SPLC and partners sue South Carolina DMV for suspending driver’s licenses of people who cannot afford traffic fines
Join us to hear Annelise Orleck present and discuss her new book We are all fast food workers now, tracing the new global movement against low pay, through the stories of workers in the fast-food and garment industries, in hotel, domestic and agricultural work.
Representative from IWGB and Khadija Najlaoui, Waling Waling and union rep for United Migrant Workers Education Project (UMWEP)
- At UCL, Room 103, Institute of the Americas, 51 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PN
- 22 November 2019, 6:30pm
- Registration is essential as there is limited space – email: email@example.com
A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.ASYLUM AND MIGRANT RIGHTS Asylum and migrant rights
19 October: Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Rupert Read is criticised in the Guardian for claiming that the ‘net environmental footprint’ is increased by migration and tighter migration controls are central to the fight against climate warming. (Guardian, 19 October 2019)
23 October: A 31-year-old Syrian-Kurdish man sets himself alight outside the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Geneva. It is not yet known if he was a resident of the nearby asylum centre but it is believed his motivation was political. The fire is extinguished and the man is taken to hospital. (Deutsche Welle, 23 October 2019)Borders and internal controls
17 October: The Spanish government celebrates a 50 per cent decrease in the number of undocumented migrants reaching the country, largely due to an €180 million agreement with Morocco to prevent departures from its shores. (El Pais, 17 October 2019)
20 October: 13 people, from Iran, Egypt and Iraq, are rescued from an inflatable boat in the English Channel. (Kent Online, 20 October 2019)
21 October: Another police officer comes forward in Croatia claiming that police are committing illegal pushbacks of displaced people, found well across the border in Croatia, to Bosnia and then falsifying the paperwork to make it appear that they merely ‘deterred the displaced people from crossing the border’. (AYS, 21 October 2019)
23 October: The bodies of 39 people, first believed to be Chinese and later Vietnamese nationals, are found in a refrigerated lorry on an industrial estate in Essex. The lorry is found to be registered in Bulgaria and travelling from Belgium. (Guardian, 23 October 2019)
24 October: Vigils are held in Belfast, Brighton, and outside the Home Office for the 39 people whose bodies were discovered the previous day. A spokesperson for the Chinese Welfare Association, which co-organised the Belfast vigil, says they hope the tragedy will bring about a change in attitudes to immigration. Former judge Catriona Jarvis, co-convenor of the Last Rights project, calls for the bereaved families to be allowed entry to the UK to participate in investigations and inquests into the deaths of their loved ones, and for safe passage and humanitarian visas to prevent such tragedies. (Guardian, 25 October 2019; Belfast News, 25 October 2019; Sky News, 25 October 2019)
28 October: The Ocean Viking is again left stranded at sea after Malta and Italy refuse to respond to its request to dock. Aboard are over 100 people rescued 11 days ago, including two pregnant woman and 41 minors. (Al Jazeera, 28 October 2019)
28 October: Eight people, believed to be from Afghanistan, are found in the back of a refrigerated lorry in France en route to Britain. All are taken to hospital suffering from hypothermia. (The Local, 28 October 2019)
29 October: Antwerp federal police, in collaboration with six local police forces and the Immigration Office, arrest 28 people from Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, 11 of whom are believed to be minors, at Antwerp train station, as part of an effort to clamp down on ‘transmigrants’ travelling from Brussels to Antwerp, from where they try to go to the UK. (Brussels Times, 29 October 2019)
29 October: The Hellenic Coast Guard intercept over 100 people sailing from Turkey in three separate incidents as part of the ‘biggest spike in migrant and refugee arrivals’ since 2015. (Ekathimerini, 29 October 2019)Invasion of north-eastern Syria
18 October: Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto voices support for Turkey’s military operation against the Kurds in north-eastern Syria, saying it would ease the refugee crisis in Europe by creating a ‘safe zone’ to where Syrian refugees can be returned. (Balkan Insight, 18 October 2019)Reception and detention
16 October: A fire destroys the severely overcrowded refugee camp on the Greek island of Samos, leaving hundreds of people destitute. MSF call for children and vulnerable people to be evacuated from the island. (Ekathemerini, 16 October 2019)
