Thousands march against racism in London and Glasgow

It was the first time Stand Up To Racism organised national demonstrations since the start of the pandemic

By Socialist Worker journalists

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Saturday 19 March 2022

Issue 2796

There was a lively student bloc on the Stand Up To Racism march in London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Thousands of people marched against racism in London and Glasgow on Saturday as part of an international day of action.

The marches brought together anti-racist activists, refugee rights campaigners, trade unionists, and students. Organisers Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) said from the stage that “up to 10,000” joined the demonstration in London, and up to 2,000 protested in Glasgow (see below). Anti-racists were set to march in Cardiff on Sunday. 

People gathered in Portland Place to hear speeches, and then marched to Parliament Square. 

Many of the activists on the demonstration raged against the cops’ treatment of Child Q. Police strip-searched the 15 year-old black girl at a school in Hackney, east London, leaving her traumatised and self-harming. 

NEU education union joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said the revelations were “an outrage”. “You can’t be a good teacher unless you’re fighting racism,” he told Socialist Worker. “Being part of that resistance is important for teachers. Child Q reveals to us that we need networks of anti-racist teachers.”

Hanna, a Sixth form student from Newham in east London, added, “It’s terrifying what happened. As school students, we need to say loudly that cops should be kept out of our schools.” 

There were union representatives from TSSA, Aslef, RMT, Usdaw, NEU, Unison and PCS, CWU, RCM, UVW, Unison and NASUWT on the march. Edward Mundy, a CWU member and Labour councillor in Oxford, said, “We must build a global movement as racism is a global issue. We still have a long way to go to beat racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia.” 

Steven, a Unison union in London, told Socialist Worker, “Racism is an issue for everyone—it’s a constant sleeping evil. The trade union movement must push for equal pay. That issue must be put higher up on the agenda.”

Aiden from Stop Asian Hate told Socialist Worker that racist attacks against east Asians have soared since the start of the pandemic in 2020. “We’re here, of course, to show our solidarity with all those who face racism,” he said. “But, we are also here to give a voice to a minority group that has often felt voiceless. It’s high time we joined the fightback on the streets.” 

Paula from Disabled People Against Cuts told Socialist Worker, “Disabled people know what it’s like to be oppressed and discriminated against. We must build solidarity and fight for a society without division.”

A lively student bloc spanned the width of the demonstration. Ada, a student from Liverpool, told Socialist Worker the protest had come at a “critical” time. “The Tories have universities in their sights, as they push forward with assaults on ‘woke education’. We have to be clear this is just the Tories trying to find a scapegoat and stamp out dissent.” 

Climate activists also formed a bloc, with several Cop26 Coalition groups joining the march. Frank from Just Stop Oil told Socialist Worker the climate movement being part anti-racist protests is vital. “Climate change will lead to the destruction of the homes of the world’s poorest first—mainly in the Global South,” he said. 

“This will inevitably lead to an influx of refugees. So we must make the case that they are welcome and borders should be opened.” 

Protesters hit back at Tory attacks on refugees. Tia Bush from charity Care4Calais told Socialist Worker, “With the Nationality and Borders Bill, it’s more important than ever to change public opinion and protesting has an impact.

“It’s life and death at the borders and in Britain. There’s so little public awareness because the media doesn’t print the truth. There are so many people at risk right now, but the Tories need someone to scapegoat—and they create a good or bad refugee narrative to suit them.”

cwu union members join the stand up to racism march in London

A strong turnout from the CWU communication workers’ union (Picture: Guy Smallman)

After marching to Parliament Square, protesters heard speeches and enjoyed Love Music Hate Racism performances. 

The demonstration, which had been called off for two years running due to the pandemic, showed that anti-racists are keen to get back on the streets. Weyman Bennett, co-convenor of SUTR, told the crowd, “While people died, Boris Johnson was partying. He’s a criminal, and he should have been arrested.”

