London was a powerful protest (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Anti-racists raged against the Tories ramping up attacks on refugees, institutional racism and the far right in central London on Saturday. 

Around 10,000 protesters joined the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) march from Portland Place to Downing Street. They chanted, “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here.”

The demonstration—and ones in Glasgow and Cardiff on the same day—came as the Tories try to push through the racist Illegal Migration Bill. 

Omar, an asylum seeker from Yemen, came to Britain in April and is living in Chesterfield. “I’m here to stand against racism and the decisions made by this government,” he told Socialist Worker. 

Omar said that living in a hotel and waiting for an asylum decision is “stressful”. “I’m here today to save our lives,” he said. “We need to stand against the Rwanda deportation scheme too. They’re wasting money on deportations when they could be spending money on education and health.”

Another refugee from Sudan, who’s also called Omar, told Socialist Worker, “I live in a hotel and I can’t do anything. I want to work and do something with my life. I’m angry at the Tory Party and what they’re doing. I used to be an electrician—that’s all I want in Britain too.”

Aisha, a student from Manchester, told Socialist Worker, “We’re showing we’re fighting for people on the receiving end of racism. The system we live in is inherently racist and built on it. We need to dismantle the system completely.”

The demonstration was backed by the TUC union federation and all the major unions, with banners and delegations from the PCS, NEU, Unison, Unite, CWU and others. Sarah, a UCU university union member, had come on the coach from Leeds. “We need to march against racism more than ever,” she told Socialist Worker. “We need to fight racism within workplaces, but also everywhere else.”

Sarah argued activists had to combine the strikes and the fight against racism. “The current dispute isn’t just about pay and conditions,” she said. “We’re fighting the race and ethnicity pay gaps too. In higher education it’s 17 percent. We need to do this together—within and outside the trade unions.”

Matt and Paul are Openreach workers from the South Yorkshire and Chesterfield CWU union branch. Paul slammed the Tories’ attacks  on refugees as “sickening”. “They’re trying to make out that people from different parts of the world are ‘others’ and should be kept away from us,” he told Socialist Worker. 

“The news for the last ten days has been about Gary Lineker. Its taken everything off the news. But it’s not about Lineker or the right to say things—it’s about people in horrible situations trying to get out of them and to a better life. There’s nothing complicated about it.” 

Matt said, “We’ve come to support the cause and stand against the Tories and what they’re trying to do with refugees. The narrative on the news is we’re letting far too many ‘illegal immigrants’ in, but other European countries let in a lot more than we do. We’re here today to counter that narrative.”

He added that bosses at his work try to “divide and conqueror”. “They try to split us all. That’s how they’ll win. But it’s better when we fight as one group – through solidarity and uniting.”

Groups including the Hussein Must Stay campaign, Care4Calais, Stop the War and LGBT+ activists formed blocs on the demonstration. 

Protesters raged at institutional racism—especially within the police. Students at the demonstration chanted the names of black people who were killed after contact with the police, including Chris Kaba and Mark Duggan. This was followed by, “Don’t forget—fuck the state and fuck the Met.”

Fran, an NEU union member in south London, told Socialist Worker, “After Black Lives Matter, decolonising education has been a real conversation.” 

Far right groups such as Patriotic Alternative, boosted by the Tories’ racism, are mobilising against refugees in hotels. Waleed lives in the hotel in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, that was targeted by the far right. “I’m protesting for justice for asylum seekers,” he told Socialist. “I’m here to say we’re not illegal.” 

Waleed said that when the far right attacked his hotel, “I was afraid”. “But when people came off the coaches to protest against them I felt so supported,” he added. “Today I want us to have a voice and stand up for ourselves.” 

The marches have to be a launchpad for a bigger fightback as the Tories step up their attacks on refugees. The thousands who took to the streets in London, Glasgow and Cardiff—and the millions who supported Gary Lineker’s stance last week—shows there is a solid basis for it. 

