Socialist Worker

Forest Gate community unites to demand justice

by Samantha Watson and Kelly Hilditch
Issue No. 2006

On the march last Sunday (Pic: Socialist Worker)

On the march last Sunday (Pic: Socialist Worker)

The 2,500 protesters who took to the streets of Newham, east London, last Sunday were united by their anger at the police’s recent “terror raid” in Forest Gate.

Abul Koyair, one of the brothers wrongly targeted in the raid, was on the march. He showed his solidarity with the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian who was shot dead by police last July.

Abul Koyair paid tribute to Jean Charles, whose family attended the demo, by wearing a yellow Brazil football shirt at the march.

On the back was the name Menezes and the number 27, denoting Jean Charles’s age.

Newham Unison member Elane Heffernan summed up the mood when she spoke to the rally saying, “We are here today in solidarity against the unjust and frankly racist targeting of one section of our community.

“Today has shown that the media were wrong when they talked about a Muslim protest today. This has affected the entire community in Newham.


“There has been a lot of talk about whether or not we should cooperate with the police. But we have been cooperating. The question is when will the police and the government start to cooperate with us?”

Respect councillor Asiaf Karim who was on the protest said, “This is a sign of unity. All we want is straightforward answers. People from all religions feel the same.

“We demand justice and answers, this is happening up and down the country – Islam does not preach terrorism.”

One of the most heartening things about the demonstration was the mix of black, white and Asian, young and old – this was a real reflection of the comunity.

The poet Benjamin Zephaniah lives in the borough. He told Socialist Worker, “I came down here to support this protest as a citizen of Newham because it’s important to highlight the abuse of powers within this country.”

“It’s a very personal demo. There’s a bigger issue to it but people are here together as one family demonstrating about what happened. This could happen to my family or to your family.

“The police believe they have permission to do what they do from the powers of government, which makes it even worse racism.”

Demonstrator Zenib Jalil, told Socialist Worker, “Thank goodness for this protest. Organisers have come together to unite the community.

“Muslims are being victimised and this protest gave us the opportunity to speak out.”

Local Labour MP Stephen Timms attempted to address the rally, but was greeted with chants of “shame” as he spoke of the “mishaps” that took place.

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Sat 24 Jun 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2006
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