16 October: Armed police evict migrant families from two more squats in the Athens district of Exarchia, taking the total number of mass evictions in the area to eight. (Keep Talking Greece, 16 October 2019)
20 October: Displaced people held in a former British Army barracks in Malta set fire to staff cars in protest of their conditions and demand freedom. (Al Jazeera, 21 October 2019)
23 October: A study by the UNHCR finds that disputes over the age of unaccompanied and separated refugee or asylum seeker children arriving in the UK are having a ‘devastating impact’. Children of disputed ages are liable to be placed in inappropriate accommodation together with adults, posing a risk to their safety, the report says, and are likely to be unfairly denied access to education. (Guardian, 23 October 2019)
23 October: Allegations emerge that in Bosnia, refugees are being pulled from trains to stop them reaching overcrowded camps, where local authorities are cutting the water supplies in a bid to force the government to give assistance. (Al Jazeera, 23 October 2019)
24 October: Detainees at Zintan centre in Libya stage a protest, demanding evacuation from conditions in which 23 have died of starvation and tuberculosis. (AYS, 25 October 2019)Deportation
15 October: Italian riot police use tear gas to break up a protest at the immigration detention centre of Pian del Lago in Caltanissetta against the deportation of an inmate to Tunisia. (Hurriya, 16 October 2019)
21 October: The Home Office is forced to pay £25,000 in damages to a victim of modern slavery after the courts ruled that he was unlawfully detained and threatened with deportation, saying the department acted ‘disingenuously’ in rejecting its own finding that he had been a victim of forced labour in order to pursue his deportation. (Independent, 21 October 2019)Citizenship
20 October: The British government prepares to repatriate British orphaned children of British ISIS fighters who are living in refugee camps in Syria, a shift in policy after the BBC filmed three orphans aged ten and under saying they wanted to return home to the UK. (Guardian, 20 October 2019)
22 October: The hearing begins of Shamima Begum’s appeal against the revocation of her British citizenship and her exclusion from the UK in February 2019, four years after she left her London home to join ISIS aged fifteen. (Guardian, 22 October 2019)
24 October: The Danish Parliament passes a law to strip Danish dual nationals of their Danish citizenship and refuse their entry to the country if they have fought with foreign armed groups. The law is primarily designed to target fighters for ISIS and similar groups. (Al Jazeera, 24 October 2019)ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT
17 October: On the fourth night of protests against the sentencing of the Catalan politicians, after a peaceful demonstration by Catalan separatists and anti-fascists ended, around 300 neo-nazis, armed with wooden staves and knives, go ‘hunting’ for anti-fascists in central Barcelona, unhampered by police, and a young man is attacked and brutally beaten by about a dozen neo-nazis. (Naciόdigital, 17 October 2019)
20 October: The European Roma Rights Centre say that the racism displayed at the England Bulgaria football fixture is what Roma in Bulgaria suffer every day. The perpetrators are identified as neo-nazi hooligan gang Lauta Army, that follows Lokomotiv Plovdiv and has its own website, boxing classes and a gymnasium. (Observer, 20 October 2019)
21 October: At Leeds Crown Court, Gabriele Longo of Crawley and Morgan Seale of South Shields are found guilty under the Terrorism Act of preparing extreme-right materials for terrorist purposes and collecting or making a record of information useful in the preparation of an act of terrorism. (Counter Terrorism Policing, 21 October 2019)
26 October: Thousands of people gather for a Vox party rally in Madrid’s Columbus Square shouting ‘Viva España’. Vox Leader Santiago Abascal addresses the crowd condemning the separatist movement and claiming that only Vox will fight for a unified Spain. (The Local, 27 October 2019)ELECTORAL POLITICS – UK
15 October: The husband of Liberal Democrat MP Angela Smith, also a member of her staff, issues an apology after accusing Labour shadow equalities minister Dawn Butler of lying about her experiences of racism and ‘trolling’ her after she wrote an article in the Metro newspaper as part of Black History Month. (Yorkshire Post, 15 October 2019)
16 October: Dr Faiza Shaheen, Labour parliamentary candidate for Chingford and Wood Green, accuses her Liberal Democrat rival Geoffrey Seeff of using dirty campaigning tactics and highlighting her religion after he sent her an open letter demanding to know her views on an Islamic charity to which she has no links. (Guardian, 17 October 2019)
23 October: Brexit party candidate Stuart Waiton, a lecturer at Dundee’s Abertay University, says concern about Nazi salutes on football terraces is an ‘overblown moral panic’ and that far from racism being on the rise, people are just more sensitive to it. (Times, 23 October 2019)