It’s crucial to unite the fight against scapegoating and the strikes. The struggle against racism has to be at the forefront of every battle over pay and conditions to push back the Tories, the far right and racism. 

More pictures by Guy Smallman here

Anti-racist protesters flooded into the streets of Glasgow (Picture: Raymie Kiernan)

Big turnouts in Glasgow and Cardiff

Anti-racist protests hit Scotland and Wales. Some 3,000 people joined in Glasgow and 600 in Cardiff.

As the Glasgow protest organised by Stand Up To Racism and the STUC union federation, marched through the city from George Square many chanted, “Refugees are welcome here,” and “Black Lives Matter.”

One of the largest banners read, “Justice for Sheku Bayoh”. Sheku died after being restrained by police in Kirkcaldy. Other banners and placards demanded an end to immigration raids, safe routes for refugees and opposition to the Tories’ divide and rule tactics.

Liam, a student, joined the protest alongside others from Edinburgh University. He told Socialist Worker, “The protest is truly fantastic, a strong fightback against the Tories’ racist rhetoric and policies.

“There was a clear message from the crowd—refugees are welcome here. And it was great to unite alongside trade unions, refugee charities and climate activists.”

He added, “The march was larger than last year—that’s good to see as the Tories’ attacks on refugees and migrants ramp up and the far right and fascists start to organise. It was clear there is a sense of urgency to smash the Tories and racists.”

Many groups supported the demonstration including all the major unions, Care4Calais, Afghan Human Rights Foundation, STUC Black Workers Committee, Scottish Refugee Council, Maryhill Integration Network, Muslim Engagement & Development Scotland, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees and Erskine Against Racism—the group which has been building opposition to fascist group, Patriotic Alternative.

Activists opposing immigration raids were present . Transport included coaches from Edinburgh, Cumbria, Dundee and Newcastle.

At the post-march rally the crowd was addressed by speakers such as Sheku Bayoh family lawyer, Aamer Anwar, STUC leader Roz Foyer and RMT Scotland organiser Gordon Martin. 

Foyer told the crowd, “Let’s never forget that when working class people, trade unions, and anti-racist campaigners get organised we can beat racism both on our streets and in the very heart of the British government.”

Hundreds came onto the streets in Cardiff against racism (Picture: Patrick Connellan)

Hundreds of anti-racists in Cardiff showed their resistance to racism. Protesters held placards reading, “Stop the new asylum bill,” and “Seeking refuge is a human right.” Others held banners demanding justice for the Cardiff Five who were falsely accused of murder and launched a campaign from the protest.

Stand Up To Racism activist, Nimi told Socialist Worker, “The protest was loud, vibrant and passionate. 

“The Labour Welsh Assembly politicians who attended pledged to oppose the illegal migration bill. And we were very vocal about opposing the bill too.”

She added that after Saturday’s brilliant show of strength, anti-racist organising must continue.

“SUTR has called a counter-protest against fascist group Patriotic Alternative in Llantwit Major for next Saturday, 25 March. A message went out from the demo that we need to mobilise the anti-racist majority to kick them off our streets and not allow the Nazis to grow.”

At the closing rally speeches came from Cardiff Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion and several trade union leaders and members.

Wales TUC general secretary Shavanah Taj told the crowd, “We can’t be bystanders, we can’t allow injustices to continue right in front of our eyes and not speak out. If you’re scared to speak up, talk to the person next to you, join a trade union, make sure you raise these issues—they are workers’ issues, stand united and in solidarity.”

In a message of support to the three demonstrations, Labour MP Dawn Butler said, “Standing up to racism in all its forms is vital and important if we are to keep people safe. Coming out on the streets, responding whether it be on social media or to our home secretary. We all have to do our part.”

Say no to fascist Patriotic Alternative, Saturday 25 March, 11am, Eagleswell Road (top end), Llantwit Major, CF61. Details here

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