International conference against racism & fascism brings together 1,000, to stop Boris, the far right & racist populism
Saturday saw anti racists coming together from all over Britain, across Europe and the US–with leading trade unionists, key Labour figures such as shadow home secretary Diane Abbott and Richard Burgon MP, Gary Younge, campaigners from Muslim and Jewish organisations, musicians and artists including rapper Low Key and many others–at the #StandUpToRacism international conference conference against racism, fascism, Islamophobia and antisemitism. … Read the rest
We are providing all you need to know about the Gilets Noirs and its continuing fight for the rights of undocumented people in France and beyond.
In November of 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the introduction of a fuel tax that would disproportionately affect those on lower incomes (those in the bottom decile were to be taxed 5 times more heavily). In response, the French took to the streets and so began the now famed, Gilets Jaunes movement. At around the same time, but with far less media coverage a group of undocumented workers in France met for the first time – they were to become the Gilets Noirs.
Who are the Gilets Noirs
Originally a relatively small organisation of ‘sans-papiers’, the Gilets Noirs have, over the last 10 months, expanded into (in their words) the largest collective of undocumented workers in France. Taking their inspiration from the Gilets Jaunes they chose their name to highlight the racism and exploitation of the French state. The Gilets Noirs do not need to don a tabard to highlight their invisibility and silencing by the state, their vest is their face.
Although an open group for all undocumented people, the members of the Gilets Noirs are predominantly from the likes of the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger (France’s former African colonies) many of whom have been working in France in precarious and exploitative conditions for years. The imperial connection between France and the Gilets Noirs’ home countries is one of the things that makes their movement so powerful. The usual tropes and arguments that significantly ‘other’ immigrants (go back home, where are you from?) are complicated by the imperial connection – many of the members of the Gilets Noirs have family members who fought for France during the Second World War. Although this is a common issue for colonial and former colonial migrants throughout Europe, this is more complicated in France as France refuses to see ‘race’ at a legislative level and places a premium on its notion of a ‘colourblind citizenship’ in the ‘indivisible republic’. This hypocrisy is one of the key elements of the Gilets Noirs’ fight and has influenced how they have organised.
How the Gilets Noirs challenge French views on ‘race’
France has, within Europe, a uniquely complicated relationship with ‘race’. Since the Revolution and its rallying cry of ‘Equality, Solidarity and Fraternity’ the French narrative has constructed the colourblind nation. Instead of organising around ethnicity/race lines France was/is divided between foreigners and citizens. Under this model the French state upholds the belief that ‘race has no scientific basis’ and that we are all part of the human race. The depth of this belief was seen in 2013 with the decision to remove the word ‘race’ from French legislation. However, what the Gilets Noirs movement, as well as others against police brutality and racial profiling (such as Justice pour Adama), show is that the removal of the word does not remove the effects of racism. As Lionel Tardy said in 2013 in response to the word’s removal: you ‘can’t change reality just by changing words… [you are] wasting time and energy on illusions.’
Mobilising for the ‘undocumented’
Since November 2018, the Gilets Noirs have held ever larger demonstrations targeted at locations that exemplify their exploitation and silencing. They have consistently chosen symbols of the French state that encompass the utopian national narrative. Their first action was held at the Musee d’Immigration in Paris – a building erected for the 1931 Paris Colonial Exhibition to house artefacts from Africa and Oceania, a bastion of French imperialism. Their second action was held at the Comedie Française, France’s national theatre (the world’s longest established) and previous known as the ‘House of Molière’ a playwright adored by the court of Louis XIV.
Then in May 2019, the Gilets Noirs held their biggest protest, that finally gave them the headlines they needed and the recognition they deserve. Hundreds occupied Terminal 2 of Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris – chosen because it is where the headquarters of Air France are located and from where the majority of EU flights depart. The action was used to highlight the disparity between the open borders enjoyed by EU citizens, that allow them to ‘pass through showing only their official documents’, cheaply and easily travelling across borders, whilst below them, in the basement, are the deportation holding cells where people are ‘threatened, handcuffed, gagged and insulted by the police’. The Gilets Noirs are clear in their views and their analysis, they are throwing into stark relief the effects of Fortress Europe that cuts the world sharply into the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.
