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War anger fuels mood to demand Respect

This article is over 19 years, 7 months old
Supporters of Respect: The Unity Coalition were out in force over the weekend, campaigning against the occupation of Iraq in the run-up to the 10 June elections
Issue 1897

IN BIRMINGHAM, thousands of copies of the “Bliar! Bliar! Iraq’s on fire” Respect postcard were given out in the city centre. “The response was brilliant. People took handfuls of the cards away with them and left their names to get involved in Respect,” says Ian, who helped with the stall. It was also quite moving that so many people came up who had relatives in Iraq or who had been to Iraq. They were furious and just wanted to get the troops out now.”

Next week a billboard truck with a massive poster of the “Bliar! Bliar!” design will tour the West Midlands. Respect supporters have also set up a meeting with NGOs and trade unions in the city.

In Manchester five mosques were leafleted on Friday of last week. People took leaflets on their way in, and were queuing to take more on their way out. Viv from Manchester says, “The Dance House Theatre has offered to give Respect the full run of the building during the last week of the campaign, for gigs, rallies and banners to be hung. The theatre is in the city centre, opposite BBC Manchester. Respect now has 21 meetings organised across the north west over the next few weeks.”

In Sheffield eight mosques were leafleted on Friday of last week. A big public meeting with Respect MP George Galloway and local candidates Janet Alder and Anas al-Tikriti is being planned in the city. Around the country Respect supporters are organising telephone canvassing and fundraising.

As well as looking for big rallies and public events, Respect groups are also seeking ways to encourage supporters to take the initiative, grab some leaflets and head off after work to dish them out. Every Respect supporter who drops into a local shop or cafe and leaves some leaflets is making a contribution.

Approach trade unions, community groups and tenants’ groups-local libraries or councils often have directories listing them. Ask if Respect can come and meet them or send a speaker to a meeting.

Wherever the national publicity is used it has a big impact. Supporters in east London supplemented this by hanging a big “Vote Respect” banner off a major bridge in Mile End-a quick way to reach hundreds of motorists. Anywhere there are big gatherings of people is worth leafleting-everyone going past will have a vote they can use for Respect on 10 June.

Rail, bus and tube stations are obvious targets, as are major shopping centres, markets and workplaces. But so too are bingo halls, football matches, cinemas, clubs, and many more.

Be bold and imaginative

Respect MP GEORGE GALLOWAY addressed a meeting of London Respect candidates and election agents last week to outline campaign priorities in the crucial weeks following the Easter break:

WE WANT to get the name Respect known. And we want to tell people there is an election on 10 June. The first task for individual candidates is to get themselves around. They are the human face of Respect in every area. Our candidates have to find audiences, meetings, platforms and community organisations to speak to.

Door to door canvassing is a very slow process. You can reach a lot more people by getting on your soapbox on a busy street corner on a Saturday. I will be buying a battle bus with a good sound system and travelling round London.

I will be meeting up with candidates and activists, giving speeches, playing appropriate music, giving out leaflets. I predict that Labour will have virtually no campaign in the Euro elections. Our biggest asset is our relatively high number of activists who are bold and imaginative.

Our key task now is to get the name Respect out there. We want people to vote Respect across the board.

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    Hit the streets

    EVENTS IN Iraq made it more important than ever that Respect hit the streets last weekend. My energetic weekend of campaigning started when I and other Respect supporters leafleted local mosques on Friday.

    On Saturday I offered support to local parents, teachers and pupils from the Stephen Hawking special needs school in Tower Hamlets campaigning against cuts to their budget (see page 6).

    Then I went out to Barking where we took over the bandstand, with placards, and a speaker car touring round. I made speeches denouncing the war and the occupation.

    We also got lots of press coverage in the main local Bengali newspapers last week for a protest against “slave” labour we staged outside a supermarket. This week will be just as busy. As a civil servant I was striking on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday I will be supporting a protest against low pay at Canary Wharf organised by the TGWU union and the TELCO community organisation.

    Oliur Rahman, Respect London Assembly candidate

    Making a splash

    ON THURSDAY of last week we made a big splash by leafleting the major train and bus stations in the north west simultaneously. We got rid of 50,000 leaflets in a couple of hours. We leafleted the mosques on Friday. The imams from 12 mosques are meeting this week to discuss calling for a vote for Respect.

