On 19 and 20 March, thousands will be marching in Glasgow, London and Cardiff as part of protests on UN anti-racism day. Socialist Worker spoke to those taking to the streets.
Diana, a sixth form student in east London, told Socialist Worker that building an anti-racist school is vital.
“After the Black Lives Matter movement kicked off, our school did have assemblies on anti-racism. But two years on, that’s kind of stopped. As students we need to talk to our teachers about how anti-racist education must be a year-round thing. We can’t just wait around to see the change that we want. Students need to lead the way. Our curriculum is still so white and taught mainly from the perspective of the West. In a diverse school like mine, it would be good if what we learnt reflected that.”
Diana said that she and other students are building the demonstrations. “We’ve been putting up posters and talking to our teachers. They have said we can make an announcement in assembly about it. We’ll also be making a ‘Newham students against racism’ banner.”
She added that one of the reasons she will be attending the demonstration is because of a racist incident that happened at her school. “Last year one of my friends, who is originally from Yemen, was called a slur by a group of other boys at the school. He didn’t feel like he was supported enough and eventually left the school. Racist incidents like this are why I’ll be demonstrating, but also because I see the reality of institutional racism. I live in Newham and know that it is young black men at my school that are constantly targeted by the police. In the face of rising racism, we need to build a bigger anti-racist movement with students at the forefront.”
Maddy Summerfield is a regional lead for the refugee charity, Care4Calais in Manchester. She told Socialist Worker that the march is important “to extend the welcome to refugees beyond just Ukrainians—because a refugee isn’t a nationality”. “They are people, human beings, who sadly are no longer safe or able to live in their country. These people are fleeing conflict, and war as so many have before them. We need to show solidarity,” she added.
Maddy believes some demands must be immediately raised and that home secretary Priti Patel and her Tory colleagues are “turning their back on Ukrainians at the border just as they have to thousands of asylum seekers over the years. The initial 50 visas was a contradiction of the rhetoric that the UK government would do all it could for Ukraine. There are so many flaws in the current asylum system—poor accommodation and lack of nutritious meals when people arrive, but we know that getting here is the main issue. People risk their lives daily, and we hear of the Channel crossing deaths. We need systematic change starting at the beginning of their journey.”
Building mass protests against the hostile environment is vital to Care4Calais volunteers. Maddy said, “It’s incredibly important that anyone who supports the rights of asylum seekers comes together to show solidarity. We’ve been working closely with SUTR to help organise the March Against Racism for UN anti‑racism day, and we look forward to continuing the calls for equality and fairness with our allies.”
Jeandre is a university student in Liverpool. She has been supporting campaigns against the repressive, racist bills pushed by the Tory party. She told Socialist Worker that she’d be marching because “the anti-protest bills hope to defeat movements by breaking down spirits, dividing people and criminalising political action”.
“It highlights the racist system that we live in as they will have devastating effects on communities by giving even more powers to the police,” she added. “The role of the police is to protect property over people, and a direct effect of this is violence against the working class, especially black and Asian people.”
Jeandre is angry at Priti Patel and the racism she peddles. She said Patel “actively attacks refugees, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people. “She does this while trying to break movements such as Black Lives Matter because they pose a threat to the system we live under. The racist attacks orchestrated by her and the government must be opposed. And the building of an anti‑racist movement shows that working class people do care and can fight back.
Jeandre explained that “all struggle is connected” and that racist divide and rule tactics allow capitalism to flourish. Jeandre wants the largest turnout possible to reignite the fight against Boris Johnson. “There is nothing scarier to the government than a street full of people calling them out on their racism and hypocrisy,” she said. “We must create a new system that benefits the majority. Every time we protest, we create a glimpse of a future without racism.”
Mohammed Asif is an Afghani Stand Up To Racism activist in Scotland. He is joining the Glasgow March Against Racism to oppose the racism caused by imperialism. He told Socialist Worker, “Vladimir Putin, Tony Blair, Joe Biden and Nato are all the same criminal, warmongering, imperialists who create crises. So this year it is important that we protest to tell the world that this is what war brings. The main victims of the war or any other aggression is women and children. And now we have that threat on the doorstep of Europe.”
Mohammed called out the differences in policies for various refugees. He added, “I give my support and solidarity to the people of Ukraine but, suddenly European leaders are saying, oh, this is sad. “It is sad, but it was also sad when Nato bombs my country and Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Sudan. The only difference between the victims is their race, background and religion. I can feel Ukrainians’ pain, but governments shouldn’t be selective. They shouldn’t forget the war in Iraq, where millions were killed.” Mohammed summarised that the UN anti-racism day protests are vital. “It’s important to have visible demonstrations of thousands of people,” he said.
Zineerah is a young worker in Glasgow who was a part of the mobilisation that stopped a high-profile deportation in May last year. She told Socialist Worker, “Myself and many others from the community, who were meant to celebrate Eid, were there protesting. We ensured that the Home Office couldn’t drive away with two of our neighbours. It really was amazing. I think everyone went with the intention and aim of not letting these people fall victim to the home office.”
“I believe the momentum is still alive. Since the dawn raid, there have been many community organised events to continue the anti-racist fight. The Tories are trying to implement racist policies, and as there isn’t much opposition to them in parliament, many of us feel like it’s up to us to oppose this government at every protest, in our workplaces and our schools. The March Against Racism in Glasgow is just the beginning.”
She added, “This government’s actions have emboldened racists and fascists. There must be a strong voice and strong movement against any far right rise that we see happening around the world.”
Zineerah has been building the protest massively. She and her fellow activists have been “hanging posters around campuses and bus stops, leafleting outside the mosques and town centre, and we have been rallying all anti-racists to join”.
She summed up, “Everyone deserves dignity, and when we let racism continue unchallenged, that dignity is taken away from us. Among other things we know that racism is a tool to subdue working people. It’s deliberately there to cause division amongst ourselves and the people who should be our allies. This works in favour of the government. The real enemy is the bosses and the Etonians who relish in our division. We have to stand united.”
Jade is a Black Lives Matter activist in south London. She told Socialist Worker that the March Against Racism is vital to “keep up the momentum because there is still no equality”. She added, “Black people still get profiled and mistreated around the world. Black people still get shot by cops in the US, are denied refuge from war in Ukraine and are denied access to basic care in British prisons. This is all because of the colour of our skin. Metropolitan police boss, Cressida Dick, resigning hasn’t changed the fact that the police is a deeply racist institution to its core.”
Jade calls on all to join the protests because “if we let the momentum fade, it means we slowly lose the battle against white supremacy”. She added, “We shouldn’t feel content with the bare minimum.” Jade is concerned about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. She said, “It will affect everyone protesting, but especially black people due to being dehumanised through police training and the cops’ own bias. This bill means an escalation of violence towards peaceful protesters. This creates a heightened risk of criminalisation and physical police violence towards black protesters.”
Jade summarised, “The bill will definitely create hesitancy to go to protests in the first place, which is why we need to keep the morale high. We all need to keep working on building the anti-racist movement because we still live in a deeply racist society. We shouldn’t stop until we live in a fair world, free from capitalism—there is still a long way to go.”
Join protests where you are. For more details go to bit.ly/SUTR2022
Keir Starmer's Thatcher praising speech
Some 60 Labour Councillors have now left