Socialist Worker

Anti-racists take knee on Whitehall over Tories’ football hypocrisy

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2764

Protesters outside Downing Street

Protesters outside Downing Street (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Hundreds of anti-racists across Britain protested on Saturday against the racist abuse faced by England footballers—and the Tories’ vile hypocrisy over it.

Up to 200 people gathered in Whitehall, outside Downing Street, to take the knee.

The Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) protest was organised after black football players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Sako faced racism online following the Euros football tournament.

Top Tories—including Boris Johnson and home secretary Priti Patel—hypocritically condemned it while ramping up racism in society.

Jasmine told Socialist Worker that she was shocked by the racist abuse. “It was completely unacceptable what the England players have faced, and that’s why I decided to protest today,” she said. 

Protesters were clear that the racist abuse was directly linked to the Tories’ attacks on footballers taking the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. 

Smash Tory racists—and their nationalism
Smash Tory racists—and their nationalism
  Read More

Weyman Bennett, SUTR co-convenor, told the crowd, “We should be clear we have organised this protest as a result of the racism that has come from the top—from Johnson and Priti Patel. I think it was magnificent to see so many people, including footballers, coming out to support BLM.

“Now they are waging a culture war against this popular support.”

Labour MP Diane Abbott attacked the Tories for saying taking the knee is “gesture politics”. “Priti Patel called taking the knee gesture politics,” she said. “She condemned them.

“But then at the semi-final, she put on an England shirt.” 

She added, “No one should face abuse, whether you are a footballer or a shopkeeper. We need to channel this outrage into a fight against the Tories’ racist policies.” 

Matter 

The crowds chanted, “Love football, hate racism,” and, “Whose lives matter, black lives matter.”

Alex saw Jeremy Corbyn’s tweet about a similar protest outside Arsenal football ground and decided to also join the one in central London. “I feel like the racism in football isn’t getting better, and it needs to change,” he said. “

“I think it reflects the racism in society, especially against migrants and refugees.” 

He added, “The Tories have focused on online abuse particularly. But I think this is to try and let them off the hook for their racism.” 

Fran said that it was hypocritical for Johnson to “tweet about the England team being lauded as heroes, and say they should not be abused on social media.  

“Suddenly he’s telling people to stop being racist when he has been racist throughout his career,” she said. 

Fran added that she thought the Tories had used English nationalism during the Euros to try and rally people behind the government. “We have to condemn racism against everyone, but also say that nationalism and anti-racism aren’t compatible,” she said.


Outside the football museum in Manchester

Outside the football museum in Manchester (Pic: Sue Caldwell)


Unity against the racists

Many other similar anti-racist solidarity events took place across Britain on Saturday or earlier in the week organised by Stand Up To Racism.

They included actions in Leeds, Hackney, Oxford, Waltham Forest, Stratford, Islington, Selhurst Park, Swansea, Lancaster, Cambridge, King’s Lynn, Coventry, Chesterfield, Newcastle, Norwich, Sheffield, Bristol, Aberystwyth Southampton, Brighton, Wigan, Newham, Harlow and Narberth.

Many heard messages of support from MPs, trade unions and anti-racist campaigns.

In Manchester on Saturday hundreds gathered for the second time in five days. They marched from St Peters Square to the football museum.

As they marched, people chanted, “No Justice No Peace! No Racist Police!” and “Let in every refugee, thrown the Tories in the sea”.

On Tuesday 700 people had taken part in a solidarity event at the city’s Marcus Rashford mural. The work in Withington, where Rashford grew up, was defaced after England lost in the Euro 2020 final. But it was then covered in anti-racist solidarity messages and has been repainted.

Nahella Ashraf told the rally, “'Today we have come out and we are the majority. Today we are no longer the silent majority. We will Take The Knee. It's an act of solidarity.

'We will continue on the streets until we get real change."

Labour councillor Marcia Hutchinson said, “Johnson now says racism has gone too far. But he encouraged it. Priti Patel encouraged it. Tory MP's encouraged it.”

Rashford said the demonstration left him "lost for words".

Workplace

In Oxford, a group of postal workers in the CWU South Central Postal branch took the knee at their workplace in a show of anti-racist solidarity.

On Friday 50 people joined a Stand Up To Racism take the knee event in Darlington at the Arthur Wharton Mural

Overnight racist graffiti was daubed on the mural. Local SUTR activists and the Arthur Wharton Foundation—who have already painted over the vile abuse—are preparing a public response.

Wharton was the first black professional footballer.

Around 50 people gathered outside Crystal Place football club in south London. At the end of the protest, Crystal Palace FC sent out a full message of support to the rally.

A similar joined a rally outside Arsenal football club in north London.

 


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.