actionday reports from the United Kingdom
08.Apr.05 - For the first time, a wide coalition of groups participated in a UK-wide, decentralised, but synchronised action day for a radical and uncompromising "no" to immigration controls, following a call for a European day of action for free movement and the right to stay.
People in Birmingham, London, Manchester, Glasgow, Nottingham, Oxford and Canterbury were out in the streets simultaneously and made clear that they don't think what the Tories think.
what the torries think
For the first time, people with very different political cultures had mobilised together for free movement: the National Coalition of Anti-deportation Campaigns and the campaigns against detention centers along with committees to defend asylum seekers, migrant and refugee support and community groups, black and asian groups, direct action groups, trade unions, noborder activists and people from social centres.
About 50 people gathered together in the centre of Birmingham to mark the E.S.F. day of action in support of refugees and migrants. This protest was organised in a matter of weeks after Birminghams A.R.C. (Anti-Racist Campaign) conference in support of migrant worker's rights and forging links with the trade union movement.
The protest took place beyond the corporate border separating Bullring™ shopping centre, Birminghams new cathedral to consumerism, from the public space opposite the Rotunda. A positive carnival atmosphere was created amongst Saturdays shoppers reclaiming public space, proclaiming diversity over racism and corporate homogeneity.
A range of speakers including refugees from Iran, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and trade unionists spoke passionately about the issues facing refugees in the UK and worldwide. Clear links were made with government policies and business practices and the plethora of people being forced to claim asylum. Anger was also voiced at the governments policy of enforced destitution for 'failed' asylum seekers, over 1000 of whom are destitute in Birmingham, and the cynical indifference which forces many people into the illegal economy where they face exploitation.
Protestors made the best of the glorious Birmingham sunshine, singing, dancing and distributing leaflets exposing the media and government myths around asylum. Particular disdain was voiced towards the major political parties, who are currently engaged in an electoral race to the bottom of the barrel in terms of asylum policy and scapegoating refugees. As numerous placards of subverted Tory election billboard adverts exclaimed, 'it IS racist to impose limits on immigration!' and people in Brum were definitely thinking what we were thinking.
In the face of an ever-increasing tide of poison around the asylum issue, the reaction of passers-by was largely positive, with a generous collection made for anti-racist campaigns and agencies working to support destitute asylum seekers. Even though one member of the 'master race' did see fit to tell the protestors to "fuck off back to where you came from" - from a safe distance obviously - it was met with laughs and confused looks from the diversity of Brums population.
Journalists from two local radio stations turned up not to interview refugees and protestors about the real issues they were protesting about, but asked "is it going to be a peaceful protest?"
Local police and Bullring™ security looked on bemused and one lucky police officer received a 'refugees are welcome here!' sticker on his back much to the delight of a six year old girl.
Following the European call for action on April 2nd, a wide coalition of anti-racist groups joined up for a local demo from Clarkenwell to Haggerston Park. About 1000 people marched through Hackney in bright sunlight, led by the Rhythms of Resistance Samba band, greeted by locals and swapping agitprop. A letter was delivered to Communication House, one of the immigration holding prisons, where people must report regularly and are often detained for immediate deportation completely unprepared.
The demo in London was part of the first UK-wide, decentralised, but synchronised action day for a radical and uncompromising "no" to immigration controls: People in Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Nottingham, Oxford and Canterbury were out in the streets simultaneously and made clear that they don't think what the Tories think. For the first time, people with very different political cultures had mobilised together: the national coalition of anti-deportation campaigns and the campaigns against detention centers along with committees to defend asylum seekers, direct action groups, trade unions, political and community migrant groups, noborder activists.
From the pink and silver Rhythms of Resistance crew, supported by a contingent of the Sheffield Sambaband, to the placards of the Comitee to defend asylum seekers, from the bright red banners of the International Federation of Iraqui Refugees to the battered old banner of the Jewish Socialist group and the lovingly crafted banner of the Hackney Refugee and Migrant Support Group and many more. Barbed Wire Britain was there as well as the Voice Refugee forum, people from the no one is illegal manifesto group, the institute for autonomy, the noborder group, various anti-detention center campaigns and campaigns for individual immigrants threatened with deportation.
