This Saturday (March 18), if you’re in London or able to get to the capital, I do hope you’ll come to a national March Against Racism demo, beginning at noon by the BBC in Portland Place, London W1A 1AA, with other demos taking place in Glasgow, beginning at 11am in Holland St, and Cardiff, beginning at 11am in Grange Gardens. The Facebook page for the London event is here.
The protests have been called to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (which is on March 21), and also because it is the week before Theresa May intends, suicidally, to trigger Article 50, beginning the disastrous two-year process of us leaving the EU. Please also note that there is another national demo, against Brexit, on Saturday March 25, which I’ll be writing more about soon.
Standing up to racism is hugely important, as was made clear last June with the narrow victory for the Leave campaign in the EU referendum. Amongst the misplaced reasons for the Leave vote, which included some spurious notion of British sovereignty, was a toxic mix of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia, stirred up for years by politicians and the media, and by fears and misconceptions prompted by increased immigration — a phenomenon not unique to the UK, of course, but shared by all the richer countries of the west — that were, lamentably, unchallenged.
Unfortunately, as the cynical efforts to cement hatred of immigrants took root, so too did a cold-hearted response to the greatest humanitarian crisis most people had seen in their lifetimes, as millions of refugees arrived in Europe — primarily via Greece and Italy — fleeing the war in Syria (where the world’s great powers have been playing a proxy version of World War III for several years), the fallout from western wars and intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and the intolerable situation in countries like Eritrea, which, unknown to most Europeans, has one of the worst human rights records in the world.
It’s also particularly important for people to stand up for the rights of refugees and migrants against the politician who has done so little to help them — Theresa May, the inadequate individual who became Prime Minister last July when no one else was left standing in the wake of the EU referendum that former Prime Minister David Cameron arrogantly thought he would win.
For six years, before her undeserved rise to the top position in British politics, May was a hideously authoritarian home secretary, known in particular for her Islamophobia, but also for her undisguised disgust for immigrants and refugees, as I explained in my article last July, As Theresa May Becomes Prime Minister, A Look Back at Her Authoritarianism, Islamophobia and Harshness on Immigration, in which I discussed her enthusiasm for sending Muslims back to countries where they face the risk of torture, extraditing British Muslims to the US, extrajudicially stripping British citizens of their citizenship, and revealing an obsession with stripping the UK of human rights legislation that seems to be one of her main reasons for wanting to leave the EU, as well as her lack of interest in the refugee crisis, her racist vans telling immigrants to go home, her refusal to grant visas to the foreign spouses of UK nationals if the latter do not earn £18,600 a year, and her obsession with snooping and surveillance.
The current unforgivable scandal of May’s government involves her refusal to honour the agreement made under Cameron to accept thousands of unaccompanied refugee children into the UK. The Dubs amendment, named after Lord Dubs, the Labour peer who came to the UK as a child from Nazi Germany, has been capped at 350, even though, as the Guardian described it, “3,000 children were originally expected to come to the UK under the scheme but the home secretary, Amber Rudd, has said the cap was set far lower because councils did not have enough capacity.”
As the Guardian added, “However, evidence given to the select committee casts doubt on how thoroughly the government had consulted councils, and suggests that as many as 4,000 extra children could be sheltered if central funding is provided.”
Today’s Observer added to the story, reporting that Andy Elvin, chief executive of Tact Care, the UK’s largest fostering and adoption charity, has explained how the Home Office “turned down repeated offers from fostering agencies that would have allowed up to 100 child refugees a week to be given sanctuary in Britain,” in a series of meetings between September 2015 and June 2016.
As if further proof were needed of this government’s heartlessness, check out the self-explanatory Refugees applying to live in UK face being sent home after five years, with its horrific implications for the most vulnerable people feeling for the lives, and, in today’s Observer, UK sending Syrians back to countries where they were beaten and abused, reporting how “Britain is using EU rules to send asylum seekers from Syria and other countries back to eastern European states,” including Hungary and Romania, “where they were beaten, incarcerated and abused.”
In conclusion, then, I hope to see you on next week’s march. As the organisers Stand Up to Racism state on their website:
Amid a vitriolic atmosphere of anti-migrant hysteria following the EU referendum, Prime Minister Theresa May has announced she will trigger article 50 by the end of March 2017 in order to “have the freedom to choose the way we control immigration.”
In a situation where migrants, Muslim women and anyone considered to be “foreign” are being attacked on a daily basis and refugees are being abandoned by Britain and Europe to destitution, drowning and exploitation, there has never been a more important time in recent history to stand up to racism.
On March 18th, let’s make the Stand Up To Racism demonstration for UN Anti-Racism Day the biggest yet, to show that Theresa May does not speak for us when she blames migrants and refugees for the problems cause by austerity and the financial crisis, and that we are united against racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:
Here’s my latest article, promoting next Saturday’s March Against Racism national demo in London (with others in Glasgow and Cardiff), which I hope will be huge. In particular, I’d like the decent British people amongst my fellow citizens to send a resounding message of no confidence in Theresa May, the accidental Prime Minister, whose Brexit obsession is not just pragmatism based on a narrow majority in last year’s EU referendum, but also allows her to confirm the racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia she persistently demonstrated during her six wretched years as home secretary before her unexpected promotion last summer. She is a nightmare – worse even than Trump, who can’t actually pretend to be a decent and competent human being – as should be clear from her recent and despicable refusal to honour the Dubs amendment to bring several thousand unaccompanied child refugees to the UK, capping it at a measly 350 instead. March Against Racism, March Against Theresa May!
From U.S. (Witness Against Torture) visiting in Glasgow and will try to get to London Saturday. Bless you, Maggie
That’s great to hear, Maggie. Resistance is required on both sides of the Atlantic to the dangerous and idiotic regimes in both our countries.
Can’t be there in person. Instead, I’ll do my part on the other side here.
Thanks, Tom. Vigilance and protest are needed on both sides of the Atlantic, that’s for sure.
Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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