozbar spoke powerfully in Islington about his trip to a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon.

“People are living in tents with 20 or 30cm of snow,” he said. “There are children with no shoes. This situation makes me very angry.”

Mohammed concluded, “We all need to join this demonstration—and actually to campaign for it.”

Some ten more meetings were set to take place this week alone, including in the small town of Colne in Lancashire. Local trade unionist Keith Chadwick told Socialist Worker, “We leafleted for it on the coach back from the Trident demonstration, the unions are putting money in, and we’re hoping to go down to the mosque and mobilise there.”

NUS vice president Shakira Martin told the anti-Trident rally, “It’s time to stand up to this government.

“It’s vital that you come on the Stand Up to Racism demo, because these things are all connected. We need you on the streets.”

Last weekend SUTR Wales supporters sent a delegation and aid to Calais.

Around 100 people joined SUTR’s emergency demonstration outside Downing Street on Monday night in protest at the assault on the Calais camp.

Green MP Caroline Lucas was among those who spoke and called for solidarity with refugees.

Angela Crane, a student, told Socialist Worker, “I saw the pictures of what was happening in Calais and felt angry and sickened. These are people being treated as sub-human. It’s disgusting. We need to act, and I’m definitely going on the demonstration.”

Weyman argued, “19 March must show the world that anti-racists are the majority. It must show the world that David Cameron doesn’t speak for us, that Ukip doesn’t speak for us and that the Daily Mail and the Daily Express don’t speak for us.

“We say refugees are welcome and we say no to racism, Islamophobia and Antisemitism.”

Thanks to Jon Woollard, Pat Carmody, Sasha Simic


Arson attack on asylum centre

A suspected petrol bomb was thrown at an asylum seeker centre in Aintree near Liverpool earlier this month.

Last week police said they were treating the arson as racially motivated. Up to

15 asylum seekers at a time live in the building, run by Serco.

A source told the Liverpool Echo it “is continuously attacked” with windows boarded up “because they could not afford to replace glass” every time it is smashed.


Call for united European demos

Nearly 1,500 people took part in a short march in solidarity with refugees from the European Union offices to Spanish government offices in Barcelona last Saturday.

It was backed by the city’s left wing government.

This was followed by music and a rally—and a call for a united demonstration on

19 March, which will be a day of coordinated protests across Europe including Greece, Britain, France, Poland, Spain, Austria and Germany.


Tunnel walkers face Kent court

Three refugees who walked through the Channel Tunnel will appear at Canterbury Crown Court this week.

The hearing of Sudanese refugee Abdul Rahman Haroun is on Thursday.

Payam Moradi Mirhessari and Fardin Vahdani, both Iranians, are due to have their cases heard the next day.

They are charged with “obstructing engines or carriages on railways” under section 36 of the 1861 Malicious Damage Act.

Abdul has been granted asylum in Britain. Fardin and Payam have not.


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