Another significance of the CDG airport action, in addition to it putting the Gilets Noirs on the map, is that they were calling for solidarity from everyone to oppose deportations and demand that the state stop prosecuting the ‘sans-papiers’ (those without papers). This was the moment that the Gilets Noirs was seen as the expansive movement it is. It could not be dismissed as a single-issue movement of a disenfranchised minority. Although a key component of their fight is a residence amnesty, that would allow all undocumented people to access health care and job security, their fight is much broader than this. They are also fighting against homelessness (there are thousands on the streets of Paris at the moment), the lack of work and economic security more broadly in France, police repression and deportations and the detention system. This is a movement led by the undocumented but fighting for rights that will improve the conditions for many more and asking for solidarity and assistance from the rest of society.
In June, the Gilets Noirs occupied the headquarters of Elior, a cleaning and catering multinational. Taking their fight from the symbolic institutions of French imperial power to the very real and current sites of exploitation conducted by global conglomerates. They accuse Elior of knowingly employing undocumented people so that they can be forced to work in dangerous conditions, exploiting their legal status.
The fight against Elior continued over the summer and on the 11 October the Gilets Noirs with the assistance of the CNT-SO (CNT Workers Solidarity) launched legal proceedings against Eloir with the Labour Courts. They have filed seven cases suing Elior for €80,000, with 197 further cases ready to be submitted during the second negotiation, for their ‘racist exploitation of undocumented workers’.
Then in July, the Gilets Noirs held their most daring action yet: they occupied the Pantheon in Paris. The Pantheon has a long history with the French state and is the site where the remains of distinguished French citizens (i.e. Nobel Peace Prize winner René Cassin, physicists Marie Curie and the French resistance leader Jean Moulin) are buried. The Gilets Noirs used the peaceful occupation of the Pantheon to call for a meeting with prime minister Edouard Philippe and distribute leaflets to passers by. The action received widespread media coverage but was met with violent police repression. There were many arrests and injuries after the police dressed in riot gear stormed the area. In response the Gilets Noirs have again called for solidarity from French citizens and created a defence fund. Hosted on le pot solidaire, they are campaigning to raise money so that anyone arrested during one of their actions has the ability to pay for bail and a defence should the case go to court.
Why this goes beyond France
The Gilets Noirs have ignitied a debate about resident rights, the exploitation of undocumented people and, by extension, interrogated EU citizenship rights. Recently, there have been protests in Belgium and Italy by undocumented workers demanding the right to work and work in safety. And last year the Permanent People’s Tribunal held a hearing in the UK on the Rights of Migrant and Refugee People, which brought together hundreds of people from across Europe to give testimony on their experiences. A movement like this is so important at a time when white nationalism and nativism is sweeping across Europe. In this world the Gilets Noirs are a significant movement because they are giving a voice to the silenced and highlighting the hypocrisies of Fortress Europe that allows for free movement for some and arrest and detention for others.Related Links:
Read about the French state’s response to deaths in custody here
Donate to the solidarity fund here
Keep up to date with the Gilets Noirs by following La Chapelle Debout here
A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.ASYLUM, MIGRANT RIGHTS, CITIZENSHIP Asylum and migration rights
1 October: In a speech at the Conservative party conference, home secretary Priti Patel outlines a hardline immigration policy, promising to end free movement for EU nationals and introduce an ‘Australian-style’ points-based immigration system. (Guardian, 1 October 2019)
4 October: The Refugee Council accuses the UK government of a ‘disgraceful U-turn’ after it revealed that UK-based NGOs assisting refugees would no longer have access to the EU’s asylum, migration and integration fund (AMIF) in the event of a no-deal Brexit, contrary to earlier government statements that the funding would remain secure. This means that vulnerable refugees risk losing access to housing, health care and children’s school places. (Guardian, 4 October 2019)
4 October: Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott calls for an immediate review of the Home Office, while the co-leader of the Greens, Jonathan Bartley, proposes its abolition and replacement by a ‘fairer’ Ministry for Sanctuary, following the revelation that 96 percent of allegations of serious misconduct by Home Office staff relate to immigration matters. (Guardian, BBC, 4 October 2019)