26 October: London mayoral candidate Rory Stewart is criticised by Irish rap group Hare Squead, whom he met during a walkabout in Brick Lane, only to describe them later at a public event as ‘minor gangsters’. The shadow minister for women and equalities says ‘associating black men with gangs’ is a form of racial bias. (NME, 26 October 2019)ELECTORAL POLITICS – EUROPE
16 October: 90 leading academics, actors and journalists sign an open letter calling on President Macron to condemn Julien Odoul, Bourgogne Franche-Comté president of the Groupe Rassemblement Nationale (formerly Front National), for ordering a woman to remove her headscarf at a regional council meeting. (AA, 16 October 2019)
19 October: Thousands of people attend a far-right ‘Italy pride’ rally in Rome organised by the League, Brothers of Italy and Forza Italia. The march is criticised for its associations with Mussolini’s ‘march on Rome’ in 1922. (Guardian, 19 October 2019)
21 October: Despite winning 26 per cent of the vote, the anti-immigrant Swiss People’s Party (SVP) suffers losses in a general election dominated by environmental issues, losing a total of twelve seats. (Bloomberg, 21 October 2019)
28 October: The far-right electoral coalition of the League, Brothers of Italy and Forza Italia captures 57 per cent of the vote in the central Italian region of Umbria, gaining control of a region which has been governed by the Left for over fifty years. (Independent, 28 October 2019)
28 October: In regional elections in Thuringia, east Germany, the far-right Alternative for Germany surges to second place, overtaking the CDU, and capturing 23.4 percent of the vote (Deutsche Welle, 28 October 2019)POLICING AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
16 October: Detective constable Mark Eve, based at Romford police station, is found guilty of gross misconduct and dismissed from the Metropolitan police over breaches including the routine use of racist language in face-to-face conversations and WhatsApp chats. (Sky News, 16 October 2019)
18 October: A Home Office equality impact assessment of loosened stop and search rules warns that more innocent BAME people are likely to be stopped as a result, exacerbating mistrust of police. Read the report here. (Guardian, 18 October 2019)
19 October: Video footage of a young woman in a headscarf calling for help while being harassed by police in Saint-Denis, Paris, surfaces, igniting a debate around police brutality. The police claim that the woman refused their stop, insulted them and defended terrorism – a version of events contradicted by witnesses. (Break News, 19 October 2019)
24 October: Police use of stop and search rises by 32 per cent in England and Wales between March 2018 and March 2019. BAME people are 4 times more likely and black people are 9.7 times more likely to be stopped than white people. (Guardian, 24 October 2019).
26 October: Video footage released by the French newspaper Le Parisien show police officers kicking and beating refugees with truncheons as they evacuated a squat in Bagnolet, Seine-Saint-Denis, Paris in June. (en24, 26 October 2019)
30 October: HM Chief Inspector of Prisons publishes the report of its July inspection of Feltham Young Offenders’ Institution describing an ‘appalling decline’ in its children’s unit, with very high levels of violence and self-harm, little educational provision and children locked in for too long. Read the report here. (HM Inspectorate of Prisons, 30 October 2019)EMPLOYMENT AND EXPLOITATION
16 October: More than 170 cleaners and porters at St. Mary’s Hospital, members of the United Voices of the World union, announce plans for 15 days of strike action before the end of December. The predominantly migrant workers, outsourced by the NHS to Sodexo, are demanding employment parity with in-house NHS staff and an end to outsourcing, which they describe as ‘a racist economic model of exploitation’. (Open Democracy, 16 October 2019; Red Pepper, 18 October 2019)
27 October: A Guardian freedom of information request reveals that the spending of 42 universities on outsourcing of workers – often cleaners, security and maintenance staff employed by third parties, often on zero-hour contracts – has more than doubled in seven years, increasing by almost 70 per cent from 2010 to 2017. (Guardian, 27 October 2019)HOUSING
30 October: The report of Phase one of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry finds systemic failings by the London Fire Brigade. Some of the bereaved and survivors of the incident have suggested that the firefighters were let down by inadequate training, procedures, equipment and leadership. Read the report here. (Guardian, 30 October 2019).HEALTH AND WELFARE
