Duncan Thomas reports
On 23 June, Britain voted to leave the EU. The next day, we took the first steps in meeting the challenges ahead. Estimates vary, but between 1200 and 1500 people came out in solidarity with refugees and migrants, marching from Altab Ali Park in East London to Murdoch’s New Corp HQ.
The crowd was mostly young, extremely diverse and very angry at what has been, from start to finish and with few exceptions on either official side, a referendum campaign driven and shaped by racism.
Called at short-notice, the protest attracted the numbers it did through the hard work not only of rs21, London Anti-fascists, Jewdas and Movement for Justice who called the demo, but of all the organisations who spread the word and came forward in support. There were many of these, with more joining almost every hour. At the last count: Brick Lane Debates, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), Right to Remain, Radical Assembly, Clapton Ultras, the Antiuniversity, English Collective of Prostitutes, Sex Workers Open University, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, Razem Londyn, London Anarchist Federation, Kent Anti-Racist Network, Dywizjon 161, Colectivo Anticapitalista Londres, Plan C London, United Voices of the World union, Freedom Bookshop, the Psychedelic Society, Marea Granate Londres and Unite Hotel Workers Branch.
The range of these organisations and who they represent gives us a clear idea of the people who bear the brunt of the racism whipped up by the referendum, but fuelled for years by the political class, and who will need to be at the centre of any anti-racist campaign: migrants and refugees, sex workers, trans people, people of colour, and working class communities of all backgrounds.
The mood was part furious, part festive. We will need the energy of both emotions in the coming months and years: anger and disgust at the divisive, racist means by which the ruling class have tried to displace anger against their programme of austerity onto the various “others” of our society; belief that together, we can create something different, celebratory and liberating.
Marching through London, we had both support and anger from the sidelines. Waitresses in posh hotels gave us the thumbs up, African women smiled at us from their shops, people waved messages of solidarity from their window. Others shouted various terms of abuse against both marchers and migrants.
It is clear that we need to broaden and deepen our means of organising to reach across all parts of the country. We need to articulate a message which draws together all the communities that the ruling class have tried to divide, that integrates feelings of alienation, desperation and anger into a united struggle. Yesterday felt like a fantastic, energising step on what is a long road ahead.