Trade unionists, students and campaigners braved torrential rain to protest in support of Dave Muritu on Friday.
Dave, UCU union branch secretary at Sandwell College in the West Midlands, was sacked after writing the word “racist” on a Prevent strategy poster.
Dave said the sacking marked “the end of three years of attempts to get me out”. “They are targeting me because our union branch has been so successful,” he told Socialist Worker.
“We won a sector-leading pay deal last year. Before that we campaigned to get lesson observations to be less punitive.
“We’ve gained extra holidays and when incremental pay rises were suspended we got them back.”
There has been an outpouring of solidarity with Dave. More than 6,000 people signed a petition demanding his reinstatement within days. “The support has been amazing and it’s now spreading outside the union,” said Dave.
“And we are hopefully going to ballot for industrial action next week.”
Protesters gathered outside the college on Friday lunchtime chanting, “Reinstate Dave – reinstate him now.”
UCU reps travelled from across Britain to join the demonstration. Local FBU and NEU union reps joined them along with other trade unionists, anti-racist campaigners and students.
Vicky Blake, UCU national vice president nationally and Leeds university UCU president, told Socialist Worker, “Dave is an excellent comrade and teacher. He does not deserve to be sacked for a small but significant act of resistance to Prevent.”
Jean from Birmingham Stand Up To Racism added, “I’m here because of the injustice of it. I don’t think it’s a sackable offence.”
Local Unison union member Mark said, “It’s just disgraceful. It’s completely out of proportion to what he did.
“It’s either anti-union or racism – and it’s probably both.”
Mandy Brown from Lambeth College in south London told Socialist Worker she had worked with Dave on anti-racist and other campaigns for years. “This shows the lengths that management will go to in order to get rid of people,” she said.
Andrew Scattergood, chair of the FBU firefighters’ union in the West Midlands, said firefighters would stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Dave. “An attack on Dave is an attack on every firefighter,” he told the rally.
The government claims its Prevent strategy is aimed at tackling all kinds of “extremism”. In reality, it is a racist measures that encourages Islamophobia by treating Muslims as potential terrorists.
There was a defiant mood at Friday’s rally as speakers condemned college bosses—and said Dave was right to say Prevent is racist.
Sandwell College student Beth said, “Dave has been unfairly dismissed. His actions in the heat of the moment can be fairly justified by the values of the Prevent programme. It is a racist programme.”
Anti-racist campaigner Salma Yaqoob told protesters, “Prevent was never about preventing radicalisation. It is about preventing dissent.
“We will continue to fight. Dave shouldn’t be allowed to fall because he stood up for other people.”
UCU national executive member Sean Vernell said, “The union nationally stands absolutely behind Dave and this branch. This is about trade union victimisation but also about racism.
“Writing the word ‘racist’ on a Prevent poster is not a crime. That is absolutely accurate.”
To cheers, Sean said he would propose for the union to pay full strike pay if Sandwell College UCU members decided to strike. And a message sent from new UCU general secretary Jo Grady said the union stands “fully behind” Dave.
Michael Bradley from Stand Up To Racism warned that if bosses get away with their attack, it will be a setback for all anti-racists.“Sacking Dave goes against everyone who wants to stand up to racism and the Prevent agenda,” he said.
As Vicky told the protest, “If you come for one of us, you come for all of us – and we are now coming for Sandwell College.”
What you can do
- Sign the petition to reinstate Dave
- Take solidarity selfies on the day of this demo with posters of “Prevent ‘racist’—reinstate Dave Muritu, no trade union victimisation.” Tweet these at #fefightsback and @ucu.
- Send messages of solidarity to Dave Muritu firstname.lastname@example.org
- Send messages of protest to: College Principal Graham Pennington email@example.com