8 October: Denmark refuses to join the agreement of several EU countries to redistribute migrants throughout Europe, claiming that to do so would add incentives for people to travel to Europe. (The Local, 8 October 2019)
10 October: As more than 60,000 people flee the Turkish military offensive against Kurdish forces in north-eastern Syrian Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan threatens to ‘open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees’ to Europe if EU leaders label Turkey’s military campaign an occupation. (Independent, 10 October 2019)Reception and Detention
1 October: The UN special rapporteur on human rights calls on the Bosnian government to stop forcing migrants and refugees into the Vucjak camp close to the Croatian border, a former landfill site close to landmine-infected areas which lacks running water, electricity, medical care and proper sanitation facilities. (Reuters, 1 October 2019)
10 October: The European Court of Human Rights orders the Greek government to provide appropriate child-friendly accommodation for children currently detained in police stations and immigration detention centres in Greece. (AYS, 10 October 2019)
10 October: In Lesbos, Greece, twelve refugees from Afghanistan and Iran, facing criminal charges for protests in Mytilini over several weeks in November 2017, are found not guilty, but another person is convicted for resisting arrest. The judge indirectly acknowledges that the horrible reception conditions at Moria camp justified the setting up of a camp of protest tents in a public space. (Deportation Monitoring Aegean, 12 October 2019)
10 October As evacuation begins at Saint Herblain gymnasium in Nantes, France, where roughly 800 displaced people have been living precariously for over a year, police take 48 people, including 16 children, to new shelters. (Ouest France, 8 October 2019)
14 October: A fire breaks out at a migrant camp in Samos, Greece forcing hundreds of people on to the streets. This is the second blaze in as many weeks. (Al Jazeera, 15 October 2019)Borders and internal controls
4 October: The Border Violence Monitoring Network analyses Croatian government statistics and concludes that an illegal push-back takes place at the very least every 20 minutes at the Croatian border. Read the report here. (Are you Syrious, 4 October 2019)
7 October: The newspaper Avvenire reveals that the man the UN describes as ‘one of the world’s most notorious human traffickers’, Abd al-Rahman Milad, attended a meeting between Italian intelligence officials and the Libyan coastguard in 2017 at the Cara di Mineo migrant reception centre in Sicily. (Guardian, 7 October 2019)
7 October: The EU and Montenegro sign a border management agreement allowing Frontex to coordinate operations on the common borders between EU Member states and Montenegro. (Consilium, 7 October 2019)
8 October: At the conclusion of the second inquest for Dexter Bristol, a Windrush migrant who died of acute heart failure while trying to prove his British citizenship, senior coroner Mary Hassell ruled that his death was due to natural causes, but agreed that his fight to prove his citizenship was one of a number of ‘stressors’ leading to his death. (Independent, 8 October 2019)
9 October: Documents released by the Home Office reveal it implemented a face-detection system to operate its passport photo checking service, despite knowing the technology failed to work well for people of some ethnic minority groups. (New Scientist, 9 October 2019)
15 October: In the wake of the discovery of the bodies of two young Iraqi men aged 17 and 22 on the beach at Le Touquet, 40 nukes south of Calais, believed to have been attempting to cross the channel, the British and French governments announce enhanced policing of the beach to intercept migrants trying to launch boats (Telegraph, 15 October 2019)Deportations
7 October: Figures released by the German government following the deportation, despite support from the church in Hesse, of a pregnant Ethiopian woman to Poland reveal that the success rate of appeals from the churches to stop deportations on humanitarian grounds fell from 80 per cent in 2015/16 to 2 per cent in the first six months of 2019. (Info Migrants, 7 October 2019)
10 October: In an interview with Die Welt, security minister Brandon Lewis warns EU citizens that they will be deported from the UK if they fail to apply for settled status after Brexit. (Guardian, 10 October 2019)
15 October: The Home Office is using information gathered in ‘immigration surgeries’ at charities and places of worship to deport vulnerable homeless people who are told that attending will help them get financial support, the Guardian reports. (Guardian, 15 October 2019)Citizenship
2 October: More than 130,000 descendants of Jews expelled from Spain in the late 15th century have applied for Spanish citizenship under a reparations law introduced four years ago. (Guardian, 2 October 2019)ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT
4 October: In Zwickau, Saxony, vandals take a saw to hack down an oak tree planted to commemorate Enver Simsek, the first victim of the National Socialist Underground. This is ‘simply shocking’, says a spokesperson for the German chancellor. (Deutsche Welle in English, 4 October 2019)
