Anti-racists join the Stand Up To Racism conference in London (Picture: Dave Gilchrist)

Around 500 people participated in Stand Up To Racism’s (SUTR) national conference in-person in London and online on Sunday.

The conference celebrated the downfall of former home secretary Suella Braverman—and vowed to keep up the fight against the Tories racist attacks. 

Neville Lawrence, father of Stephen Lawrence who was murdered 30 years ago in south London, spoke at a session on fighting institutional racism. “The police accused my son of being a burglar,” he said. 

“We asked questions about what happened the night he was killed but they wouldn’t tell us anything. We were told for many years there was no institutional racism in the police. But it’s been exposed that a number of officers at the time were corrupt.” 

“We’ve been fighting for justice and the truth for over 30 years. I don’t know what they’re hiding or who they’re protecting. Something is wrong with the police. They’re determined not to solve Stephen’s case.” 

Neville’s speech was followed by chants of, “No justice, no police—no racist police.”

Sukhdev Reel spoke about the justice campaign for her son Ricky, who was killed in a racist attack 26 years ago in west London. “The response from the police was appalling,” she said. “They weren’t interested in recognising it as a racial attack. 

“They said Ricky must have run away because Asian people have arranged marriage or because he was gay and we wouldn’t accept him. I have no trust in them. They will never change. Racism is deeply rooted in the police.” 

In the session on welcoming refugees, speakers discussed how to stop the far right protests outside hotels and disused army camps that house refugees. The far right has been boosted by the Tories’ scapegoating. 

NEU union general secretary Daniel Kebede called out Rishi Sunak and Braverman for giving the “green light to far right thugs” last weekend to “defend” the Cenotaph in Whitehall “We’ve seen a normalisation of Islamophobia against those who stand against the atrocities in Palestine,” he said. 

“We also stand with refugees. We’re told schools are struggling because of an influx of refugees. But it’s because of pernicious cuts, not refugees.

He added, “We also have to worry about a future Labour government. Labour wont deliver for working people. Our fight is far from over.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka congratulated union activists and refugee charities who had blocked the Rwanda deportation policy in the courts last week. “Legal victories are important,” he said. 

“But we have to be able to win in our communities and workplaces. That will be pivotal to turn around this tirade of hostility towards migrants. Outside hotels and on the streets, we need to have conversations to unite people.”

From the floor, Nimi from West Wales SUTR spoke about the lessons of fighting the far right in Llanelli. A racist campaign stopped refugees being housed at a hotel in the town. “The local hate campaign was against refugees arriving, they had demonstrations and meetings,” she said. 

“My own union branch secretary was part of that, but brave anti-racists and individual union members stood up to them.

“Even if we were outnumbered we called the fascists and racists out for what they stood for. We have to start with a position that says refugees are welcome here.”

Rory shared anti-racists’ experiences of pushing back the far right outside a hotel in Erskine, Scotland. “We beat back Patriotic Alternative and outnumbered them every time,” he said. “We had a united form with local people, anti-racists, trade unionists and refugees. We fought the far right’s fire and defeated them.”

Candy from Portland, Dorset, spoke about supporting refugees stuck on the Tories’ prison barge. “We called out the No To The Barge group’s leaders and their racism,” she said. “That was absolutely key. 

“And we welcomed refugees—with events, packs and flowers. You can’t ignore or join up with racists and leave them to it—you have to deal with them.”

In a session on the far right, speakers called out fascist attempts to mask their antisemitism by attacking Muslims. Aiche from Collective Against Islamophobia in France said, “Racists paint Muslims as the problem. They don’t care about fighting antisemitism.”

From the floor, people spoke about beating back the far right—such as defending drag queen story time events in Honor Oak, south London.

Michael Bradley from SUTR said, “Across Europe fascists and the far right are growing. From Germany, Italy, France, Hungary and more—they’re attacking migrants, refugees and Muslims, and pushing the great replacement theory.

“But we have to continue to mobilise on the ground against racism wherever it appears. It’s there to divide us, and when we unite we break that.”

Anti-racists from across Britain are learning the lessons from their battles—and gearing up for future ones.

Join SUTR’s March Against Racism in London, Glasgow and Cardiff on Saturday 16 March 2024. Details at standuptoracism.org/uk

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