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Defending refugees, fighting racism

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Issue 1743

Defending refugees, fighting racism

“WE’VE WON. We’ve won,” was the cry from Janet Alder after the High Court threw out attempts by Hull police officers to overturn the unanimous inquest verdict on her brother’s death. Christopher Alder was officially “unlawfully killed” in a police station in Hull in April 1998.

The 37 year old former paratrooper was dragged unconscious from a police van and died on the floor of the custody suite at Queens Gardens police station in Hull. “I believe the police officers involved will now try to challenge the inquest verdict by going to the Attorney General. Let them-we’ll fight them all the way, again and again,” said Janet. I’m really, really pleased with the court’s decision. The police forget Christopher died on the custody suite floor with his trousers and boxer pants down his ankles. It’s not been easy and the fight goes on. It’s about time now, three years down the line, that these people accept responsibility for what they’ve done. While we can never bring Christopher back, I want justice to stop anyone else suffering and dying like this. I am calling for the police officers involved in my brother’s death to be charged with manslaughter and for a full public inquiry.”

  • Send donations and messages of support to the Christopher Alder Campaign, c/o Red Triangle Cafe, St James Street, Burnley, Lancashire.

No to race card

A MEETING called “Don’t let politicians play the race card” brought together around 160 people in Bristol on Wednesday of last week. It was an inspiring event organised by our local campaign to defend asylum seekers.

Speakers included Zarinka Bralo, a refugee and campaigner; George Binette from the anti-Sodexho campaign; Bernie Beachgood of the FBU; David John, organiser of Respect in the West; Fran Choules from the CWU and Socialist Alliance prospective parliamentary candidate in Exeter.

Mike Taylor, the NUJ member on trial for defending asylum seekers, spoke about his court case which began on Friday of last week. Some 45 people went down to the Uxbridge court to show their support. The case is continuing.

  • Lucy Masters

‘Vouchers must go’

BILL MORRIS, leader of the TGWU union, has again attacked New Labour’s policy towards asylum seekers. Morris said at this week’s Scottish TUC conference in Aberdeen, “The voucher system must go, and go now.”

Morris made the same criticisms exactly a year ago when he accused New Labour of “giving life to racists” with “insane” policies towards refugees. His stance encouraged campaigners to continue their struggles in support of refugees.

The pressure forced the government into calling a review of the voucher scheme, which is unlikely to be released until after the election.

Angry meeting after attack

WELL OVER 200 people packed into an angry meeting in Bow, in the east London borough of Tower Hamlets, last Saturday night. The mostly Bengali audience were there to express their anger in the wake of the murder of local man Shiblu Rahman. Shiblu was stabbed to death a week earlier when returning home from work late at night. Police have made arrests in connection with his death.

Saturday’s meeting was called by local Bengali Labour councillors, and speakers included Michael Keith, Labour leader of Tower Hamlets council. Several speakers questioned the behaviour of the police and emergency services on the night of Shiblu’s death.

The biggest applause of the night went to a young man who argued that the blame for any increase in racist violence should also be placed on the politicians and press who attack refugees. Kambiz Boomla, the Socialist Alliance prospective parliamentary candidate in the area, attended the meeting, as did Anna Bragga, the Green Party candidate in the neighbouring constituency, to express their solidarity with the fight against racism.

Police aid Nazi NF in Bermondsey

AROUND 500 anti-Nazis mobilised in Bermondsey, south London, last Saturday to stop a Nazi National Front (NF) march through the area. But the protesters faced a sea of police determined to protect a ragtag group of 30 Nazis.

The mass of police officers tried to pen the anti-Nazis into a parking area so they could leave the way free for the Nazis to march. “I’d like to know from the police why they have penned us in,” said one speaker from the local Race Equality Council. “The National Front are allowed to march yet we are penned in. This is a peaceful demonstration and these streets are ours.”

The protesters repeatedly tried to break through the police lines to stop the Nazis but faced rows of police wielding truncheons. The Nazis got a police escort from South Bermondsey station through the streets to the local tube station.

They did this in the face of protest speeches from Trevor Phillips, chair of the Greater London Assembly, local MP Simon Hughes, Southwark Trades Council, local church groups and anti-racist campaigners demanding the police stop the NF march.

“This is no longer a purely white area-black and white live here. But there has always been racial harassment and attacks. The National Front incite racial hatred,” said Surinder Dhillon, a local anti-racist activist.

Several speakers referred to recent attacks in Bermondsey on the Rahman brothers, two local Asian teenagers who were attacked last weekend, and a Turkish man, Cumali Sinankili, who was viciously beaten last Christmas.

The Nazis wanted to whip up racial tension in the area, calling their march “Keep Bermondsey white”. They planned to assemble near the local Millwall football ground where a match was taking place with the theme “Kick racism out of football”.

The Nazis want to focus blame for the lack of decent housing and jobs locally on black people and immigrants. But they have not won the support of the local community. Some Southwark residents who gathered on Saturday were clear what the NF really stood for. “We don’t want their sort coming here. We fought the Second World War against them,” said one resident.

Others were confused and angry at the police laying siege to their streets on a Saturday afternoon. Those who understand the Nazi threat can win others to being active anti-Nazis. The Nazis try to feed off despair. A campaign by local people to expose the Nazis and fight for more resources would crush the Nazis while they are small.

Stop the Nazi National Front Saturday 14 April, 10.30am, South Bermondsey station


SOME 250 people held the angriest anti-racist demonstration for decades in Bradford on Monday of this week after a jury cleared a man of stabbing restaurant owner Mohammed Asghar. Speakers from the Commission for Racial Equality, Labour councillors, and trade unionists from the CWU, NUT and UNISON unions addressed the rally.

Protesters were enraged at the police presence of over 150 officers. At one point protesters stormed the court, chanting, “No justice, no peace.” They also sat down in the road blocking the main bus depot.

  • Vanessa Phillimore, Bradford Socialist Alliance

AROUND 100 people heard Teresa Hayter, author of Open Borders: The Case Against Immigration Controls, speak last week about the need for a campaign to abolish all controls against the movement of people. The meeting at the London School of Economics also had author Jeremy Harding, senior policy adviser to Ken Livingstone Ann Dummett, Martha Osomar from the European Migrants Forum, Lee Jasper of the National Assembly Against Racism, and Ed Mynott of Manchester Metropolitan University.

The debate focused on whether the time was right to build a movement against immigration controls, and what approach such a campaign should have. There was no concrete conclusion, but all the speakers and everyone who contributed condemned wholeheartedly the government’s “get tough” policies over asylum seekers.

  • Alan Gibson

ANTI-CAPITALIST protesters in Salford extended a warm lunchtime welcome to executives of giant multinational Sodexho, which runs the refugee voucher scheme, on Wednesday of last week. Although they were barred from occupying the Salford headquarters by security and four vanloads of police, the protesters took the opportunity to block the main entrance.

Leaflets were distributed to the workers explaining what the racist voucher scheme meant in reality for thousands of poverty-stricken asylum seekers. The protest forced management to meet a delegation of protesters who pointed out that Sodexho could refuse to implement the voucher scheme and stop profiting from the poor in society.

  • GARY DUKE, Salford

SOME 35 people protested outside Walton jail in Liverpool against the detention of asylum seekers last week. Home Office figures show 50 beds allocated in the prison for refugees. Sue Bennett, Liverpool Trades Council secretary and UNISON shop steward in the council, said, “Everybody has a right to live in peace and not be afraid. “Asylum seekers are fleeing fear and tyranny, and should be treated with dignity.”

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