Anti-racists protested outside a meeting debating the legacy of racist Tory MP Enoch Powell in Wolverhampton on Saturday. The protest was called by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) in response to a debate organised by the Express and Star newspaper as part of the Wolverhampton Literary Festival.
Panellists included former Tory parliamentary candidate Nigel Hastilow, who was dumped after he wrote a column in the newspaper that said “Enoch Powell was right”.
Fifty years ago this April, Powell, who was a Wolverhampton MP, made his “Rivers of Blood” speech that targeted African Caribbean migrants.
Bill Etheridge, MEP for the racist Ukip party, was due to speak at Saturday’s meeting, but couldn’t join the panel because he turned up late. That didn’t stop him from scapegoating migrants for austerity in a contribution from the floor.
Some 35 people protested outside the meeting. Then we went in and heckled Etheridge as he spoke, calling him a “scumbag”.
We called the protest because we knew there could be some soft racists going to the meeting. Protesting outside could help detach the soft racists from the harder right wingers inside.
We had an impact in the meeting—a proposal to erect a plaque to Powell was voted down.
The debate shows how the right are trying to push racism against migrants. But it also shows that there’s a potential to oppose them.
Around 400 people attended a Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) gig in nearby Birmingham on the previous night. It marked LMHR’s return to The Crossing in Digbeth after a successful show last year.
Affie, a student, told Socialist Worker, “Music is something that’s an important part of the African diaspora.
“It’s also something that’s intrinsic to everyone, it’s always been a big part of resistance.”
Another student told Socialist Worker, “We’ve come to show solidarity with the cause, listen to new acts – and have fun.”
Kioko, who blended reggae and electronic music, headlined the show and backed the Students Against Racism national conference on 3 March in London.
College student Mariya told Socialist Worker, “I’m coming down to it because of Lowkey.
“People have stopped talking about Grenfell, but there’s still a tombstone in west London.
“Lowkey is still speaking up about it.”
Moyra and Yvette from the Justice for Grenfell campaign spoke at the gig. Other speakers included Lois Browne from LMHR and Kadisha Brown-Burrell, whose brother died in police custody.
Anti-racists in Birmingham are now building for a SUTR rally on 1 March in the run up to the national demonstrations in London, Glasgow and Cardiff on 17 March. A similar raly is planned in Wolverhampton on 9 March.
Thes events are an opportunity to build mass opposition to the Tories’ racist attacks on Muslims, migrants and refugees.
Anti-racists from across Scotland were set to meet in Glasgow on Saturday. They plan to step up campaigning work and to build for the national demonstration in the city on 17 March.
Speakers include Scottish Labour Party leader Richard Leonard, human rights activist Amal Azzudin, EIS union president Nicola Fisher, Unison union executive member Steven Smellie and human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar. Scottish National Party MSP Sandra White, Catriona Mackay from Perth Against Racism, Nicola Hay from Show Racism The Red Card, and an Austrian anti-racist campaigner were also set to speak.
The conference’s key themes are refugees and migrants welcome, defend EU nationals’ rights and freedom of movement, no to racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism. There will also be planning for united action if US president Donald Trump dares to come to Scotland during his threatened visit to Britain later this year.
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