Ordinary people in Glasgow have mobilised to block an immigration raid in the Pollokshields area of the city.
After a seven-hour protest by hundreds of people, it ended in complete victory with two migrants from India, released.
A victory march to the local mosque celebrated the success and made sure the men were given sanctuary.
It was direct action that won the day. The police were unable to clear the crowd and had to back off.
Lakhvir Singh, one of the men released, told ITV News, “Thank you very, very much to all those who supported us. I was taken unannounced, they barged in and put me in a van.
“I am so happy my fate brought me here where people are so connected that they will come on to the streets to support one of their own.”
Both those who were facing deportation have lived in Britain for ten years, but still do not have official leave to remain.
At around 10am on Thursday an immigration enforcement team arrived in Kenmure Street. Two men were removed from a house and placed in the van.
But activists, aware that Home Office “dawn raids” have been restarted recently, had set up a network to stand in solidarity with anyone targeted.
Seeing what was happening, dozens of people quickly surrounded the van, and one person lay on the ground under it.
Police then appeared in large numbers. But more and more people also came onto the streets to stop the raid.
They chanted, “These are our neighbours” and “Let them go”.
By 2.30pm a local activist told Socialist Worker, “There are around 400 people trying to stop the raid. And now there are eight police riot vans, 14 other police vans and nine police cars.
“There are also five ambulance incident response vans, which are completely unnecessary.”
Later mounted police arrived.
Glasgow socialist and Stand Up To Racism supporter Ruby Hirsch said, ”In this city we have a history of communities coming out to stop dawn raids and we have defeated that inhumane practice before.
“To see so many from locals come out on the day of Eid is so inspiring. We will not allow the Home Office and Police Scotland to get away with this. The mood here is defiant and furiously angry—we are not moving until our neighbours are released.”
In the early evening the police announced that in order to protect “safety, public health and well being” a decision had been made to release the detainees “back into their community”. It was an admission of the power of protest.
Lakhvir Singh said that the moment the doors opened was “the happiest feeling”.
Some politicians had condemned the raid. Glasgow Scottish National Party MP Alison Thewliss said, “This is absolutely awful, but heartened to see local residents in Pollokshields standing up for their neighbours and refusing to accept the brutality of the UK Home Office.
“I am taking this matter up with ministers. Not in our name.”
First minister Nicola Sturgeon also registered her “deep concern”. But that’s not enough.
It was not, as some have claimed, simply a matter of liberal Scottish leaders versus repressive British ones.
Immigration enforcement is a “reserved matter”, controlled by Boris Johnson’s vicious government. But the police are under the jurisdiction of the Scottish government. It could have ordered their withdrawal at any time.
Organisation from below has always been crucial in combating deportations.
In 2005 the “Glasgow Girls” as they became known threw back a deportation attempt. They were seven school students at Drumchapel High School—four recently arrived refugees and three local teenagers.
They ran a successful campaign against the removal of a Kosovo Roma girl called Agnesa Murselajw who had been seized in a dawn raid.
The raids were then discontinued, but they are back now.
Raymie, speaking from the protest on Thursday afternoon said, “It’s been a wonderful response from those who are outraged by this racist process. We beat this 15 years ago and we will beat it again.”
Building on this protest means confronting raids anywhere in Britain and keeping up the battle against state racism and all other forms of racism.
Another sign of establishment crisis
Support this crucial fight
His treatment exposes the British state