Thirty thousand people demonstrated in London today in a great show of determined unity against racism.
At the same time 3,000 marched in Glasgow and around 1,000 in Cardiff.
The marches were called by Stand Up to Racism (SUTR) and backed by dozens of trade unions and other organisations, including many Muslim groups.
The size of the turnout—10,000 more than last year in London—and the mood of the marchers showed that many people know this is a critical moment.
With Donald Trump on the attack in the United States and Theresa May ramming through bigoted measures in Britain, it’s time for resistance.
Care worker Raj from Wolverhampton was in London marching against “Racism, Trump and all the right wingery that’s going on.”
He said, “My parents were immigrants and I want to make sure other people enjoy the same right to come here in the future.”
Tea, a student from Sheffield Hallam university, said, “We don’t support Trump coming here, we support immigrants coming here, and we’ll keep fighting for open borders and the freedom to move. Everything on the news gets you down, and when you come to things like this you realise there are people who aren’t just going to sit back and watch the world go up in flames.”
The energised demonstrations were built by mass leafleting, workplace agitation and dozens of meetings across Britain.
A group of reps from the Usdaw retail union said racism was one of the main issues their members faced at work. Kieran from Sussex said, “You’d think it would have changed by now but when you strip things back to their bare bones there’s still a lot of racism and discrimination in the workplace.”
Many people are asking fundamental questions about the system.
Azad Ali of Muslim Engagement and Development told the rally in Parliament Square, “Malcolm X warned that if you’re not careful the newspapers will have you hating the oppressed and loving the oppressor. Is that not what’s happening today?
“When I was young I couldn’t go into certain shops because I was Asian. But in an organisation called the Anti Nazi League we smashed the National Front. Not just Asian, not just black, not just white, but all of us standing together destroyed them.”
He said we could beat the establishment racists who help the Nazis. “They might have the money and the media, but they don’t have the streets—the streets are ours!”
Liz Lawrence from the UCU union slammed scapegoating of migrant workers and calls for more immigration controls. “We need to defend the principle of freedom of movement for labour,” she said.
“The answer is not immigration controls but to enforce decent labour standards—we need worldwide workers’ solidarity.”
Catherine West, Labour MP for Wood Green, said, “Donald Trump wants to come on a state visit because he wants to seem normal, but he is not normal.”
TUC union federation general secretary Frances O’Grady brought solidarity from the organisation’s affiliated “unions and six million members.
“No more divide and rule. We need solutions not scapegoating and we demand the right to remain for EU citizens,” she said.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sent a message to the march saying, “There could not be a more important time to redouble our efforts in the fight against racism and Islamophobia.
“The Tories are treating people in Britain as bargaining chips rather than as human beings.
“We will not be divided.”
Weyman Bennett, co-convenor of SUTR, said, “When Donald Trump comes to this country we want to give him the warmest welcome he’s ever received. When he was asked why he didn’t come earlier, he said he was afraid of trouble.
“And he was right. He was afraid because we came out and demonstrated. He said he wanted to wait and see if it will calm down. But we’re not going to calm down.”
In Cardiff the speakers included Jo Stevens MP, Leanne Wood, the leader of Plaid Cymru and Juhel Miah, a teacher from Neath. He was blocked from entry to the US as part of the Muslim ban, despite not being from any of the seven countries mentioned in it.
“The only difference between me and everyone else on the plane was the colour of my skin and that I’m a Muslim,” he said.
In Glasgow, speakers included Labour MSP Anas Sarwar and Scottish government minister Alasdair Allan.
Today’s marches will lift everyone who wants a fightback. The energised demonstrations were built by mass leafleting, workplace agitation and dozens of meetings across Britain.
It is these networks that publicised the action and encouraged people on to the streets.
They can now help SUTR to develop into an even bigger social movement with deep roots in workplaces, universities and localities.
Anti-racism and the battle against austerity are linked. The Tories want to divide us to make their attacks easier to implement.
Fighting hard on both fronts is essential, and can push back the right.
Today was the start of a weekend of international anti-racist protest. Around 15,000 people marched in Athens, Greece, including many refugees from the camps around the capital.
In Amsterdam in the wake of the Netherlands elections around 2,000 marched.
In Vienna, Austria, around 4,000 people joined the demonstration and hundreds joined marches in Copenhagen, Aarhus and Odense in Denmark.
Tomorrow a march takes place in Paris.
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