Socialist Worker

Birmingham activists say keep racism out of the general election campaign

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2553

Part of the Stand Up To Racism meeting in Birmingham today

Part of the Stand Up To Racism meeting in Birmingham today (Pic: Stand Up To Racism)

Over 130 people joined Stand Up To Racism's West Midlands regional summit in Birmingham today, Saturday. The event came during a general election campaign in which the Tories have pushed racism as a key political issue.

A rallying cry to take on the Tories' racist assault on migrants went out from the opening plenary. Andrew Scattergood, the FBU firefighters' union regional chair, said, "We have far more in common with each other as the working class than the establishment.

"This is an example of how the trade union and anti-racist movements can come together."

Theresa May is refusing the guarantee European Union (EU) migrants' right to remain and wants to dump freedom of movement altogether.

Andrew said, "It's not migrant workers suppressing wages—it's the profiteering bosses and politicians in Westminster.

"I've seen so many times people wanting to take on the argument but they don't have the tools in their chest.

"We need to put the arguments into the hands of our members so they can take it forward."

The summit brought together anti-racist activists and trade unionists from across the West Midlands to discuss taking fight against racism into workplaces, schools and neighbourhoods.

Abeline McShane, who'd come to represent Roma and Traveller people, told Socialist Worker, "I've come to raise what's happening to us.

"Racism against our people is an acceptable form of racism in Britain—we had death threats and threats to burn us out last night."

After the opening plenary, people split off into workshops. They focused on defending EU migrants, fighting Islamophobia and the "Prevent" strategy and building Love Music Hate Racism.

People debated if workers should outright boycott Prevent, which legally forces public sector workers to spy for signs of "radicalisation".


One Unison union member from Coventry said, "The unions have good national policy on it, but there's no cast iron guarantee that if we challenge it we won't be dismissed.

"The union should say we'll bring in the big guns to defend people."

The workshop also heard about local Muslim anti-war campaigner Abu Alamgir who has been on the receiving end of police Islamophobia.

"The police came to my house asking why I've been going to political meetings and what my political opinions on issues such as Palestine are," he told Socialist Worker.

"But that's my right to freedom of speech."

Other speakers included Talha Ahmed from the Muslim Council of Britain and Dave Muritu from the UCU union.

Activists agreed to plan a West Midlands conference on challenging Prevent.

Poets Against Racism was launched at the Love Music Hate Racism workshop. The summit closed with local artist Zara Sykes and reggae legend Basil Gabidon playing a set.

Taking on racism during the general election campaign was a big theme.

Saira, one of the women who confronted the English Defence League (EDL) in Birmingham last month, told Socialist Worker, "There's an Islamophobic campaign—we saw that before with the London mayoral campaign and Sadiq Khan.

"Around Brexit there's a lot of talk about immigration too.

"All these organisations and individuals need to take a stand—even going into their conferences like that woman did with Ukip."

Zak Cochrane from SUTR and LMHR told the closing plenary, "The stakes are high—racism is framing the language around political discussion.

"Kicking racism out of the election has to be a priority."

Further regional summits are planned in Manchester and Sheffield.


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