Hundreds of people marched through the centre of Croydon chanting “refugees welcome here” on Saturday 8 April in a strong demonstration of solidarity following the horrific attack on Kurdish refugee Reker Ahmed.
The unity protest called by Stand Up to Racism was supported by a wide range of local campaigns and faith groups including Croydon Assembly, Croydon Trades Council and Croydon Disabled People Against Cuts, as well as local trade union branches Croydon NUT, Croydon College UCU and Unite Retired Members, reflecting the strength of feeling among local residents determined to oppose racism. Campaigners from Keep Our St Helier Hospital joined the protest to highlight the importance of migrant workers in the NHS.
Other speakers included local imam Suliman Gani who spoke out against violence and Croydon Assembly spokesperson Patsy Cummings who described the positive work that has gone on in Croydon to welcome refugees and take in child refugees under the Dubs amendment that was disgracefully closed down by the government earlier this year. Messages of support were read out from Bishop of Croydon Jonathan Clark and local MP Steve Reed who were unable to attend due to prior commitments.
Representatives from the Kurdish community in touch with Reker Ahmed and his family described the overwhelming response from members of the public including more than £55,000 raised through crowdfunding.
Weymann Bennett, national co-convener of Stand Up to Racism said “The tragedy of Reker Ahemd escaping war zone to be attacked in Croydon is a tragedy both for the local people and obviously for himself and his family. We have to make sure that we welcome refugees and treat them with respect because it’s how we would like to be treated if we were refugees. But also there are problems in Croydon but they are not caused by refugees, they’re caused by the problems that existed before refugees arrived.”
Ilayda Tuzun, a Croydon resident, member of the Kurdish community and local anti-racism activist said: “I was so happy when I saw Stand Up to Racism were organising something in response to the attack. The protest achieved its purpose of coming together to stand in unity against racism. Raising awareness for the refugees who are in this country, not through choice, but through disastrous circumstances is a fact people should not dismiss readily.
To escape death from a war stricken country and arrive to what is considered as a safe haven but be the target of a brutal racist attack is grotesque in all forms. As civilised human beings, we all need to be more tolerant of each others race, culture and faith without falling under the spell of what the biased media chooses to filter into our minds. Refugee lives matter, black lives matter. Let us not be the puppets of the warmongers, let us empathise with those in need, as empathising will bring compassion, and compassion is what makes us all human.”
Members of Stand Up to Racism will take solidarity cards signed by protesters and money from collections to Reker later this week.
Meanwhile, local people keen to get actively involved in supporting refugees and opposing racism will be holding an open meeting supported by Stand Up to Racism on Wednesday 12th April 7.15 – 8.30pm at Croydon Conference Centre, 5 -9 Surrey Street, Croydon, CR0 1RG. If you would like to attend or for more information contact Ellen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07505144371.