Angry protesters chased away cops attempting to carry out an immigration raid in Hackney, east London, on Saturday. Hundreds of people fought back against the police on Ashwin Street in Dalston, effectively forcing them to give up and go home. They chanted, “Fuck the police,” and, “Scum,” and, “Let them go.”
It was a powerful show of resistance on the same day Boris Johnson said the Home Office would deport 50 people to Rwanda in the next fortnight.
Earlier in the day, delivery riders reported that swarms of police officers had begun intimidating them and were questioning workers about whether they had insurance or licenses. When the police attempted to arrest a rider for “immigration offences”, ordinary people moved in to stop it.
Claire, a local activist, described to Socialist Worker how the protest quickly grew. “We came out of a shop, and there was already a crowd of people trying to stop a van that had a delivery driver in it from leaving,” she said.
“After call outs were put on social media, many people were joining from the street as well. The crowds were very diverse. People were trying to de-arrest the drivers who had already been arrested. I know two were able to get away. At one point protesters even tried to pick up a cop car with the cops inside.”
A statement from Hackney police complained about how they were confronted by a spontaneous crowd. “As officers weren’t to arrest him for these [immigration] offences a crowd gathered and tried to stop them,” it said. It complained “efforts on social media to summon people to the area specifically to obstruct offices, suggesting the incident was an ‘immigration raid’.”
The statement said “a number of officers were assaulted” and “police vehicles were also damaged”.
Claire said, “The cops were being brutal. I was thrown against a wall by a cop, and I saw an older woman thrown to the ground. Another guy was repeatedly punched in the head.”
A video showed a cop repeatedly punching a protester in the head. The footage, posted on Twitter, shows several officers standing beside a police van outside Kingsland Shopping Centre.
It shows a man in an orange T-shirt detained by police before he is struck in the head five times while on the floor.
But Claire said that the police in Dalston were rendered virtually powerless by the big crowds, despite the brutality. “What stood out for me was just how weak the police were,” she said. “They called for reinforcements, but it still wasn’t enough. And they were forced to run away.
“An incredible moment was when the police were getting into the vans to leave. People were banging on the windows and kicking the vans. The last van left with dents, and people chased it down the street.
“The resistance in Dalston felt significant, especially as it was spontaneous. The atmosphere was very radical.”
This isn’t the first time the Hackney police have tried to intimidate delivery workers. In February, eight were arrested and subjected to fines. Just days before, IWGB union members from across the borough had taken part in a protest outside Hackney town hall to demand better pay and conditions.
Earlier this month hundreds of anti-racists mobilised in Edinburgh to stop a Home Office operation that could have led to deportations. And one year ago this week anti-racists blocked an immigration raid in Kenmure Street, Glasgow.
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