4 October: Members from the Spanish far-right party España 2000 chanting Francoist slogans storm the showing of a new film ‘While at War’, which tells the story of a confrontation during the Spanish civil war. (El Pais, 4 October 2019)
4 October: In Edinburgh, a far-right sympathiser David Dudgeon suffering from psychosis, who appears to have been referred to the police by his psychiatrist, is jailed for two years after being found guilty of downloading ‘sinister, violent and disturbing’ terrorist manuals. (East Lothian Courier, 4 October 2019)
6 October: At the annual Pride event in Poland, counter-protesters, including many from the far Right, pelted demonstrators with bottles and shouted ‘Lublin free from deviations.’ A couple are arrested for possession of a home-made bomb made of gas canisters and fireworks. (Instinct Magazine, 6 October 2019)
7 October: Challenging Hateful Extremism, a new report from the Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE), based on a visit to 20 towns and cities and 3,000 responses to a call for evidence, states that far-right activists are exploiting community tensions by swooping into towns and cities and distorting the truth in an effort to turn white residents against minorities, particularly Muslims. The situation in Sunderland is highlighted, where the far Right has attempted to racialise sex crimes. Read the report here. (Guardian, 7 October 2019)
9 October: Authorities in Dresden confirm that an investigation for incitement to racial hatred is being opened into Lutz Bachmann, the leader of PEGIDA who at a recent rally called for the death of political opponents and environmentalists, describing them as Volksschädlinge, a Nazi term meaning ‘parasites of the people’, as well as ‘disgusting maggots’. (Deutsche Welle in English, 9 October 2019)
9 October: Authorities carry out raids across Germany as part of an investigation into a series of bomb threats from Volksfront, Combat 18 and Blood & Honour, sent to mosques, media companies, Islamic organisations, political party HQs, and a refugee reception centre in Bavaria. (Deutsche Welle in English, 9 October 2019)
11 October: There is consternation after the Alternative Right’s Steve Bannon speaks, alongside the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy at the New York Times-backed policy and business-oriented Athens Democracy Forum. View the video here. (Keep Talking Greece, 11 October 2019)Halle synagogue attack
9 October: In Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, two people are shot dead and two more seriously injured after a white nationalist gunman dressed in military gear, wearing a body camera and ranting against feminism, immigration and the Holocaust, attempts unsuccessfully to force his way into a synagogue in the Paulusviertel quarter of the city. He then turns his gun on a woman passer-by, who dies alongside a male customer outside a nearby kebab shop. The interior minister confirms that anti-Semitism is a motive for the attack, and it soon emerges that the arrested suspect, Stephen Balliet, posted a mission statement on the message board Kohlchan – the German equivalent of 4chan. (Guardian, 9, 10 October 2019, Daily Mail, 9 October 2019)
10 October: A court in Thuringia finds grandmother Irmela Mensah-Schramm guilty of property damage for spraying over Nazi graffiti in Eisenach. If what I did is criminal, she says, ‘I’d like to see myself as a repeat offender’. (Deutsche Welle, 11 October 2019)
10 October: German interior minister Horst Seehofer promises to permanently improve security measures at synagogues across the country after the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany criticises the police both for failing to guard the synagogue on Yom Kippur and for their slow response to the attack. (Guardian, 10 October 2019)
13 October: Following the Halle terrorist attack, the Czech far-right leader Tomio Okamura (Freedom and Direct Democracy) says that even if the attacker turns out to be a Nazi, people should remember that Jews in western Europe ‘are facing growing terror’ as ‘a consequences of the Islamicisation of Western Europe’, that Muslims and Nazis have collaborated ‘before in history’, and that ‘Muslim SS units were’ formed. (Romea.cz, 13 October 2019)
13 October: A number of senior German politicians link the far-Right attack on the Halle synagogue to inflammatory language used by some politicians, particularly those from Alternative for Germany (AfD). Bavarian state interior minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU) speaks of ‘spiritual arsonists’; former German Social Democrat foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel (Social Democratic Party, SPD) tweets that ‘The Halle attack demonstrates that radicalisation of language leads to radicalisation of actions’ and SPD parliamentarian Rolf Mützenich says he believes the Halle attacker ‘felt encouraged by representatives of the AfD, among others, who belittle and deny what the reign of Nazi terror perpetrated’. (Romea.cz, 13 October 2019)
