Around 350 people attended Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) meetings in Bristol, Birmingham and Huddersfield this week. They were part of a nationwide series of rallies on Confronting the Rise of Racism.
Fuad Mohamed who runs a refugee housing service was one of the speakers at a rally of 160 people in Bristol on Thursday. He told Socialist Worker, “It’s refreshing and I’m much more optimistic. Now is a good time to do something big”.
A number of people came from the Bristol Somali Forum, which had organised its own stalls to build the rally.
One Somali woman said, “I’m overwhelmed and amazed. I never thought people from the majority culture would come out to support us. It’s really positive to see people on my side. I felt my voice was heard”.
Around 140 people came out on a Wednesday evening for a rally in Birmingham.
They filed past busy union and campaign stalls into an auditorium decked out with placards, union banners and a video compilation projected overhead.
Former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett spoke about the humanitarian crisis in Calais. James Bahoum spoke about his own experiences as a refugee from Gambia.
In the past year Birmingham SUTR has taken part in seven aid visits to Calais and raised more than £20,000 for refugees.
At a 50-strong rally in Huddersfield on Tuesday, Lesley McGorrigan gave an illustrated eyewitness account of the plight of refugees in Northern France.
Eva Smith, whose family came to Britain as refugees in the 1940s, added historical perspective.
Nahella Ashraf from SUTR spoke about the broader rise in racism. Shahab Adris, Yorkshire and Humberside director of Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend) spoke about Islamophobia.
Germaine Phillips gave heartbreaking testimony about the 2014 death of her son Adrian McDonald after he was tazered by police.
She was moved to discover a wider movement fighting racism, adding, “We are all fighting for the same thing, that is what I take away from this.”
In Birmingham Kadisha Brown-Burrell welcomed the charges brought against three police officers involved in the death of her brother Kingsley.
Sonya Bennetone of Black Lives Matter spoke through a live video link-up from the US.
There was also well-received music and verse—and above all a call to action.
Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of both SUTR and Unite Against Fascism, spoke about a counter-demonstration against the racist English Defence League in Telford on Saturday.
In Huddersfield trade unionists set up a local steering committee and organising meeting to plan future SUTR initiatives.
These include Islamophobia Awareness activities with Mend this month, a winter appeal for mobilising for national demonstrations on Saturday 18 March.
In Birmingham, Unison assistant general secretary Roger McKenzie was applauded for demanding “more than fine sentiments” and calling for “action on the streets, and in workplaces”.
In Bristol, anti-racist campaigner Kamal Mohamed told Socialist Worker, “We’re all fighting against something we’d like to get rid of. My hope is that we can stay together on the battlefield.”
Reports from Paul Ellis and Kirklees SUTR