By New Worker
AROUND 10,000 anti-fascists and anti-racists gathered in and around Old Palace Yard, opposite the Houses of Parliament, last Saturday to mark United Nations Anti-Racism Day with a march to Trafalgar Square and a rally, organised by Unite Against Fascism and the TUC.
There were scores of union banners from all over the country as unions Unite, PCS, Unison and many others joined the noisy and cheerful march.
There were also contingents from EU migrants, faith communities as well as the Woodcraft Folk, the Dale Farm support group, disability groups and many community campaign groups, including the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign. and a contingent of London communists marching under the banner of the Central Committee of the New Communist Party.
United Nations Anti-Racism Day originates from the Sharpeville massacre of 1960 when South African police shot dead 69 peaceful demonstrators protesting against apartheid. And Saturday was the first Anti-Racism Day following the death of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, who passed away on 5th December 2013.
The themes of this year’s event were against discrimination, against Islamophobia and against the scapegoating of immigrants for the effects of austerity cut imposed in the wake of the 2008 banking crisis.
These themes were also prominent in similar demonstrations taking place in dozens of major cities around the world, including New York, Athens and Sao Paulo.
As the march made its way to Trafalgar Square, a small group from the Islamophobic English Defence League wandered around the literature stalls of the various participating organisations in the Square. Police did not recognise them but UAF stewards did and made it very clear to them that they were not welcome.
A well-known EDL photographer and his partner were also spotted photographing marchers.
At the rally in Trafalgar Square, reports Adrian Chan Wyles,
the dozens of police officers present had to quietly look on as speaker after speaker attacked the police for their part in the killing of a number of young people detained in police cells.
Grieving relatives took their turn to explain the tragedy of how they had been vilified by the police and by the Independent Police Complaints Authority whilst fighting through the hostile bourgeois legal system that supports feral police officers by default, usually by absolving the culprits of all charges before promoting them and returning them to duty.
These included Mark Duggan’s aunt Carol Duggan, Christopher Alder’s sister Janet Alder and Sean Rigg’s sister, Marcia Rigg. Carol Duggan explained how the police led a smear campaign against their family.
Also at the rally in Trafalgar Square a long list of speakers addressed the colourful crowd, as the threatened rain mercifully held off. They included MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott, TUC president Mohammad Taj, UAF joint leader Weyman Bennett, and Searchlight editor Gerry Gable.
Diane Abbott said: “We are here today to say to the Leaders of all the parties, Conservative, Lib-Democrats and Labour, ‘no to racism and fascism’. We want the political parties to say ‘no to anti-immigrant politics’. We don’t want gutter politics in the run up to the election this May. It is not immigrants that cause low wages; exploitative employers cause low wages. It is not immigrants that are a drain on the NHS, without immigrants we would not have an NHS.”
Many spoke out against the United Kingdom Independence Party’s scapegoating of immigrants and called on the leaders of the main parties not to be drawn into trying to play the race card in the coming European elections in May – or in next year’s general election.
Another common theme from many speakers were words of tribute to those two giants of the anti-fascist movement, Bob Crow and Tony Benn, who died earlier this month.