On the Stand Up To Racism march from the Home Office to Downing Street (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Protesters filled Whitehall in London on Saturday, raging against the Tories and racism. A rave followed an angry anti-racist march from outside the Home Office.

Cops responded by closing down the rave an hour and a half before its scheduled finish, seizing music equipment and harassing the organisers.

Poice said it was “an unlicensed music event”. Protesters stayed in the area, chanting “Fuck the police, fuck the Met”, as well as pro-Palestine chants,  showing their defiance against the crackdown.

Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) called the march, which was backed by most trade unions and many campaign groups and the TUC union federation. R3 Soundsystem organised the House Against Hate event with some of the biggest DJs in Britain.

As the march arrived outside Downing Street, tunes were blasting through the streets. Protesters bopped to house music while holding placards saying, “Refugees Welcome,” and, “Free Palestine”. The MC at the front of the stage led off on chants of “Tories Out” and people danced against racism.

SUTR said up to 5,000 people had marched from the Home Office to Whitehall.

On the demonstration, Brenda, a member of the Unite union’s Nottingham branch, said, “We are marching to let the rest of the world know that the racism we are seeing won’t stand. It’s not enough to sit at home and say it’s terrible. We need to get out on the streets and show what we believe in.”

The anti-racist actions came soon after communities secretary Michael Gove targeted Muslim groups with accusations of extremism. Marchers also pointed to Frank Hester’s racist comments about Diane Abbott MP. 

Henny attended the protest and rave. “I’ve been to all the Palestine protests, but this has been so important too. We have to fight against racism of all kinds,” she told Socialist Worker. 

“Music brings together all different cultures and celebrates them. People are here having a good time and bonding. Protesting is important, but using raves and music is a way to rejuvenate and also have a good time.”

Raver Monica said, “This is an important cause and we’re here at an important place. It’s where all the policies we disagree with are made, and we’re standing up against the people who make them.”

Drag Queen Bimini joined the LGBT+ bloc. “It’s 2024 and we’re still having to fight against racism,” they  told Socialist Worker. “We should all be together and that’s what this protest is about.”
They said it’s important there was an LGBT+ bloc “because when one group is attacked, everyone is being attacked”. “Trans people are also at the forefront of the attacks. The Tories’ ideology is divisive.”
Tracey, from the PCS union and Birmingham SUTR, blasted Gove’s definition of extremism for “trying to split up the Palestine movement along race and religion lines—and to smash it.” “But I’m seeing examples of extremism in the houses of parliament every time I switch on the telly,” she said.
She argued that trade unions must fight for anti-racist politics, not just on paper but in the streets. “At the moment, it’s often a tick box exercise as there are little teeth in trade union policies. Trade unionists need to mobilise and fight back,” she said. 

House Against Hate rave in Whitehall— before the cops moved in (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Naweedah joined the demonstration because she is “against the government’s racism and Islamophobia, and to stand with black and Muslim women”.
“I’m here against the Labour Party too,” she told Socialist Worker. “It is racist and it’s rubbish—it’s not an opposition. It’s time people like Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott came together to make a party that people want to vote for. So many of us are politically homeless.”
Naweedah said the Tory attacks on black people and Muslims have been coming for a long time. “They’ve been backed by the media. They demonise black and Asian people—it’s atrocious,” she said.
Jennie, from the Unison black members and LGBT+ caucus, said, “We need working people telling bosses that we are standing up for each other, standing up against injustice together.”
Jennie denounced the situation where “a vile person can make a racist comment and call for a black person to be killed and no action is taken”. “At the same time the government seeks to label Muslims and their allies who are demonstrating for human rights as violent extremists,” she said.
More than ever we need a mass anti-racist movement against state racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism, the attacks on refugees and the attempts by the far right to grow.

Join the Stand Up To Racism march in Cardiff on Sunday 17 March, 11am Senedd, Pierhead Street, CF99 1SN followed by free gig with Afrocluster, Grange Gardens, CF11 7LJ.

Rally speakers demand anti-racist action

At a rally before the march set off, trade unionists and campaigners spoke out against all forms of racism.

Pointing at the Home Office, Maryam Eslamdoust, the general secretary of the TSSA union, said, “I know that this building strikes fear into the hearts of migrants. I know because as a four-year-old child I went to the home office in Croydon to see if they had extended my family’s visa to stay in Britain.

“And as a Muslim I know about the racist assumptions that affect our lives—like the assumption that when we march for Palestine we are a threat.”

