‘REFUGEES are welcome here!’ shouted over 10,000 protesters on a March Against Racism through central London on Saturday. Labour’s shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, Gary Younge, Ray BLK, and Kensington MP, Emma Dent Coad joined trade unionists, faith and community leaders, campaigners and thousands more workers and youth.
March organisers had invited people to join to #MarchAgainstRacism, #Islamophobia & #Antisemitism & demand rights for refugees & migrants be treated as human beings. There were banners and flags from Unison, Unite, PCS, NEU, FBU and CWU unions. Other banners included Justice For Grenfell, Care4Calais, Free Innocent Joint Enterprise Prisoners, Stop the Attacks on Afrin – No Arms Sales to Turkey.
News Line spoke to some of the participants as they assembled outside the BBC in Great Portland Street. Suhayma Ali, a 16-year-old Somali youth from Tooting, carried a placard saying ‘No Human Being is Illegal’. She said: ‘I’m passionate about issues. I want to make change happen. I want to get rid of the Tory government – out with Theresa May! ‘Workers and youth should take action. We need everyone to come together. The trade unions should go on strike. ‘I’m against the whole idea that there should be a superior class – it’s wrong. I agree with nationalising the banks and putting the money in public services.’
Unison national office for race equality, Margaret Greer said: ‘We are here to raise our voices to stamp out racism, Islamophobia and all forms of discrimination.We are especially highlighting the plight of our Grenfell comrades. ‘We’ve come to raise the continued discrimination that is taking place across the UK, Europe and America. We’re sending a message to this government that we are serious about equality and a place for all in our nation. ‘We will continue to demonstrate at every opportunity. Also I’ll reaffirm that Donald Trump is not welcome here.’
Cardiff CWU branch secretary Amarjite Singh said: ‘We are here in solidarity with comrades marching against racism in the climate we are in internationally. The unions must take action against the Tory government – against austerity and its foreign policy. ‘The UK went to war on Iraq and Afghanistan. They went to war on Libya and Syria, and caused chaos yet they won’t take responsibility for refugees. ‘We have to work towards a general strike to bring the Tory government down. Our union could have dome more to stop privatisation. Privatisation never works.’
Tim Jones from Unite Community, Sheffield, added: ‘I’m here to highlight the hypocrisy of the capitalists. ‘They built their wealth on Afro-Caribbean and Indian labour and slavery. ‘It made places like Liverpool and Bristol. The beautiful buildings and canals were built by migrant labour, especially Irish, as was the NHS. The right wing stir up propaganda against immigrants. ‘All unions should take action to bring the Tories and capitalists down, nationalise the banks and renationalise the rail and Post Office.’
Machine operator Adrian Richardson said: ‘The government are no good. We’re suffering cuts to the NHS, cuts to everything – public services, everything. ‘I voted Labour. A lot of people are disillusioned with all parties. Whoever you vote for, the ordinary man in the street is not getting anywhere.’
NHS statistician from Gloucester Saskia Slottje said: ‘I’m here because there is a disturbing trend of intolerance. If we don’t stand up to it, it’s going to get worse. People are feeling a lot of pressure and anxiety and it’s going to wind people up. ‘A lot of the anxiety comes from the recession and austerity. Before the 2008 crash, people were more open. We need to look at ourselves and stand up against prejudice.’
Sheffield school youth Grace Pearce, 15, said: ‘I think we should stop police brutality. They should stop cutting youth centres.’ Her mother, teaching assistant Ewa Pearce, added: ‘I’m here because I believe racism is wrong and everyone is equal.
‘The cuts affect us. We’re grateful to have a free state school system. Education is good in this country. The public sector should get a pay rise.’
Tottenham MP, David Lammy said the demonstration was ‘sending a message’ to Tory MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg and ex-UKIP leader, Nigel Farage. Lammy declared: ‘We’re standing up for a Britain we believe in. We’re standing up for those women in Yarl’s Wood who are told they’ll be deported.’
Lucy Masoud, from the Fire Brigades Union spoke at a short rally at the start of the march about the Grenfell fire. She told the crowd: ‘We know the things that caused that fire.
‘We have to ask why that flammable cladding was used, why weren’t sprinklers fitted and why residents weren’t listened to when they raised concerns.
‘Victims didn’t stand a chance as soon as rich people in Kensington and Chelsea decided they didn’t want to look at an “ugly” building.’ Around 1,500 also joined a march in Glasgow and hundreds marched in Cardiff.