15 October: The charity Maternity Action launches a legal challenge to the government’s policy of charging destitute pregnant migrant women at least £7,000 to access NHS maternity care, as it says women are avoiding essential care to save money and the government is in breach of the public sector equality duty. The claim also challenges the charging of other groups of migrant women, those who have suffered gender-based violence, destitute migrant women and their children who are awaiting an outcome on their immigration applications from the Home Office. (Maternity Action Press Release, 15 October 2019; Guardian, 16 October 2019)
15 October: A Guardian investigation finds one-third of local councils are using algorithms in decision-making on benefit claims, prevention of child abuse and other welfare decisions, despite concerns about unreliability, bias and inability to challenge decisions. Bristol City Council assesses almost a quarter of its 170,000 population using algorithms. (Guardian, 15 October 2019, 15 October 2019)
23 October: Docs Not Cops Swansea publishes a report showing that, two years after the introduction of ‘hostile environment’ policies in the Welsh NHS, migrants are being left in thousands of pounds of debt for accessing hospital care that they need, despite their care accounting for only 0.016 per cent of the Welsh NHS budget. The campaign group calls for an end to checks on patients’ immigration status and charging patients for NHS care. (Docs Not Cops Blog, 23 October 2019)
23 October: holds a national day of action, including demonstrations outside six hospitals throughout the UK to protest the Government’s ‘racist’ policy of requiring foreign patients to provide papers or payment upfront before receiving NHS hospital care. A
spokesperson for the group says the policy is turning hospitals into ‘hostile environments’. (Birmingham Live, 23 October 2019)EDUCATION
15 October: Research by the University and College Union finds that BME university staff are paid less than their white colleagues and are severely under-represented in more senior academic roles. (Guardian, 15 October 2019)
23 October: The Equality and Human Rights Commission study into racism in universities finds thousands of racist incidents, with Black students, followed by Asian students, reporting the most, and universities failing to log incidents and being ‘in denial’. Racial slurs and insults, including the N-word, from other students and lecturers were common, and a fifth of students also reported physical assaults. The EHRC is criticised for including anti-English, anti-Welsh and anti-Scottish incidents as racial harassment. (Guardian, 23 October 2019).SPORT
19 October: The Metropolitan police investigate after an FA qualifying Cup fixture between Haringey Borough and Yeovil Town is abandoned, with the Haringey team walking off the pitch after its goalkeeper, Valery Pajetat, is racially abused and hit by a missile. (Guardian, 20 October 2019)
23 October: In one week, alleged racist incidents are investigated at six British clubs, including Haringey Borough (above). Bradford City appeals for witnesses after a fan is attacked in Manningham Lane in the build-up to a fixture with Port Vale; racist chanting is heard at a Bristol City fixture; in Scotland, Hearts fans are investigated for alleged racist abuse targeted at Rangers’ striker Alfredo Morelos; Manchester United investigate abuse against Trent Alexander-Arnold; and Northampton investigate claims of racist chanting by Salford fans. (Telegraph, 23 October 2019)VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT
16 October: A swastika and anti-Semitic graffiti are carved into the window of a shelter in East Leeds. (Yorkshire Evening Post, 16 October 2019)
17 October: Police appeal for information on a racially motivated incident after a 13-year-old boy with learning difficulties is assaulted twice in a month in Ballymena, Co. Antrim in Northern Ireland. (Ballymena Times, 17 October 2019)
18 October: The Home Office is accused of ‘breathtaking hypocrisy’ after tweeting a video encouraging people to report racist hate crimes, showing a young black man talking of being told to ‘go home’ by strangers, since the Home Office emblazoned the same message on vans in its notorious 2013 advertising campaign ‘go home or face arrest’. (Independent, 18 October 2019)
18 October: Police in South Wales say reported hate crime has reached record levels in Gwent, with a 7 per cent increase (237 incidents). Two-thirds of the crimes are related to race. (South Wales Argus, 28 October 2019)
18 October: Hampshire police report record levels of hate crimes, with 2,726 recorded in 2018-19. Two-thirds of reported incidents are race-related. (Southern Daily Echo, 18 October 2019)
20 October: Religiously-motivated hate crimes are up by 32 per cent in Teeside, but race remains the most common motivating factor in hate crimes, behind four out of five reported incidents (a total of 713 racially motivated crimes in 2018-19). (Teeside Live, 20 October 2019)
