Steve Eason reports:
Following the public response to news reports of refugee deaths in the Mediterranean and the recent publicity of the struggles of refugees camped at Calais, and ahead of Monday’s EU emergency meeting on the refugee crisis, on Saturday marches and rallies were held in solidarity with refugees across Europe. The two biggest marches were in Copenhagen and London.
I attended the London march after hearing about it from a Facebook event called by two individuals Ros Ereira and Abdulaziz Almashi. Ros said at the rally she doesn’t belong to any political party or group. The march was supported by anti-racist, anti-war and anti-austerity groups including Syria Solidarity Movement, Stand Up to Racism, BARAC, Stop the War, War on Want, Peoples Assembly, Movement against Xenophobia, UAF and others. It was good to see the march being led, not by celebrities but by representatives of refugee groups.
Most people seemed to expect around 30,000 at the London march, but on the day it was more like 90,000, making it the biggest demonstration in support of refugees in UK history. Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn held a rally in Hyde park before joining the demonstration and I saw Natalie Bennett leader of the Green party on the march and Tim Farron of the Liberal Demoncrats spoke at the rally at the beginning.
But, most of the people on the demonstration didn’t appear to belong to any political organisation, many were there with their children and carried home made banners. For many it was the first demonstration they’d ever been on.
There was a rally in parliament square after the march through central London. Billy Bragg introduced the speakers including comedian Ava Vidal and performed some of his well known songs. The highlight of the rally was Jeremy Corbyn , after a great response from the thousands at the rally he said his first action, three and a half hours after being elected Labour Party leader was: “To come to a demonstration in support of refugees, asylum seekers and the human rights of people all over the world” and finally commented “The racists have been challenged”.
Jeremy was followed by Billy Bragg singing the Red Flag – a song I’ve always associated with Labour Party conference. After Corbyn left Diane Abbott spoke saying, about Corbyn, “Human rights causes could not ask for a better supporter”.
Despite most of the press describing refugees as a problem, huge numbers of people mobilised to support refugees, and it was uplifting to be there.