Socialist Worker

Anti-racists hold unity vigil after Polish migrant killed in Harlow

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2519

The Harlow vigil called for opposition to division and racism

The Harlow vigil called for opposition to division and racism (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Over 200 people joined a vigil for Polish migrant Arkadiusz "Arek" Jozwik in Harlow, Essex, last night, Wednesday.

Arkadiusz died on Monday from head injuries suffered in a mob attack in the town's Stow area last Saturday. He was with a friend who has since been discharged from hospital.

Police have arrested six teenagers on suspicion of murder. Five have subsequently been released on police bail.

His brother Radek said, "The police have told us he was attacked because they heard him and his friends speaking the Polish language."

But the police have said that a "hate crime" is only one line of inquiry.

Adam Cochrane from Harlow Stand Up to Racism told the crowd, "What we do know is that the eyes of the country are on Harlow.

"We know that a lot of people are feeling worried and that a lot of people are getting the wrong impression of Harlow."

He added, "The Polish people are our brothers and sisters and they are welcome.

People in Harlow made clear they welcomed Polish migrants

People in Harlow made clear they welcomed Polish migrants (Pic: Socialist Worker)

"Harlow is an antiracist town."

The attack has sent fear through the Polish community, many of whom turned out for the vigil.

Silvia, who has lived in Harlow for six years, told Socialist Worker, "There's more racism now, people are scared to go out.

"I was on the bus with my friend and we were speaking Polish. One guy behind us said 'Fucking Polish people' and showed us the finger.

"When I go shopping I never go on the phone in case someone hears me speaking Polish."

Sandor from Hungary said, "I was also attacked a couple of years ago by a gang of 15-20 people.

"It was because I'm not English - I wasn't the first and he won't be the last."

Many of the Polish people at the vigil said that racism had got worse since the vote to Leave the European Union in June.


Miroslawa Gust-Majdzinska and Gerard Majdzinski came to the vigil with a Polish flag to show "they wouldn't be afraid".

Gerard said, "I think people are now more open about what they think, before they would keep quiet. Now some feel they can say, 'We don't want migrants here'."

Some racists have felt emboldened by the Leave vote as both the Remain and Leave campaigns whipped up racism against migrants.

That racism has been built up by years of scapegoating by politicians and the media.

Miroslawa said, "You know why this is happening? It's because Nigel Farage and David Cameron always said that we're here to take benefits and jobs.

"We come here to work, live and make new friendships."

The local Tory MP Robert Halfon, who visited the area with the Polish ambassador earlier in the day, said the attack had left many feeling "scared and upset".

But Halfon slammed New Labour for "failing to control immigration" at the 2010 general election and has defended the Tories' scapegoating of Eastern European migrants.

The vigil showed that many people in Harlow are hostile to racism and want to stand with the Polish community.

Alison said, "I work with Polish people and have Polish friends, I've not seen any tensions between us in the town."

Denise added, "I've never been to anything like this, but I came because I think it's important.

"We've got to speak out against hatred and stand up against it immediately."

Polish people in Harlow have called a march for this Saturday. Go to Marsz pamieci dla Arka on Facebook. 4pm, The Stow, Harlow CM20 3AN 




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