13 October: Thousands of people march in Berlin under the slogan ‘We Stand United’ to protest the rise of the far Right and the Halle synagogue attacks, as the victims are named as painter-decorator Kevin S, 20, and Jana Lange, 40, who was gunned down outside the synagogue after she reprimanded the gunman for making too much noise outside a Jewish place of worship. (Morning Star, 13 October 2019, Times of Israel, 11 October 2019)ELECTORAL POLITICS – UK
6 October: After the Mail on Sunday quotes a government spokesperson saying that the three MPs who drew up the bill to prevent a no-deal Brexit were under investigation for having ‘engaged in collusion with foreign powers’, one of the three, Dominic Grieve MP, reports receiving a death threat. (Guardian, 7 October 2019)
7 October: Researchers at the Institute of Strategic Dialogue say that loose far-right online networks utilising Telegram, 8chan and Gab, are spreading extremist material fuelled by mainstream political rhetoric, with some using the hashtag #BackBoris, openly supportive of Boris Johnson’s no-deal Brexit. (Guardian, 7 October 2019)
9 October: Arron Banks apologises for ‘going too far’ after a Leave.EU tweet shows Angela Merkel with arm raised and the slogan ‘We didn’t win two world wars to be pushed around by a Kraut’. (Guardian, 9 October 2019)ELECTORAL POLITICS – EUROPE
4 October: In Greece, the hard-right New Democracy government is accused of repeating far-right arguments about ‘population replacement’ after government spokesperson Stelios Petsa tells SKAI television that Greece is now experiencing migratory flows from countries with different religions and cultures. (esyn.gr, 4 October 2019).
7 October: Following the Portuguese general election, a new far-right party, Chega! (That’s Enough!) enters parliament for the first time, winning a single seat. (Yahoo News, 7 October 2019)
11 October: The Polish national broadcaster, TVP, is accused of being a mouthpiece for propaganda of the governing hard-right Law and Justice( PiS) party, as days before the general election it broadcasts Invasion, a ‘documentary’ with the alleged ‘inside story, aims, methods, and money behind the LGBT invasion’ of Poland. (Guardian, 11 October 2019)
14 October: Poland’s ruling PiS party wins just under 44 per cent of the vote in the general election, but fails to increase its majority in the lower chamber and loses control of the upper house which is vital for the pursuit of its legislative agenda. The new far Right Confederation party takes 6.8 per cent. (Guardian, 14 October 2019)
14 October: In Hungary, the ruling authoritarian party Fidesz, suffers losses in local elections where a higher than usual voter turnout returns a centre-left mayoral candidate in Budapest, and in another ten major cities where the opposition united to field one candidate. (Guardian, 14 October 2019)POLICING AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
1 October: Following a freedom of Information request by Julie’s Mental Health Foundation and Inquest, the BBC reveals that 32 police forces spent £410,000 on legal fees for inquests relating to deaths in police custody – ten times more than the £41,000 granted in legal aid for families’ legal costs. (Inquest, 1 October 2019)
4 October: Scotland Yard announces it will increase the number of police officers on patrol with Taser stun guns in London to 10,000, a significant expansion of the Met Police’ firearms capacity. (Evening Standard, 4 October 2019)
4 October: The Met Police is forced to apologise for passing on images of seven people to the private owners of the Kings Cross development in its facial recognition surveillance scheme, in accordance with a secret agreement entered into by London’s deputy mayor, which ran for two years from 2016. Read the MPS official statement here. (Guardian, 4 October 2019)
4 October: Eight Hampshire police officers and a civilian worker based in Basingstoke face gross misconduct hearings for using inappropriate and prejudiced language and behaviour, reportedly picked up on hidden cameras. (BBC News, 4 October 2019)
5 October: Southall Black Sisters and human rights organisation Liberty launch legal challenges against the Met Police’s plans to reintroduce the controversial policy of sharing data on victims of crime with the Home Office, a policy that was previously withdrawn after legal challenges earlier this year. (Guardian, 5 October 2019)
6 October: The human rights group Liberty finds that UK counter-terror police have been running a secret database containing details of thousands referred to the government’s controversial anti-radicalisation Prevent programme. Liberty says the database is designed to ‘monitor and control’ minority communities and political activists and calls for government scrutiny of the strategy. (6 October 2019, Liberty press release; 6 October 2019, Guardian, 6 October 2019)
8 October: The director of Inquest calls for ‘the most robust scrutiny’ into events around the death of a newborn baby at Bronzefield Prison, the largest women’s prison in the UK, run by Sodexo Justice services, which occurred when the mother was left to give birth alone in her cell. (Guardian, 8 October 2019)
