Anti-racists made a stand in Llanelli on Saturday against the far right and racists, who were protesting against refugees being housed at a local hotel.
Around 40 people faced a 140-strong anti-refugee protest outside the Stradey Park hotel in the West Wales town. The crowd of racists milled around the gates of the hotel and then moved down towards the counter-protest, which was on the opposite side of the road.
Anti-racists chanted, “Refugees are welcome, fascists are not,” and, “Say it loud, say it clear—refugees are welcome here.”
Amarjit Singh, a CWU communication workers’ union member, had come to show support from the Wales TUC union federation. “If we’re not here, the racists and the bigots win,” he told Socialist Worker. “If that happens, the far right will start to build a cell in the community and we can’t let that happen.”
The hotel has become the flashpoint of racist protests with a regular presence outside. The fascist group Voice for Wales and the far right Ukip party have driven the racist myths about refugees. Unchallenged by Labour and Plaid Cymru, they’ve whipped up a reactionary atmosphere in the town.
The Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) counter-protest in the West Wales town was backed by the Wales TUC union federation, the FBU firefighters’ union in Wales, Race Council Cymru, BLM Wales, Asylum Justice, Ethnic Youth Support Team and Race Alliance Wales.
The anti-refugee protest wasn’t made up of just hardcore fascists and racists, but they’re on a rightward trajectory. A majority of the crowd ended up chanting, “All lives matter”—the racist slogan that is a response to Black Lives Matter.
Amarjit added, “The far right is fuelling what is happening. Some of the chants you hear across the road, you wouldn’t hear unless someone from the far right had fed them. The trade union movement has a big role to play to make sure none of their members are part of that over.”
The far right wants to deflect people’s anger at the way politicians have let Llanelli to rot away from those in power and into refugees. The protests outside the hotel have drawn in working class people such as firefighters and nurses.
It will be a challenge to shift the reactionary mood in the town. This can be done through campaigning that challenges the racist myths about asylum seekers with the message, “Blame Tories, not refugees.” An anti-racist festival—such as the one that helped take on the Nazi British National Party (BNP) in Stoke on Trent in the 2009—could help to break down the reactionary atmosphere.
But—crucially—the labour and anti-racist movements have to mobilise to outnumber the far right and racists outside Stradey Park Hotel.