Queers without borders had recovered from their sodexho pirating adventure the day before. The soapbox soundsystem provided speakers and music, people from the precarity assembly brought hand-printed noborder T-shirts.
As usual, there were far too many cops in bright yellow, taking pictures and making sure that we marched fast enough and didn't leave the strip of road assigned to us.
Marching through Hackney Road in bright sunshine, the cheerful demo was greeted by many locals looking out of their windows or passing by, most of them accepted a copy of the no one is illegal broadsheet or some of the other leaflets.
On arrival in Haggerston Park, the demo turned into a small festival, with reggae and picknick and some speeches. We were not many, maybe 1000. And we were, like so often, "the converted", convinced that yes, immigration controls are racist. But we knew that we were just one of dozens of demos all over Europe - check out the global project website for audio reports. Although I had heard some of the things that were said in the speeches before, I realised once more that there is much more that I don't know and can only learn from being in touch with as many different "converted" as possible.
This little demo in London was part of a first for the UK: A decentralised, but synchronised action day for a radical and uncompromising "no" to immigration controls. We have many campaigns for individual immigrants who are facing deportation, and the national coalition of anti-deportation campaigns keeps everyone who wants to know updated about them. We have action groups against the big detention centers in the UK, working together in Barbed Wire Britain. We have many local noborder activists who are bringing the statement "no one is illegal" into the public sphere, through video screenings and noborder events, direct action and banners. We have a well thought-out no one is illegal manifesto. And, being in London, we have the possibility to link up with hundreds of migrant community groups. This small demo in London was part of one step towards a much wider noborder movement in the UK, a step towards a network where different communities will communicate their struggles and come together in resistance against a system of controls that affects not only those who migrate.
Facing the blatantly racist election campaigns from both Tories and New Labour, facing new immigration laws and a government that congratulates itself for reducing the number of asylum seekers, facing media that play on these politics of fear, on the horrifically hypocrite mythology of the asylum seeker living in luxury on the back of the native poor, we need such a network, and we need to learn a language to say clearly to everyone: noone is illegal!
Anti-deportation campaigns led the 3 massive marches of "Demonstrations against Deportations - to a Rally against Racism" into Manchester city centre on Saturday April 2nd 2005, the European Day of Action in support of migrants and against inhumane immigration controls.
A central rally in Albert Square was address by Viraj Mendis - an asylum seeker who led an anti-deportation demonstration in Manchester 20 years ago. After two years sanctuary in a Manchester he was deported but made it to Germany where he now works supporting migrants.
The very special thing about this event was that it was organised by and led by people facing deportation and their campaign groups. A recurring point is that although these people face enormous difficulties themselves, they never stop helping others facing deportation to embrace resources around them to fight for the right to be in the UK. For example, Farhat Khan has recently established WAST - Women Asylum Seekers Together - and many of the WAST women are establishing their own anti-deportation campaigns.
On the first of april group of concerned people from around Nottinghanshire had occupied the Labour Party's Regional Offices at Harold Wilson House in Attenborough, Beeston. The object being to urge their local MP's to act on inhumane policies towards asylum Seekers that leave many destitute. At the moment nearly 900 refugees in Nottinghamshire alone, live in destitution. Most experience hunger, and cannot afford to buy clothes or shoes and many are not able to maintain good health.
On the 2nd of april there was a noise demonstration at Market Square at noon. Several hundred people turned out for this demonstration.
Around 50 people turned out on a sunny Sunday to demand the freedom of movement and the right to stay for everyone. The protesters were largely old Christian ladies and members of local migrant organisations. They held a vigil in front of the Cathedral.
Lots of people spoke through a megaphone, denouncing immigration laws and deportation practices. A few local school kids from Afghanistan were there as well, who are threatened with removal as soon as they turn 18. Protesters also included friends of those failed asylum seekers who have already been detained in the Dover Detention Centre. Banners and placards read: Defend Asylum Seekers, No Border/No Nation/Stop Deportation, and All Nations are Prison Camps! The turnout of 50 people is phenomenal for Canterbury. Just think about it: 500 in London, 50 in Canterbury!!! Sorry, forgot to take pictures.