20,000 defy ice and snow to march against racism

AROUND 20,000 anti-racists took to the streets of London, Glasgow and Cardiff last Saturday, despite of snow and icy winds, as part of the United Nations International Anti-Racism Day.

Stand Up To Racism, the organisers of the event supported by the TUC, Unite, UNISON and many other trade unions, faith and community groups, said the extraordinary turnout in such bitterly cold conditions was because of the enormous depth of feeling against the biggest rise in racism since the 1930s, which has also fuelled a growth in far-right parties in Europe. The March Against Racism, which marks United Nations International Anti-Racism Day, was part of a series of demonstrations taking place in cities across Europe including Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona, Warsaw, Kraków, Frankfurt, Vienna, Copenhagen, Athens, Dublin and Istanbul. Many were incensed by a recent Islamophobic “Punish a Muslim Day” stunt that targeted Muslim MPs and households around the country. Speakers demanded action from the Government against Islamophobic hate crime and pledged to stand up to Islamophobia on the designated day, 3rd April.

In London the march made its way from Portland Place to a rally in Parliament Square. Speakers at included Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott MP, journalist Gary Younge, Labour MPs David Lammy and Emma Dent Coad, Green Party Home Affairs spokesperson Shahrar Ali, and many other leading faith, community and trade union figures. Diane Abbott said: “Let’s reject the hatred that is manifest in the ‘punish a Muslim’ hate campaign which has affected Muslims around the country and my Muslim colleagues in Parliament, and the anti-Semitism concurrent with the rise of the far-right.

“We stand in the tradition of the kindertransport which saved children from the Nazis. It is a stain on our conscience that refugees are drowning in the Mediterranean and rotting in squalid camps. I say refugees welcome! “I was horrified by the desperation and misery I saw in Yarls Wood. No wonder I was stopped from visiting it for over a year. We must end indefinite detention and reject Theresa May’s hostile climate on immigration. The more informed the debate on immigration and refugees, the less cruel, chaotic and inhumane the system will be.”

Sabby Dhalu, the co-convenor of Stand Up To Racism, said: “We’ve seen the biggest rise in racism since the 1930s. ‘Punish a Muslim day’ is just one hideous part of biggest wave of hate crime we have seen in generations.

“With thousands stranded and destitute in northern France, our government has disgracefully still failed to implement the Dubs Amendment. The fact that women in Yarls Wood are having to go on hunger strike to raise awareness of their inhumane treatment is a savage indictment of Britain’s policy towards refugees and migrants.”

Weyman Bennett, the other Stand Up To Racism co-convenor, said: “Today we marched in 55 countries against racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism — we’ve seen inside Austria the rise of the FPO and in Germany the fascist AFD. Our slogan is Never Again and that’s why it’s vital we stand up to Donald Trump’s envoy Steve Bannon speaking at the Front National rally. “We are black, we are white, we are Jewish, we are Muslim, we are gay, young, old, women, men, disabled… If we unite like a fist we can break the racists and the Nazis and create a better world in which to live.”

In Glasgow over 1,500 people from all walks of life joined the Stand Up To Racism march, including trade unionists, political parties, refugee groups and civic society organisation to rally in George Square.

Scottish Labour Party leader Richard Leonard, Glasgow SNP MP Alison Thewliss, Glasgow Labour MSP Anas Sarwar and Scottish Trades Union Congress president Satnam Ner were amongst the speakers at the rally.

Richard Leonard argued that the anti-racist movement needed to “be impatient” in its campaigning against discrimination. He said: “We need to build unity between young and old between black and white.”

Speakers such as those from Scottish Refugee Council and a statement from Positive Action In Housing director Robina Qureshi highlighted the cruel impact of the Tory government’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers