Saturday, May 03, 2008

London news round-up

Love Music Hate Racism Carnival

THIRTY years ago hundreds of thousands of anti-racists and anti-fascists marched from central London to the East End’s Victoria Park for a Rock concert and rally against the fascist National Front that gave birth to the Rock Against Racism movement. And last Sunday, again, well over 100,000 anti-fascists and anti-racists marked the event with another giant Rock concert and rally in Victoria Park that included many veterans of the original event and a whole new generation of young people who “Love music and hate racism”.
Unfortunately the anti-fascist message is just as much needed now as 30 years ago as the fascist British National Party – assuming a thin veneer of respectability – is trying to make gains in local elections.
The Clash’s Paul Simonon was back last Sunday, alongside Damon Albarn in their band The Good, The Bad and The Queen, Hard-Fi and many more, to restate the case against fascism.
The event was sponsored by trade unions including Unison and PCS and union leaders and politicians – including Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone – made brief speeches and remembered anti-fascist music heroes like Paul Robeson and Woody Guthrie between the songs.
Their message was backed up by the music in songs from reggae singer Natty, who described cultural alienation over fat fairground organ in No Place for I and I, or R&B singer Jay Sean who proclaimed his British Indianness.
Also on the bill were The Paddingtons, Roll Deep’s Wiley -- featuring grime crew, Babyshambles’ Drew McConnell, X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene and a version of The Clash’s White Riot from 1978.
Most of all, the crowd who assembled, came, went and came back again in the course of a long day and evening emphasised that the BNP could never hope to raise such a rally.
Singer Morrissey also helped to sponsor the event with a contribution of £28,000. The former Smiths frontman said he decided to help fund Sunday’s event after a sponsor – thought to actually be NME – pulled out of supporting the campaign.
Posting on his website before the event, Morrissey said: “This is a historic event spreading an important, anti-racist, message so it must be allowed to go ahead. This is something I am committed to and we appreciate everyone coming together so quickly to make it happen.” Lee Billingham, from Love Music Hate Racism, said: “After an expected contribution to the carnival from a major sponsor fell through, we contacted Morrissey – and other artists who support the cause – to ask for their help, and we’re extremely grateful for Morrissey’s generous financial contribution.”

Ring of Democracy

TRADE UNIONS in London last Monday braved local flooding to stage a “Ring of Democracy” around London’s County Hall to remind voters in the coming local elections to keep the fascist British National Party out of the capital’s democratic machinery.
Megan Dobney, Regional Secretary for the TUC in London, said: “London rightly has a reputation as a world class city with progressive politics and cohesive communities, a vibrant forward looking city, strengthened by many cultures. The far-right, with its politics of hatred and bigotry, wants to destroy the very diversity that makes London such as fantastic place to live and work.
“Unions in London, campaign groups, community groups, faith leaders and individual Londoners will come together 28th April to foster the politics of hope and oppose the politics of hatred.”
The public appeal to keep the far-right out of London was supported by some of the hundreds of Unison members employed at the Greater London Authority, representatives of community groups, faith groups and anti-racist campaigners.
Unfortunately the local flooding that day meant that County Hall was closed and workers sent home but union members gave support to the rally.
Linda Perks, Regional Secretary of Unison Greater London said: “Unison members that are employed at the GLA are proud of their role in supporting the good governance of London, especially of its commitment to equalities at work and in the community.
“They believe that a breakthrough for the far-right in the GLA elections, 1st May, would be hugely detrimental to London’s interests and would have an appalling impact on their lives at work.”
The demonstration coincided with the arrival of the London Workers’ Memorial Day march at County Hall and the two events gave mutual support to each other.

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