UK marches mark UN Anti-Racism Day and testify to what intersectionality can achieve
March 23, 2015
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Trafalgar Square at the end of the London march
to listen to speakers
On Saturday thousands of people worldwide participated in peaceful demonstrations to mark UN Anti-Racism Day, which falls on March 21st – the day of the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa in 1960 where 69 people (including many women and children) were killed by the state police as they protested peacefully against the racist apartheid regime.
In central London approximately 15,000 people filled the streets on Saturday to show that they will not tolerate racism, xenophobia or any kind of ethnic/racial prejudice in the UK.
The march, which set out from the BBC Broadcasting House and moved through Regent Street to Trafalgar Square, was organised by a number of groups who are working toward a common cause: a Britain free of racism and fascism. The London Black Revolutionaries, the Muslim Council of Britain, Operation Black Vote and the Migrants' Rights Network were just some of the groups supporting Stand Up to Racism at the demonstration. The marchers were a truly diverse crowd and a testament to the great things that can be achieved when intersectionality between different groups occurs. Alongside signs reading “No Human Is Illegal” were ones stating “No to Islamophobia” and “Black Lives Matter.”
Explaining the purpose of the march Stand Up To Racism said: "From Germany to Greece to Ferguson, people who want a society free from racism are saying no more. People are taking to the streets in large numbers to oppose the racist Pegida movement in Germany and the Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece, and to protest institutional racism and police violence against Black communities.” They also said that the rallies would reinforce that “we are the majority and we will stand up to racism.”
A number of familiar faces were spotted at the march including Labour MP Diane Abbott who has publicly spoken out against the recent rise in racism and xenophobia being witnessed, and felt, in Britain. "A wave of ugly immigrant-bashing racism is sweeping through Britain, led by UKIP, pandered to by the media and conceded to by many others. This demonstration is the start of the fight back. We have to gather everyone willing to stand up to racism,” said Ms Abbott.
Long-time civil rights activist and supporter of Operation Black Vote Lee Jasper was also among the crowd, wearing a board which responded to the controversial assertions made by Trevor Phillips on Thursday night’s Channel 4 documentary ‘Things We Won’t Say About Race That Are True.’
A small number (no more than 20) far-right protestors in Piccadilly Circus, who were completely surrounded by police, were entirely drowned out by the anti-racist protestors.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the UK, in Glasgow’s city centre hundreds marched for the same anti-racist cause as in London and elsewhere in Europe.
Organised largely by the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC), as well as other groups, the marchers initially congregated in George Square before making themselves heard throughout the streets.
Grahame Smith, the STUC general secretary, said: “With austerity putting severe pressure on living stands, right wing parties are using people's genuine insecurities to sow seeds of racism and division.” He added, “The UK is currently embroiled in one of the closest elections in its history. It is imperative that this election reflects our values of equality and diversity.”
A planned protest by a far-right group in Edinburgh, which claimed affiliation with Pegida, failed to materialise.
Saturday's various worldwide rallies and demonstrations were a comforting and inspiring reminder that there are so many people out there who are determined to fight for what is right and just - free from racism and the like. The diversity of the demonstrators involved in all the cities was also a beautiful affirmation of what true multiculturalism and the coming together of different groups can achieve.