Thousands show solidarity with refugees at London demo

Steve Eason reports: 

Photo: Steve Eason

Photo: Steve Eason

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.

Refugees lead the demonstration (Photo: Steve Eason)

Refugees lead the demonstration (Photo: Steve Eason)

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.

Photo: Steve Eason

Photo: Steve Eason

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”.

Photo: Steve Eason

Photo: Steve Eason

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.

There are 3 comments

  1. Mark Boothroyd

    This report unfortunately omits totally the role of the Syria Solidarity Movement in organising this march. Abdulaziz Almashi is a co-founder of Syria Solidarity alongside myself, and our activists were core to organising the demonstration, doing most of the work to pull it together logistically. It was Syria Solidarity activists who insisted that refugees lead the march, against the old lefts insistence that the usual movement big wigs and celebs lead it. The Syrian Community in the UK played a massive role, coming from all over the UK to attend the demonstration, and providing dozens of stewards and refugees to lead the march, and the Free Syria flag was very much in evidence across the march.

    There’s also no mention of the many Syrian speakers like Dr Rola Hallam, Medical Director of Hand in Hand for Syria, Dr Mohammed Najjar from Syrian British Medical Society. There was also Clara Connoly from the Syria Solidarity movement who called for the movement to listen to Syrians, something they’ve failed to do for the past 5 years.

    The website for the Syria Solidarity Movement is here, we’ll have our own report up shortly.
    http://www.syriauk.org/

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