Sunday, 23 March 2014
People unite to give voice to multicultural Britain at Stand up against racism and fascism march
The diverse face of multicultural Britain was evident among the 10,000 people who marched from Parliament Square to a rally in Trafalgar Square yesterday in protest against racism and fascism.
The Stand up to racism and fascism event to mark UN anti-racism day was organised by the TUC and Unite Against Fascism.
The drums beat out as the march began from in front of Parliament, winding its way up Whitehall, past Downing Street and onto Trafalgar Square. “We are here today to tell Mr Cameron that we are all in this together, no matter what race, religion or gender ..and he’d better take notice,” said Katie Dunning, from the Communication Workers Union.
There were groups from across the spectrum represented: the unions, Roma and Irish Travellers, trades councils, faith groups, miscarriage of justice and death in police custody campaigns and domestic worker defence bodies.
Among the speakers were Labour MPs Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn, Pax Christi vice president Bruce Kent, Farooq Farad from Muslim Council of Britain and Gloria Mills from Unison.
George the poet gave a powerful message of resistance, whilst in the square devout Muslims mixed with the odd Sherlock Holmes impersonator – deer stalker and pipe in hand.
The overall message was one of solidarity against the racist ferment in the media, with repeated attacks on the promotion of the anti-migrant message of UKIP leader Nigel Farage and his fellow travellers of the far right.
The Stand up to racism and fascism protest saw the often ignored majority coming out for a more diverse and inclusive country than that often portrayed in the mass media or in the nearby House of Commons.
At the rally, Labour MP Diane Abbott attacked the political debate on immigration, with its constant scape goating of minorities.
She claimed that it is not immigrants that cause low wages but bad employers. Diane also challenged the attacks on immigrants for using up health service resources. “Without immigrants there would not be an NHS,” said Diane. “It is time to stand up against racism and fascism. It is time to let the Mail and the rest of the tabloid press know that they don’t speak for us. There is an election coming and we can’t allow the scapegoating of migrants.”
Gloria Mills of Unison claimed that Britain is becoming more unequal as a result of the application of the austerity agenda, with black and ethnic minorities being hardest hit.
She called for an end to the toxic debate on immigration. “Migrant workers are being exploited, we must mobilise,” said Gloria.
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn questioned what sort of society there would be in Britain without immigration over the past 70 years. “If there hadn’t been migration into Britain since World War II, what kind of education, health, transport system and industries would there be, what sort of society would we have,” said Jeremy, who claimed the society would be poorer and less diverse without immigration.
Veteran peace campaigner Bruce Kent, the vice president of Pax Christi, described UKIP as an example of “the worst of British political life.”
He claimed the party had fed on that same arrogant spirit that made Britain a nuclear power. “It’s a we’re British and don’t want other people here attitude,” said Bruce, who recalled when he had his prostate operation, how he had an Egyptian doctor and African nurse. “It is possible to live together in peace and harmony on this planet.”
The co-ordinator of the Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ) Rosie Bairwal claimed that UKIP don’t promote good community relations and are opposed to multiculturalism. “They don’t appreciate the contribution that migrants make to our country. Their damaging narrative is often about demonization rather than promoting good community relations,” said Rosie, who stressed how important it is that faith communities show support for action like the demonstration.“It is important that faith communities show their support for this demonstration and a strong determination to challenge all forms of racism and discrimination.”
CARJ are concerned about the negative narrative there is around migrants, which it claims is based on fear. “This demonstration is important because it is about the positive contribution that migrants make to our society,” said Rosie, who also criticised the lack of political leadership on the issue. The political debate has been reduced to which party can cut immigration by the largest amount, no party is making out the argument for the positive value of immigration.
Rosie suggested that had Britain not been the recipient of EU migrants from the Eastern European accession countries since 2004 the economic position would be a lot worse now. The positive economic impact of migrants coming to the UK, where they often to not use the public services which their taxes have paid to provide is rarely mentioned.
A study by University College London that looked at the fiscal impact of the migration of recent eastern European migration found that migrants contributed 37% more in taxes than the cost of the public services they consumed.
A research report for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that from 2011 the estimated the value to the UK economy of international students at over £14 billion per year.
Colin Bell, a CWU member, stressed how important it was for people to stand up for multiculturalism. “It is important to show that we the majority are united. I do not believe in belittling anyone – we all breath the same air,” said Colin.
Linda Roy, national equalities officer at the CWU, saw the demo as a time when people came out to say “no to racism and the far right.”
Linda felt the 10,000 on the march were reflective of feelings throughout the country, something that does not come across in the mass media. “There are very diverse people here, look at the banners. We are saying we are here and are going to be here for the duration. We want to stamp out racism and fascism,” said Linda. “We don’t accept the far right and their views, we are here fighting all the way for equality.”