He added, “Our enemy is in Number Ten, the person who called Muslim women bank robbers and said black people have watermelon smiles. But we are black and white, together we are dynamite, and together we are going to blow away the racists.”

Stand up to Racism protesters hold banners

Why we’re on the march against racism

The march should be a launchpad for further action. Anti-racists have to confront state racism. They must also prepare to revolt against the imminent implementation of the Nationality and Border bill and, in England and Wales, the protest-smashing police bill.

Together these criminalise refugees, target Gypsy, Roma and Travellers, increase racist stop and search powers and threaten millions of people’s citizenship rights.

There is also a battle to increase the pressure to open the borders to all refugees—from Ukraine or anywhere else. The thousands that marched today can be the basis for a wider resistance throughout the working class, trade union and campaigns.  

  • Join the march in Cardiff, assembling at noon on 20 March, City Hall, Cardiff
‘We can beat Home Office,’ says Glasgow march 

anti-racists march in Glasgow behind a banner that reads no to racism refugees welcome

Anti-racists on the march in Glasgow (Picture: Andrew McGowan)

Up to 2,000 people marched through Glasgow on Saturday. The Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) demonstration said refugees are welcome and Black Lives Matter, and demanded racist Tory legislation be scrapped. 

Speakers referenced the Kenmure Street blockade when hundreds of residents in the city staged a seven-hour protest last May to stop the deportation of two migrants. “The Home Office can be beat, remember Kenmure Street,” chanted protesters, as they marched to the city centre. There was a large collection of union banners including from Unison, PCS, CWU UCU, RMT, Aberdeen trade council and TSSA.

Ruby Hirsch from SUTR blasted the Tories’ and media’s hypocritical posturing over refugees after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “Other refugees in this country are treated in appalling ways,” she said. “They are denied basic human rights, they are denied the right to work, and they’re kept in hotels or detention centres.”

“Why the double standards? Why are refugees from Syria, from Afghanistan, from Yemen, being treated as less than human, let’s call it what it is—it’s racism.”

Ruby attacked the Tories’ Nationality and Borders Bill, which would make Britain’s brutal immigration system ever more racist. She said, “They’re sending us a message—they’re saying, ‘You don’t belong here—you’re not safe. You don’t really belong if you’re not white’.” She called on activists to keep up the pressure against racist legislation, and to build the “anti-racist majority” that was out on the streets. 

The rally in George Square heard a range of speakers from across the anti-racism and trade union movement as well as Roma music and spoken word performances. 

Roz Foyer, general secretary of the Scottish TUC union federation, emphasised that workers had a role to play in fighting racism. “We know that the anti-racist fightback starts in our workplaces and in our communities,” she said. “It’s important we recognise that Scotland isn’t immune to racism, Scottish workers are not immune to racism.”

Foyer talked about the “climate of fear that’s created by the Tory government and its allies as they try to split our class”. She said they want us “to blame the most vulnerable in our society for economic inequalities that we know are created by the rich and the powerful.”

Scottish independence activists also marched as part of an “Indybloc”. And Gordon Martin of the RMT transport workers’ union railed against the “bandit capitalists” that were responsible for ramping up racism and vicious attacks. This includes the 800 workers suddenly sacked by P&O Ferries. “We need working class unity,” he said. “Capitalism created racism to divide us. People’s lives are being torn upside down—we need unity as workers, and we need unity of action.”

Scotland anti-racist diary

10 May: launch of the Public Inquiry into Sheku Bayoh’s death in police custody. Capital House, Edinburgh in Festival Sq—campaigners are asking anti-racists to be there. 

14 May: Festival of Resistance Kenmure St anniversary. Kenmure Street, Maxwell Square Park and The Quad will be occupied with performances, stalls and other community engagement activities. 

17-26 June: Refugee Festival Scotland takes place every year in the lead up to World Refugee Day on 20 June.

August: Govanhill International Festival and Carnival

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