As the Tories come under increasing pressure to stop using European Union (EU) migrants as bargaining chips, activists across Britain are building for anti-racist demonstrations.
Tens of thousands are set to protest in London, Glasgow and Cardiff as part of an international day of action on Saturday 18 March.
This will come days after a crunch vote on migrants’ rights, when the government’s bill to trigger Article 50 returns to the House of Commons. This is part of the process for leaving the EU.
Theresa May is refusing to guarantee the rights of some three million EU nationals in Britain until other
EU members make the same guarantee for British nationals abroad.
Weyman Bennett from Stand Up To Racism said, “We should stand in solidarity with EU workers and demand that their status is protected.
“We must challenge the racist rhetoric coming from Theresa May’s government, who are stealing Ukip’s racist clothes on immigration.”
May’s position is deeply unpopular with both Leave and Remain voters—and the pressure to reverse it is being felt at the top.
A new report last week by MPs, including racist Tory Michael Gove, called it “unconscionable” to leave EU migrants under a “cloud of uncertainty”.
The House of Lords voted to amend the Article 50 bill.
The government claims that making a “unilateral” guarantee will damage its chances of securing the rights of British nationals abroad.
This is a bogus excuse, as highlighted by 13 expats’ organisations welcoming the Lords amendment.
May is as determined as ever to impose a racist, nationalist version of Brexit and scapegoat migrants for the pain of austerity.
Guardian journalist Gary Younge said the amendment showed the strength of the anti-racist movement.
He was speaking at a 150-strong Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) meeting in Hackney, east London, last Thursday.
But, Younge added, “While I am delighted the House of Lords have done what they did, we can’t rely on them.
“They have done what they’ve done in no small part because we are what we are and we have done what we’ve done. If we stop, they will stop—this comes from below.”
Shadow home secretary and local Labour MP Diane Abbott called on activists in Labour to challenge anti-migrant myths instead of ignoring or pandering to them.
“We can’t be afraid to take the debate to people, on the doorstep and in our workplaces,” she said.
She added that building the demonstrations on 18 March had to be part of doing this.
“The march is so important because it’s about all coming together and saying we won’t let racism divide us,” she said.
Go all out for 18 March demonstrations
Some 60 people attended a lively Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) rally in Harlow, Essex, last Thursday.
Tickets were sold for the coach to the demonstration in London on 18 March.
All those attending were encouraged to join a day of action in the town centre this Saturday to build for the demonstration.
The same evening saw 80 people listen to speakers including former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg at a Manchester SUTR rally.
In Ealing, west London, some 50 people also joined a meeting with speakers including Labour MP Rupa Huq. And 35 people joined a rally in Redbridge, east London. Rallies were also held last week in Nottingham, Tower Hamlets in east London and Haringey in north London.
This week was set to see rallies in Chesterfield, Walthamstow and Leytonstone in north east London, Hammersmith in west London and Elephant and Castle in south London.
A day of Europe-wide action
Socialists across Europe have vowed to mobilise for the anti-racist protests.
A statement by the International Socialist Tendency said, “The bigger and more widespread they are, the stronger the basis for future action.
“We pledge to build these protests on the largest possible scale and appeal to socialists and anti-racists everywhere to join us in these efforts.”
As well as the Socialist Workers Party in Britain, this includes revolutionary socialists building resistance to a wave of racism and fascism across Europe.
In the Netherlands the march will come days after an election where the racist populist Geert Wilders could make a breakthrough.
In France it follows protests against horrifying police brutality and as the Nazi Marine Le Pen campaigns for the presidency. In Greece it comes amid the trial of the fascist Golden Dawn and the locking out of thousands of refugees in detention camps.