Socialist Worker

Angry demonstrations in Britain against racism and fascism

by Socialist Worker journalists
Issue No. 2646

A big show of opposition to racism and fascism

A big show of opposition to racism and fascism (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Fury against racism was on the streets of London, Glasgow, Cardiff and cities across the world on Saturday.

Organisers said that 25,000 people joined the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) demonstration in London.

Around 1,000 people braved light snow and freezing conditions to march through Glasgow, and a similar number protested in Cardiff.

Many on the demonstrations had come out of fear and anger at how racism is rising across society.

Sammy from Doncaster in South Yorkshire had joined the demonstration in London. "There is a rise of right wing politicians like Donald Trump across the world," she told Socialist Worker.

"The government has created hate, it’s creeping into our society and we have to stand against it."

The fascist mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, the previous day had hammered home the scale of the threat.

Marcher Abdul Raouf said, “I came here after the attack on the mosque yesterday. The march was really good.

“I was surprised to see the firefighters and the postal workers here. We're all here as one person."

Another demonstrator, Aryena, said, “This is not the time to wait, we have to take action.

"This demonstration was really encouraging. There was a lot of diversity."

CWU union members on the march

CWU union members on the march (Pic: Guy Smallman)


There was widespread union support with banners from all the main unions and a particularly impressive bloc from the CWU communication workers' union.

At the rally outside Downing Street Labour's shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said, “We are facing an international fascist and white nationalist movement.

"Whether it rears its head in Trump's America or rears its head in Europe, we have to fight it."

Abbott added, "Muslim hatred has its enablers in mainstream politics and the media and we have to fight the enablers of Muslim hatred."

She slammed Tory home secretary Sajid Javid for stripping Shamima Begum of British citizenship which meant her baby died in a Syrian refugee camp.

Claudia Webbe, a member of Labour’s national executive, said, “We Stand with the victims of Christchurch. We will not be silenced.

“The racists want to divide us. But we will continue to march until we get them off our streets.”

Campaigner Salma Yaqoob said she was “not surprised” by the New Zealand attack.

“This has been a long time coming,” she said. “The words of so-called democrats are now being upheld in actions by the far right.”

She said mainstream politicians’ and media racism had “legitimised” the far right. “Don’t tell me these are just one-off lone wolves,” she said.

“I call out Boris Johnson, I call out Sajid Javid, I call out Melanie Phillips. Enough is enough.”

Students sent a message of resistance

Students sent a message of resistance (Pic: Guy Smallman)


TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the protest was “magnificent”.

She promised on behalf of the ITUC federation of 160 million workers, “We will never ever let the fascists win.”

O’Grady rubbished the idea that Nazi Tommy Robinson represents workers. “Tommy Robinson is no working class hero,” she said.

“He is a thug and a menace, and a pathetic plaything of rich, millionaire white supremacists.”

CWU union general secretary Dave Ward brought a message of solidarity from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

It said the protest sent “a loud and clear message that we say no to Islamophobia, antisemitism and racism in any form”.

“An attack on a mosque, a synagogue or a temple is an attack on every one of us,” Corbyn’s message said.

Solidarity with refugees who've fled war, poverty and dictatorship was another theme on the demonstration in London.

Dictator

Musa had come as part of a delegation of Sudanese people in Norwich. "There is corruption in Sudan because the president is a dictator and mass killer," he told Socialist Worker.

"It's why I had to come to Britain and it's why we are protesting in Sudan and in London."

Weyman Bennett, SUTR co-convenor, told the rally at the end of the march, "If we don't stand together, we will hang together.

"Who defeated the NF? We did. Who defeated the BNP? We did. Who stopped the DFLA? We did. And we will stop the far right and fascists now."

The marches showed how SUTR is developing real roots in local areas and workplaces. A big anti-racist movement is crucial now.

The far right right and the fascists are murderous and growing in many places. But there is also resistance and it can win.

SUTR can bring together people with very different views about Brexit but who agree that the real enemy is the Tories and scapegoating. We need to blame the rich and their capitalist system, not migrants and Muslims.

Building SUTR and fighting hard against both racism and austerity can push back the right.

The climate strikes on Friday and the anti-racist demonstrations on Saturday were a relief from the stuffy and suffocating world of parliamentary scheming over Brexit.

We need far more of this, allied to revolutionary politics that prioritise struggle above elections and are not constrained by trying to look like a government in waiting.


Cardiff march - twice as big as last year

Around 1,000 people took part in the Cardiff march - twice the size of the previous year.

This was partly in response to the racist terror attack in New Zealand but it was also a testament to the hard work put in by activists in Cardiff and across Wales.

The trade union presence on the march was particularly impressive. Like elsewhere in Britain, unions had been seriously promoting the march on social media. These efforts paid off.

Unity in Cardiff

Unity in Cardiff


Speaker after speaker,including Welsh Labour assembly member Jane Hutt and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price pressed the urgency of the situation and welcomed the unity of the movement.

Uzo Iwobi from the Race Council Cymru stayed that she felt the march had been a great success with so many people being so passionate about fighting racism. Nimi Trivedi from Stand Up To Racism said, "In previous years I have come here and said that people need to be worried, the time for just worrying is over, it is now time for action.

Nimi outlined the vision of a mass anti-racism movement throughout Wales, North and South, and urged people to support the upcoming campaign in Newport against both Ukip and Britain First who are trying to test the waters electorally at the by-election after the death of MP Paul Flynn.

Martin Chapman


Glasgow call for fighting unity

Hundreds of people braved appalling weather conditions in Glasgow to join Scotland’s Stand Up to Racism march and rally. After observing a solemn, two-minute silence for the victims of the Islamophobic terrorist attacks in New Zealand, the demonstrators marched through the city centre, chanting their opposition to racism and fascism, and their support for the rights of refugees and migrants.

Speakers at the post-march rally in George Square included Labour MSP Anas Sarwar and SNP MP Alison Thewliss. Sarwar emphasised the need for unity against racism and fascism.

“The fight against Islamophobia should not be left to the Muslim community”, he said, “it is a fight for all of us.” The same is true, he continued, of the struggles against antisemitism, homophobia, sexism and all other forms of oppression.

Together against racism

Together against racism (Pic: Andrew McGowan)


Lynn Henderson, president of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, also emphasised the crucial need for unity in the face of a far right which has, in recent months, committed massacres of Muslim worshippers in Christchurch and a Jewish congregation in Pittsburgh. “We are all marching under one banner”, she said, “and that banner is anti-racism.”

The demonstration was notable for the prominence of the banners and flags of the trade unions, including general union UNITE, public sector unions Unison and the PCS, transport workers’ unions the RMT and TSSA, teachers union the EIS, and the firefighters’ union the FBU.

Mark Brown


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