Across London, thousands celebrated Algeria’s victory against Russia during the World Cup, as Algeria progressed for the first time in its history to the top 16. Mona and Syed report:
Crowds packed out Trafalgar Square on 26 June, celebrating into the night. Walthamstow, which has a strong Algerian community, erupted into a spontaneous street festival. Algeria supporters brought drums and trumpets and danced on the streets.
At first sight the celebrations seemed to be simply about football, but it soon became clear that they also had a strongly political character. In Walthamstow, the peaceful crowd was instantly confronted by police, who attempted to block Hoe Street, where the group had gathered.
Police officers began aggressively pushing Algeria fans around. The crowd quickly reacted, chasing them down a side street where the police found themselves surrounded. Determined to celebrate, they forced the police to make an embarrassing retreat. As they withdrew, one of the supporters shouted “Racist police – if it was England you would let them celebrate”.
The people out celebrating were not exclusively Algerian. Young and old were present, largely from immigrant communities and Muslim backgrounds. Many of them are familiar with police harassment and have experienced racism first-hand. Yesterday’s result gave them the confidence to celebrate in the streets of Walthamstow, wave their flags, unite in solidarity and defend themselves against the police.
The political character of the celebrations could also be seen in the fact that people brought not only Algerian flags but also Egyptian, Tunisian and Palestinian ones, while chanting “Falasteen al Shuhada”, a chant for the Martyrs of Palestine. During the last two weeks, Israel has, supposedly in response to the kidnapping of three settler teenagers, raided round 1600 houses, arrested more than 360 Palestinians, and killed 5. Even in the midst of celebration, the martyrs were remembered and honoured.