    I spoke at a fringe meeting at NUT teachers’ union conference last weekend. There were 110 people there, really enthusiastic. Over £800 was raised for Respect.

    Michael Lavalette, Respect councillor in Preston and North West Euro candidate

    Meeting people

    WE DID a stall last Saturday with a Respect supporter dressed up as George Bush carrying a little puppet of Tony Blair. I was on the megaphone shouting, “A vote for Blair is a vote for Bush.”

    We had an ex Labour councillor and an ex Labour Party ward secretary helping us. George Galloway is coming to our area in a couple of weeks. He will be having lunch at an Arab cafe on Camden High Street. We are hanging a banner outside the cafe saying “Come and meet George Galloway” with the time and day.

    Then he will be meeting school students, tenants who successfully campaigned against the privatisation of housing and local trade unionists.

    Liz Wheatley, Respect London Assembly candidate

    Word is spreading

    I SPOKE at a Stop the War meeting on civil liberties. We had a stall at the meeting and lots of ex-Labour people came up and joined Respect.

    We leafleted at the local shopping centre last Saturday and the response was great. We got rid of 500 leaflets in just an hour. I was leafleting and some young lads came up and said, “Oh, my mate is involved in this-we’ll vote for you.”

    Elaine Graham-Leigh, Respect European Parliament candidate

    On marches and vigils

    I JOINED the CND Aldermaston march over the Easter weekend as they marched through Southall. The event was made colourful by the music, songs and slogans displayed during the procession. Marchers were received by members of the Indian Workers Association (GB) and the Sikh temples and got free food and accommodation on the Friday night.

    I also attended a vigil held on Saturday to remember Akberali Tayabali Mohamedally, an 80 year old pensioner murdered in Northolt, west London, two weeks ago.

    The vigil was attended by family members, friends, a local councillor, other members of Respect and the Indian Workers Association (GB).

    Salvinder Singh Dhillon, Respect London Assembly candidate

    Now bring on the debate

    I HAVE been leafleting outside local council workplaces. I have been really surprised by how many people know about Respect and how enthusiastic they are. I am also putting forward a motion to invite a Respect speaker into my union branch, where I am a shop steward.

    We want a full hustings, with all the candidates. The Labour candidate in my area is Valerie Shawcross. She was a hate figure for firefighters during their strike because she was the head of the London Fire Authority. I would love to go up against her in a debate.

    I am planning to visit all the fire stations with a Respect FBU member. And I have been invited to speak to London Fire Authority Unison members and to a pensioners group.

    Janet Noble, Respect London Assembly candidate

    Fighting for real rights

    I ADDRESSED a protest outside Belmarsh prison over the detention of foreign nationals without trial. We also got a really good response leafleting the celebrations for Kurdish New Year.

    I was invited to introduce Respect at a Kurdish-Turkish community centre. The meeting lasted four hours because there was so much discussion. They said they would back us if we campaign for their rights, which is fine by me.

    Sait Akgul, Respect London Assembly candidate

    A matter of top priority

    I AM blind, so campaigning for the rights of disabled people will be a priority for me. There are some 8.6 million disabled people in Britain. Not one single mainstream party has a policy to help them get into meaningful work. I want to fight for equal opportunities and genuine social inclusion. The government spent billions on the war. Why can’t they spend the money into facilities for disabled people, or health, or education?

    Waqas Hussain, Respect London Assembly candidate

    ‘Why I still want justice’

    JANET ALDER, Respect candidate in Yorkshire & Humberside, is well known for her battle for justice for her brother, Christopher. Christopher died in police custody in April 1998. A CCTV camera captured his last moments. As he lay gasping for breath, five police officers stood laughing. A documentary reconstructing Christopher’s death was set to be screened on BBC1 on Wednesday.

    Janet says, “Throughout the footage, you can hear Christopher’s breaths getting slower and slower until they stop. The sound is loud and rasping, and yet no one goes to help him. It’s one of the most horrible things I’ve ever seen. I saw my brother die a painful, lonely, horrific death. I’ve only seen the video twice, but it haunts me.”

    The five officers were acquitted of manslaughter charges on the direction of the trial judge. Janet is demanding a full public inquiry: “I won’t believe my brother died for nothing.”

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