Hundreds turn out for local Stand Up To Racism rallies ahead of #MarchAgainstRacism

Gary Younge speaking at Hackney rally                                                                            Credit: Dean Ryan

Hundreds attended rallies across the country last week to build for the #MarchAgainstRacism demonstrations. A great platform of speakers at last Thursday’s Hackney Stands Up to Racism meeting provided a wide range of arguments as to why as many people as possible should go on the 18 March anti-racist demonstrations in London, Glasgow and Cardiff.

Around 120 people listened while human rights activist Heena Khaled told of how she only began to suffer the effects of racism after 9/11, and how, since then, as a Muslim, she has more and more been made to feel “guilty”, and prove her “innocence”. She went on to attack the government’s Prevent policies, and particularly the way they bolster Islamophobia.

Guardian journalist Gary Younge told of how, aged 15, he suffered the terrible consequences of racism while staying with a pen friend in France in 1984. Then the French Front National was getting 8% in the polls. On returning to Paris in 1991, that percentage had risen to 15%. Today Marine Le Pen could become the country’s next president. Contrast with Britain, where anti-racists have stood against the Far Right and fascists. But he stressed we cannot let up on the need to continue the fight against the racists, now buoyed by Brexit and Trump’s victory.

Shadow Home Secretary and local MP Diane Abbott was absolutely resolute in making no concessions to immigration controls. She said those who claimed, for example, that immigrants bring down wages are talking nonsense. ““I’m very sad to hear Labour politicians who should know better saying that immigrants are responsible for driving down wages and conditions,” she said. “Let me make this clear. Immigrants don’t drive down wages and conditions. Predatory employers, weakened trade unions and globalisation do that,” she said.

People left the meeting armed not only with a wide range of information and arguments, but also with bundles of leaflets and posters, many having signed up to help with street stalls in order to build as much support as possible for the 18 March demonstrations.

Elsewhere, sixty people attended the Harlow Stand Up To Racism rally. The meeting was lively with excellent speakers and a lot of young people attending. Tickets were sold for the coach to the national demonstration on 18th March. Those attending the rally were encouraged to join with members of Harlow Stand Up to Racism in the town centre on 11th March for a day of action giving out leaflets and selling tickets for the demo and asking people to sign a petition.

In West London over 50 people attended a rally with speakers including the Labour MP for the area Rupa Huq, Mohammed Kozbar from Muslim Association of Britain, Shahrar Ali, Home Affairs spokesperson for the Green Party David Rosenberg Jewish Socialist Group and Stand Up To Racism Co-Covenor Sabby Dhalu.

 There were also rallies in Manchester, Haringey, Tower Hamlets and Walsall last week with speakers including David Lammy MP, Catherine West MP, Moazzam Begg, Azad Ali and speakers from Unison, NUS, Rotherham 12 campaign and London Women’s March.