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Defiant protesters block immigration raid in Peckham

A large crowd of people came out onto the streets of Peckham, south London, to block the immigration van
Issue 2809
A picture of a crowd of people sitting down on the road to block an immigration raid in Peckham

A group of people sit down to stop the immigration raid in Peckham (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Mobilisation by ordinary people blocked an immigration raid in Peckham, south London, on Saturday. It’s the third inspiring example of effective opposition to racist raids in recent weeks.

Facing around 200 people on the street, at about 5pm police were forced to release a man they had grabbed several hours before. As the humiliated cops slunk away, the crowd chanted, “I believe that we will win.” And they added cries of “shame on you” at the cops. They were also shouting, “Don’t come back to Peckham.”

Alice, one of those who had been in the streets for several hours, told Socialist Worker, “We won’t let our neighbours be taken away. These are racist raids that set out to spread fear. It’s brilliant that people have come out and said it’s not going to happen. We can win if we stand together.

Victoria, a legal observer, said, “These are massively racist raids. We are here to resist.” The resistance began in the afternoon in Evan Cook Close in Queen’s Road, Peckham. A small group of people prevented police and immigration officers in a van from taking away a man.

Lewisham Anti Raids network tweeted, “Come and resist one of our community being taken away.” Soon there were 50 people on the solidarity protest—and then over 100. And hundreds by 4pm.

The police assembled a big force of Territorial Support Group vans and officers near the protest. At one point some began to wade in, but protesters stood firm. The cops then decided to retreat rather than try to smash people off the streets. The police were probably nervous about the numbers they faced and wary of what they might set off—a major riot.

Natalie, who was on the protests, said, “I arrived about 2pm and there were 40 people in the road blocking the van. The police were passive at first and then later they formed a line. Without any provocation from our side, there was a burst of violence. The police suddenly started pushing people, they punched someone and ripped out someone’s earring. Then later they said the man they had seized would be released.

“He came out of the van and was thanking everyone for what they had done. Members of his family had been present throughout. One was leading the chants and sending out very positive energy.

“It was a beautiful moment when the man was released, but it’s also bitter-sweet. It’s great he’s free but the whole process and the system is distressing and upsetting.”

Nicola, a socialist from South London who was on the blockade, said, “The police made threats to protesters that they would be liable for serious offences. Then they started to grab people, to drag them off. But people held on to one another and stopped the cops. That’s when the police realised they would either have to escalate or give up, and they had to withdraw. They said the man would be released on conditional bail.

“It’s a really fantastic victory today, but the state has other methods and we need to keep fighting.”

Dave, one of the blockaders from Peckham, told Socialist Worker, “These raids are part of the hostile Tory government and the racism they’re pushing. It’s great the community came out and we won this time. But we need to be ready for the next time because they’ll be back and doing this more and more.” 

Last month hundreds of angry protesters chased away cops attempting to carry out an immigration raid in Hackney, east London. Ten days earlier anti-racists mobilised in Edinburgh to stop a Home Office operation that could have led to deportations. And just over a year ago anti-racists blocked an immigration raid in Kenmure Street, Glasgow. As the Tories go on the offensive, more resistance will be needed.

Thanks to Sophia Beach 

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