Against Racism

Writing today with the temperature around 30 degrees in the shade, my shirt sticking to my body and wondering if it is worth leaving the keyboard for a while and get another glass of ice-cold water it’s had to remember just how cold it was back in March. The several thousand who turned up to march on UN Anti Racism Day ignored apocalyptic weather forecasts, an amber weather warning, a temperature around zero with the occasional snowflake and a chilling east wind. And we froze.

Portland Place, outside Broadcasting House has become a popular starting point for many protests. Partly to point out what seems to many campaigners to be a peculiar reluctance on the part of the BBC to report protests in the UK, particularly those that might embarrass the government. And a protest against racism should embarrass the current government, with its ‘hostile environment’ towards refugees and other migrants and clearly discriminatory policies in other areas, Though to be fair it doesn’t only discriminate on grounds of race, but is has an equal opportunities discrimination policy that also extends to class, disability, women, etc.

Britain has changed enormously in my lifetime, and the arrival of many workers from the Commonwealth in particular has greatly enriched us, both by doing many of the vital low paid jobs we all depend on  but also because of the cultural enrichment provided by their differing traditions. Many when they came in the past were citizens with the right to settle here, but increasingly racist immigration acts have changed that, reaching the state where the Home Office under Theresa May has been caught carrying out illegal deportations and destroying records that give some the right to remain.

The Windrush generation – and there children – are only the tip of an ugly iceberg, with many thousands being affected. But government racism has also extended to more traditional groups who have lived in this country far longer, travellers and Roma. Much of their harassment comes from local government, often failing to meet the limited responsibilities they have to provide sites, and employing licensed thugs to turn travellers off land – including at times land the travellers actually own.

Some areas of discrimination have changed for the better. Catholics and non-conformists are now seldom subject to discrimination on the grounds of their religion at least in mainland UK. And Jews too now escape official disbarment, though some Tories and extreme right neo-Nazi inspired groups still keep up the anti-semitic hate, though many have now transferred they evil bile towards Muslims. And while caste discrimination is illegal in India (although it flourishes under the current right-wing Hindu regime), here in the UK wealthy Tory-supporting Hindus have so far blocked attempts to make it illegal here.

Many wars around the world remain racial wars, including that between Turkey and the Kurds, with Turkey doing its best at least throughout the last century to eliminate the Kurdish people and culture. On the protest Kurds were calling for an end to the attacks by Turkey and Islamic militants fighting on their behalf to take control of Afrin, with the aim of removing the majority Kurdish population.

Militarily the Turkish army is far superior, thanks largely to its NATO friends including the UK who have helped make it the strongest force in the area, and with the aid of its former ISIS and Al Qaeda allies victory in the area seemed inevitable, though it may only be the start of a prolonged guerilla struggle.

As the Kurds arrived opposite Downing St, a misguided police office removed the cones and tape across the middle of Whitehall that had guided the marchers away from Downing St, and it was taken as a signal for them to make a rush towards its gates. These were of course well-protected, with barriers and police offices – and behind them several armed police, but the situation certainly became chaotic.

Eventually police and march stewards brought them under some sort of control, with some moving on to the stage on which a rally had already begun, but others simply standing around in the middle of Whitehall. It was still biting cold, and the majority of marchers quickly drifted away to make their journeys home. I held out for the first four or five speakers, but then joined them. It was far too cold to stand around.

March Against Racism


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