10 October: Sicilian judges accuse prosecutors of serious neglect over the prosecution of an Eritrean man who spent more than three years in jail, accused of being one of the world’s most wanted human traffickers, in a case of mistaken identity. (Guardian, 10 October 2019)
10 October: At the High Court, a judge approves the terms of a settlement of the damages claim by the family of Mark Duggan, shot dead by police in Tottenham, north London in 2011, against the Metropolitan police. (Guardian, 11 October 2019)
13 October: The Criminal Cases Review Commission refers the conviction of the four black men who were jailed for theft and assault on the police in 1972 and became known as the ‘Oval Four’, to the Court of Appeal. (Guardian, 13 October 2019)
10 October: Self-inflicted prison deaths in England and Wales have increased by 23% in a year, while drug abuse continues to plague facilities despite repeated recommendations to tackle the problems, the prisons watchdog finds. (Guardian, 10 October 2019)
11 October: Europe’s anti-torture watchdog describes conditions in Scotland’s overcrowded prisons as an emergency situation. (Guardian, 11 October 2019)
13 October: At its annual party conference, the SNP unanimously backs decriminalising the possession and consumption of controlled drugs, and calls for powers over drug policy to be devolved. (Independent, 13 October 2019)
14 October: Prison reform charities condemn the government’s enthusiasm for extending minimum prison terms as ‘the politics of the lynch mob’ and an unnecessary duplication of existing judicial powers. (Guardian, 14 October 2019)
4 October: A Bureau of Investigative Journalism report shows that nearly all homes for rent in Britain are too expensive for families on housing benefit. (Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 4 October 2019)
7 October: Enfield council in London announces plans to stop moving homeless people outside the borough to Harlow, Essex, as part of a wider effort to end its ‘extensive’ use of temporary accommodation. The council also intends to relocate residents living in converted office blocks. (Inside Housing, 7 October 2019)
8 October: Residents of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green council estates in London, also known as the ‘People’s Estates’, celebrate Hammersmith and Fulham council’s decision to issue a compulsory purchase order on areas earmarked for luxury redevelopment and to build a large amount of social housing on it. (Guardian, 8 October 2019)
10 October: Generation Rent find that private renters in England are losing out on about £70m a year when landlords kick them out, due to missed time at work, cleaning bills and moving costs among other things. The campaign group has said that more than half of the public believe landlords should foot these bills. (Guardian, 10 October 2019)
13 October: An Observer investigation finds that 156 private companies, providing temporary accommodation in England, have made £215m in profits over the last financial year. Most of these profits were made in the top fifty homeless areas, prompting researchers to argue this is entrenching the homeless crisis. (Guardian, 13 October 2019)DISCRIMINATION
3 October: A report by Edinburgh University reveals that one-third of people from BAME communities experienced discrimination within the last two years and that confidence in the ability of institutions to tackle it is falling. The Scottish government says it will ‘continue to take decisive action’ on racism and discrimination. (The National, 3 October 2019)EMPLOYMENT
3 October: Following a manager’s alleged racist questioning of a young Muslim member of staff, fifty members of Bootle and Seaforth postal delivery office walk out and picket the depot in protest at the manager’s treatment of staff. (Morning Star, 3 October 2019)EDUCATION
10 October: Senior managers at Goldsmiths college, University of London admit its record on addressing racism is unacceptable after a survey finds a quarter of its BME students have experienced racism from students and staff, and promises to do more to make them feel safe and to implement its recommendations, including a review of the complaints procedure and appointment of more BME senior managers. (Guardian, 10 October 2019)
11 October: Research by the Education Policy Institute finds that 61,000 pupils – one in ten of the national cohort sitting GCSEs in 2017 – disappeared from school rolls, of whom two in five never returned. The majority of those apparently ‘off-rolled’ were from vulnerable groups including children in care, receiving free school meals or with special needs. (Guardian, 11 October 2019)
12 October: A study from Kings College London finds that 26 papers by influential psychologist Hans Eysenck, which included controversial ‘findings’ in the 1970s relating to biological race and intelligence, are not scientifically rigorous and journals are asked to redact his articles. (Guardian, 12 October 2019)HEALTH
10 October: A Cardiff University study into the health implications of gambling finds that minority-ethnic children aged 11-16 in Wales are two or three times more likely to gamble for money on fruit machines, playing cards, or buying scratch cards than their white counterparts. (Guardian, 10 October 2019)