Fran Heathcote, general secretary of the PCS union, said, “Our union has taken a stand against the government’s asylum policies. It wanted our members to turn around migrant boats in the Channel, putting lives in danger. Our action forced them to stop that policy.

“As a new general secretary, I say we will carry on fighting against racist policies.”

Lindsey German from the Stop The War Coalition said, “We have the most racist government in history and the next general election will be the most racist in history. Every single week we get an Islamophobic comment from a Tory MP.” 

Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT union, said “The government is making war on us and our communities and seeking to divide us

“And now they want to lecture us on extremism. I won’t be taking any lectures from a party that takes its money from people that support racism and misogyny.”

To enthusiastic applause, he said, “I don’t just want the Tories to return Hester’s donation. I want him locked up.”

John McDonnell MP said, “An Israeli attack on Rafah will be a massacre. That’s why we must demand an immediate ceasefire.”

“Some 45 years ago, after the murders of Gurdip Singh Chaggar and Blair Peach, we set up the Anti Nazi League and drove the fascists back.

“After Stephen Lawrence was murdered, we drove them back again.

“But as we march to today, the racism we fight is in the heart of our political system.”

David Rosenberg, from the Jewish socialist group, mocked the Tory suggestion that Palestinian protesters had made central London a no-go zone for Jews.

“Well, here I am, a Jew in central London, just as I have been on countless protests for Palestine, where many, many other Jews accompany me,” he said.

Dilowar Khan, from the East London Mosque, in Tower Hamlets, also referenced the so-called no-go zones. “What about the real no-go zones for Muslims?” he asked. “There are many areas where Muslim women in particular cannot go for fear of attack, of having their hijabs ripped off.

“The government, by labelling Muslims as extremists, wants to silence us.

“We are told that Muslims won’t integrate into British society. But when we integrate we are told we are taking over.”

Stand Up To Racism supporters marching in Glasgow

Against racism and for Palestine in Glasgow

Over 300 anti-racists, students and trade unionists gathered outside BBC Scotland in Glasgow for a Stand Up To Racism demonstration.

Sabir Zazai from the Scottish Refugee Council said, “There’s been a trajectory of increasing racism within the British immigration system. We need unity to oppose the rise in racism.”

Twana, a refugee based in Erskine, told Socialist Worker, “Nobody wants to leave their own country, we’re trying to rehabilitate our lives in this country. There are refugees coming from Rwanda so we know it’s not a safe country.”

The protesters then marched through Glasgow to the Home Office chanting anti-racist slogans including, “From Minnesota to Kirkcaldy Black Lives Matter”.

There were six EIS education union banners on the march and banners or flags from the Unison, UCU, FBU, GMB, Unite, CWU, PCS and Bectu unions. 

Angela Grant from the PCS union national executive called for solidarity with the family of Sheku Bayoh who was killed in police custody nearly nine years ago.

She ended her speech chanting, “End the deaths in police custody,” and, “Refugees are welcome here.”

Pinar Aksu from the Maryhill Integration Network said, “We expect that the Rwanda plan will pass, then we need to build our response to it.”

Mohammed Asif, director of the Afghan Human Rights Foundation said, “I am glad to see so many extremists here today.”

Socialist Worker supporters and others then joined the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign demonstration in the city.

Protesting for Palestine

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and other groups organised events in 24 cities and towns across Britain on Saturday.

PSC said, “Israel’s genocidal assault on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip continues. Israel is using starvation as a weapon against Palestinians in Gaza, with its siege causing acute shortages of food, water and essential medicines.

“We must keep taking action to demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire, to demand our government ends its complicity in Israel’s attacks including by ending the arms trade with Israel, and to demand freedom and justice for Palestine.”

Chris reports, “Over 700 people marched in York in the biggest Palestine protest the city has seen so far. There were delegations of health workers and huge cheers for the Leeds university student occupation as well as for the Egyptian textile workers’ strike described as a ‘virtuous cycle of revolution’.”

With occupations taking place in five universities already, students plan actions for Israeli Apartheid Week to demand an end to complicity with Israel.

PSC said, “Join the national student days of action. Organise a walkout, teach-in or demonstration on Thursday 21 or Friday 22 March to demand your university end all complicity in Israel’s genocidal attacks now.”

National Demonstration: Ceasefire Now—Stop the Genocide in Gaza Saturday 30 March, 12 noon, central London. For details go here

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