Over 10,000 people demonstrated in Paris yesterday, Sunday, against racism and police violence. The “March for Justice and Dignity” was called by the families of victims of police violence, who are overwhelmingly from black and Arab backgrounds.
Parties of the left also joined the march, as well as trade unions and dozens of local anti-racist and pro-migrant organisations.
It came after the assault and rape of black youth Theo by police, which has sparked angry protests in the past few weeks.
A presidential election campaign is also in full swing and fascist candidate Marine Le Pen is leading the polls. She and most other candidates promise to reinforce the police and increase its funding.
A mass movement against Le Pen is desperately needed. The fascist Front National will not be decisively beaten by electoral pacts. Instead active unity on the streets and in workplaces is required.
On the march, Senegalese worker Lhadji told Socialist Worker, “The French State needed Senegalese soldiers to win the Second World War and migrant workers to rebuild the country afterwards. But today we are told that we are not needed anymore.
“We face daily pressures by the police and the council who want to shut down our communal lodgings and restaurants, basically any place where migrants can meet and be together.”
He added, “We are told that our ‘way of life’ causes problems. But this is a racist excuse to divide and isolate migrants.
“Unity is our strength and that is why we are organising in our neighbourhood with the help of left activists. We are demonstrating today to show that we will not be intimidated by the police.”
For Luisa, an activist in the poor suburbs—or banlieues—of Paris the demonstration was an opportunity to put politics back into anti-racism.
“We have been fed a moralist, human rights type of antiracism by the racist state that oppressed the colonies yesterday and sends its police to oppress the banlieues today," she said.
“People of immigrant backgrounds need to organise themselves and speak in their own voices against mainstream racism.”
CGT union rep Catherine said, “The trade unions have a duty to protect undocumented workers who are overexploited by bosses and constantly threatened with sacking. They pay taxes but reap none of the healthcare or unemployment benefits. This is unacceptable.”
Yesterday’s demonstration was a promising show of unity between those who are on the receiving end of state racism in France.
This must be starting point for further organisation and convergence between ordinary people of all backgrounds. The resistance to Le Pen, Trump and their likes is only beginning.
Jad Bouharoun in Paris
Refugees lead marches for freedom in Greece
Refugees from camps around Athens were a massive part of the march on the European Union (EU) offices on Saturday. Up to 15,000 people took part, including many trade unions and students.
They demanded that the refugees were let out of the isolated camps and into Greece’s cities—and that the EU lifts its border closure trapping them in Greece.
There were demonstrations in fifteen towns and cities, including around 1,500 in Salonica and 400 in Patras.
More than 2,000 people marched through the town of Mytilini in the island of Lesvos. Many of them were refugees who had come 7km on foot from the Moria camp.
The EU’s deal with Turkey signed last year means they can be kept off the Greek mainland and ultimately deported.
Paraskevas Psanis from the Movement Against Racism and the Fascist Threat said, “In Lesvos it was a huge success. The message was clear—stop deportations, shut down Moria.”
Giorgos Pittas, Workers' Solidarity
Diverse demonstration brightens a stormy day in Austria
Around 4,000 people defied storm warnings and strong winds to march through Vienna to the Austrian parliament.
It was very diverse. Muslim women protested against a proposed ban on wearing the headscarf.
There were many refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, angry at forcible deportations and a draconian new asylum law that gives police new powers.
Afghan refugee Mustafa said, “What I liked the most about the march was the unity. There were so many people with different skin colours, and refugees from my country Afghanistan. And everyone was so happy.”
Manfred Ecker, Neue Linkswende
Unity against the right in the Netherlands
Around 1,500 protesters marched through Amsterdam in the rain, agitating against the right wing outcome of the Dutch elections.
Tory prime minister Mark Rutte was re-elected after a racist campaign. Parties led by far right Islamophobes Geert Wilders and Thierry Baudet both made gains.
The 21 March committee has been organising protests on this day since the 1980s. This year it brought together on one stage the chair of the national union FNV and a leading activist against the racist “Black Pete” custom.
Although fewer in number than last week’s Women’s March, this protest was more militant and radical.
A first time protester said, “It was great to see so many Dutch people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds joining together to fight racism and discrimination.”
Elmar van den Berg, International Socialists
Ground gained from the bigots in Poland
Anti-racist demonstrations in eight Polish cities marked a much needed step forward after over a year of far-right demonstrations against migrants, refugees and Muslims.
Up to 1,000 protesters in Warsaw renamed a roundabout named after Polish history’s most famous antisemite Roman Dmowski. The protesters named it “The Refugees’ Roundabout” with a symbolic banner.
Palestinian-Pole Dr Waleed Abumoammar said, “We are all equal. We are all descended from the same people. I am glad to be here with my family. Racists don’t care about anyone. Anti-racists do.”
Fascist organisations also organised two events on the day—an anti-Ukrainian picket of the prime minister’s office and another picket targeting Lithuania.
Both groups together managed fewer than 100 people, but the far right remains strong in Poland and is helped by government politicians. We need to keep up the valuable joint activity against it.
Andrej Zebrowski, Workers’ Democracy
Local actions frustrate the fascists in Catalonia
A day of local protests called by Unity Against Fascism and Racism (UCFR) followed UCFR’s very successful Social Forum against Islamophobia and all types of racism in Barcelona on 11 March.
The morning saw rallies of 100-150 people in three towns—Molins de Rei, Olot and Pineda—where UCFR groups are combating racist campaigns against mosques.
Another local group held a public event on welcoming refugees in the town square of Manresa.
In the evening hundreds demonstrated through another provincial town, Vendrell, where the fascists still have three councillors. In the rest of Catalonia they were almost wiped out from the councils by a strong UCFR campaign in May 2015.
A young Muslim woman in a hijab led the chanting, shouting slogans against racism, fascism, sexism and social injustice.
Fascist party Plataforma per Catalunya complained about the protests. But not one journalist attended their press conference. We were successful on the streets. They even failed at Twittering
David Karvala, Marx21.net
Protesters put the icing on the cake in Denmark
There were demonstrations of 200 in Copenhagen, 250 in Aarhus and 150 in Odense where 100 people then took part in a festival for diversity. The mood was good and the weather sunny.
On the Copenhagen demonstration, Miski, a refugee from Somalia, said “It’s great to see that some people support refugees. I don’t always feel welcome here. I meet some good people, but also many who immediately ask ‘Why are you here?’”
Minister for “integration” Inger Støjberg provoked outrage last week by having a cake made to celebrate her 50th restriction of immigration. The photo she uploaded became the post with the most interactions on Danish social media—most of them angry.
Lis, a pensioner, said, “I hate Inger Støjberg. We must fight against racism and for diversity.”
Jørn Andersen, International Socialists
The fight against racism is international
About 300 people marched in Seoul, South Korea. About half of the participants were migrants, many of them migrant workers. It was the largest action ever in Korea around the United Nations international day against racism.
Anti-racists in Ireland held a protest the previous week. In Germany they plan to protest outside the conference of the far right AfD party in Cologne on 22 April.
The rise of the racist right is international—but so is the resistance that can defeat it.