MEDIA AND CULTURE
2 October: Singer Morrissey has a woman ejected from a concert in the US for holding up signs protesting at his support for the anti-Islam party For Britain. (Guardian, 2 October 2019)SPORT
1 October: Leeds United’s goalkeeper Kiko Casilla is under investigation for alleged racist abuse towards a Charlton Athletic forward, Jonathan Leko. (Guardian, 1 October 2019)
2 October: Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva is charged with bringing the game into disrepute and aggravated breach of anti-racism rules for a tweet racially stereotyping his team-mate Benjamin Mendy. (Guardian, 2 October 2019)
5 October: Leicester City, appalled by the online racist abuse sent to player Hamza Choudhury following a late tackle on a Liverpool player, asks the police to look into the abuse on social media. (BBC Sport, 5 October 2019)
7 October: Footage on social media showing Villa fans chanting a racist song, including racial stereotypes about Marvelous Nakamba and another first-team player during a game at Norwich, is condemned by the club management, the Supporters’ Trust and Kick It Out. (Guardian, 7 October 2019)
8 October: Sussex police investigate two racist incidents of Albion fans at the Amex Stadium, the first involving two fans at an Under-23 fixture with Spurs on 27 September, the second during a recent win over Spurs. (BBC Sport, 8 October 2019)
9 October: UEFA dismisses Bratislava’s appeal against fines totalling €90,000 and a ruling that its Europa League game on 24 October against Wolves will be played behind closed doors, imposed for the racist behaviour of fans at a game in August. (Times & Star, 9 October 2019)
14 October: During England’s Euro 2020 qualifying football match against Bulgaria, play is stopped twice because of racist chanting, monkey noises against England’s black players and Nazi saluting from Bulgarian fans. The FA chairman calls it one of ‘the most appalling nights in football’. (Guardian, 14 October 2019)RACIAL VIOLENCE
2 October: Police announce that a car fire in Newquay on 28 September may have been the result of a racially motivated attack. (Cornwall Live, 2 October 2019)
6 October: At Durham Crown Court, a 34-year-old man is sentenced to 41 months in prison for racially abusing a shopper and hitting him with a bottle in a supermarket in Tow Law, County Durham in August 2018, causing significant damage to the victim’s mouth and teeth. (The Northern Echo, 6 October 2019)
11 October: Dundee Sheriff Court hears how a 51-year-old Celtic football fan punched two men and behaved in a racist manner at a Dundee convenience store in October 2017. Sentencing is deferred until November. (The Courier, 11 October 2019)
14 October: A man who drove into another motorist’s car and racially abused and threatened to stab guests at a wedding in Colchester is given a 15-month prison term and a 17-month diving ban. (Gazette News, 14 October 2019).
15 October: Home Office statistics reveal that the number of ‘hate crimes’ reported to police in England and Wales has doubled since 2013, with reported racist crimes, which form the majority of ‘hate crimes’, increasing by 11 percent in the past year. (Guardian, 15 October 2019)
This calendar was compiled by the IRR News team with the help of Laura Wormington and Graeme Atkinson.
Striking evidence has been uncovered about Special Branch’s attempts to infiltrate UK Black Power groups in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Black Power is in the news this week, with the announcement that the conviction of former Fasimba members Winston Trew and Sterling Christie (two of the ‘Oval Four’) has been referred to the court of appeal. Forty-seven years since they were arrested on their way home from a political meeting in support of another Black Power activist facing trial, and accused of robbery and assaulting the police, they could now finally be cleared. Trew has always believed that the Fasimbas must have been under surveillance by Special Branch and that it was no coincidence that he and the other members of the ‘Oval Four’ were targeted by undercover officers that day.
Trew’s story is just one among many detailed in a recent investigation of Special Branch’s attempts to destroy Britain’s Black Power movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s by Eveline Lubbers of the Undercover Research Group and former IRR staffer Rosie Wild.
Five articles on Black Power and Special Branch (recently published on The Special Branch Files) are based on a forensic examination of police, Home Office and court records at the National Archives and sealed Special Branch files released via freedom of information requests. Sifting through the many documents in which Special Branch recorded information on Black Power activity, the Undercover Research Group set out the ways in which Britain’s political police sought to destabilise and decapitate the largest Black Power groups in the UK, as well as explaining the historical context of the British Black Power movement.
One of the most ironic findings is that the racism that stopped the Metropolitan Police hiring a single black police officer before 1967 hamstrung it when it came to infiltrating Black Power groups. Unlike the leading white left-wing organisations of the era, which were often heavily infiltrated by uncover officers using assumed identities, Black Power groups such as the Black Panther Movement and Black Liberation Front could only be spied on from the outside or occasionally through the use of informants.
Special Branch’s orders came from the top with reports on Black Power in the UK being fed back to the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee and successive Home Secretaries. A dedicated Black Power Desk was even set up to coordinate the intelligence gathering. Tantalisingly mentioned in just a single document, the Desk was either part of Special Branch or MI5, and shows just how seriously the British state took the threat of Black Power.
The Undercover Research Group is a team of journalists, activists and academics determined to make public as much information as possible about political policing in Britain. Using information being released from the glacially slow UK Undercover Policing Inquiry, as well as independent research, they have created a public database of spycops and their targets. Stretching as far back as 1968, the database includes one Special Demonstration Squad officer, operating under the alias Peter Fredericks, who has admitted being tasked with monitoring Britain’s small but significant Black Power movement.
To find out more about the case, read a review by Colin Prescod of Trew’s pathbreaking book, Black for a Cause … Not Just Because … The case of the ‘Oval 4’ and the story it tells of Black Power in 1970s Britain here.
After a fight lasting forty-seven years, the case of the ‘Oval Four’ has now been referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
On a March evening in 1972, four young black men were stopped at Oval tube station by white men and accused of ‘nicking handbags’. The youths, who maintain they did nothing of the sort, contested this and more police were called – the white men being undercover cops. The four ended up in the cells charged with theft and assault on police officers and later sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for the ‘new crime’ of ‘mugging’.
Now that scenario was not out of the ordinary. But what was, was the fact that the four were all politically involved in the black movement and were on their way home from a meeting discussing the charges against black organiser Tony Soares, accused of publishing details of how to make a Molotov cocktail in a community newspaper. What is also out of the ordinary is that one of the youths, Winston Trew, has made it his lifelong campaign to expose the fact they were framed. Their sentences were, after much community protest, reduced on appeal, but their convictions were upheld. After the detective who led the arrests, Derek Ridgewell, was exposed as corrupt and himself jailed for theft, the case against the Oval Four looked even weaker.
To find out more about the case, read a review by Colin Prescod of Trew’s pathbreaking book, Black for a Cause … Not Just Because … The case of the ‘Oval 4’ and the story it tells of Black Power in 1970s Britain here.
Read an IRR News story on ‘New revelations about Special Branch and the Black Power movement in the UK’ by Rosie Wild.
A seminar in Leicester ‘Forty years on since the launch of SCARE (Student campaign against racism in education) – what has changed, current struggles and ways forward’
- Saturday 26 October 2019, 11–5pm at Highfields Centre, Leicester, LE2 0DS.
- Speakers include Professor Gus John (Activist/Writer), Amrit Wilson (Writer/Activist), Camille London-Miyo (President, Leicester NEU), Speakers from Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action
- Free admission, book your place here
#WorldAgainstRacism holding summit to plan mass global anti racist protests for 21 March 2020, UN Anti Racism Day
#WorldAgainstRacism international network calls day of mass global demonstrations on Saturday 21 March 2020 for UN Anti Racism Day ahead of major international conference this Saturday against racism, fascism, Islamophobia & Antisemitism
Anti racist organisations operating nationally in twelve countries are taking part in a #WorldAgainstRacism summit in London (20 September) to organise a day of mass global demonstrations against racism and fascism on UN Anti Racism Day, 21 March 2020. … Read the rest
With Trump in the White House, Johnson in Downing Street and the racist and fascist right winning mass support internationally we need to build the resistance. The London, Glasgow and Cardiff demonstrations to mark UN Anti Racism Day are part of a co-ordinated wave of international demonstrations. … Read the rest
Anti racists stress urgency of resisting racism after horrifying Antisemitic murders by Nazi shooter at Synagogue in Halle
Wednesday 9 October
Anti racists are urging the necessity of organising across society to resist the poison of racist division in the wake of the horrifying Antisemitic murders during Yom Kippur of at least two people at a synagogue in Halle, Germany, carried out by a Nazi. … Read the rest