20 October: Reported incidents of hate crime are down 7 per cent in West Mercia. Of the 1,242 hate crimes recorded in 2018-19, nearly two-thirds related to race. (The Shuttle, 20 October 2019)
20 October: Race remains the most common motivating factor in the 643 hate crimes recorded across Lincolnshire in 2018-19, with 374 recorded incidents, up 41 percent from the year before, making race a factor in two out of three recorded incidents. (Lincolnshire Live, 20 October 2019)
19 October: Hate crime figures are at their highest ever level in Cheshire, with 1,657 recorded incidents in the region in 2018-19 – an increase of 13 per cent from the year before. Race remains the most common motivating factor, with 1,078 racially motivated crimes, up to six per cent and accounting for two out of three reported incidents. (Cheshire Live, 19 October 2019)
19 October: Thames Valley police report a 50 per cent increase in hate crimes in 2018-19, with just 8 per cent leading to prosecutions. Three-quarters of the 3,624 hate crimes recorded related to race. (Bracknell News, 19 October 2019)
20 October: Police announce they will trail Twitter Bots, artificial intelligence pioneered by Cardiff University to predict where hate crimes will take place after the Brexit deadline of 31 October. It works through recognising Twitter posts deemed hateful or antagonistic on the grounds of religion, ethnicity or race. (Daily Mail, 20 October 2019)
20 October: Dorset police report a 29 per cent increase in hate crimes to 726 recorded incidents in 2018-19, with two-thirds related to race. (Bournemouth Daily Echo, 20 October 2019)
20 October: Hate crimes are reported to have risen across the North East, with racially motivated crimes being the most commonly reported.1,848 racially motivated incidents are recorded in the Northumbria police area in 2018-19 and 507 recorded by Durham Constabulary, an increase of 3.5 and 6.9 per cent respectively from the previous year. (Chronicle Live, 20 October 2019)
21 October: Police call for witnesses to come forward in their ongoing investigation into an assault on an 11-year-old boy who earlier this month was punched in the head, kicked to the floor, and verbally abused in a residential area of Bridgewater, Somerset. (Evening Standard, 21 October 2019)
22 October: Essex police explain the 40 per cent increase in reported hate crime over the past year in terms of Brexit, homophobia and religion. (Epping Forest Guardian, 22 October 2019)
23 October: Home secretary Priti Patel says the reported surge in hate crime is a ‘good thing’ because it shows the police are recording more offences. She fails to acknowledge that such crimes are on the rise. (Independent, 23 October 2019)
23 October: Hate crimes in North Somerset are reported to have increased by 23 per cent over the past two years (a total of 153 cases). Superintendent Andy Bennett attributes the rise in racial and religiously-motivated attacks to the impact of Brexit which appears ‘to have given people a mandate’. (Weston, Worle and Somerset Mercury, 23 October 2019)
23 October: A teenager is jailed and another receives a suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to a racial attack in October 2017 in Brighton, on a Korean student who was left with facial injuries after he was hit in the face with a bottle, simply because he was Asian. (CPS, 23 October 2019).
23 October: There has been a 17 percent increase in reported hate crimes in Wales, to almost 4,000 recorded incidents relating to race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender people. The figures have doubled over the last six years. (Nation Cymru, 23 October 2019)
23 October: Neo-nazis who attempt to torch the Jewish Aurora community centre in Budapest cause minor damage. The activism centre is host to other groups, such as the Roma Press Centre, Budapest Pride and the Migszol refugee advocacy group. (JTA, 23 October 2019)
28 October: In the Irish Republic, a car belonging to Martin Kenny, Sinn Féin TD for Sligo-Leitrim, is set on fire. Although Garda say it is too early to attribute a motive, Kenny has received death threats since speaking in parliament in favour of a new asylum accommodation centre in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, where a local community group has mounted a round-the-clock silent protest in opposition to the plan. (Irish Times, 29 October 2019)
28 October: In south-west France, an 84-year-old man who once stood as a candidate for the Front National in local elections in Landes, is arrested in Bayonne after a gun and arson attack on the local mosque which left two worshippers seriously injured.(Guardian, 28 October 2019)
This calendar was compiled by the IRR News team with the help of Laura Wormington.
On the launch of the young people’s oral history project exhibition ‘Activating Newham Community & Activism 1980-1991’, Jasbir Singh writes about his experiences and the seminal work of the Asian Youth Movements in the 1970s and 80s.
Where did the Asian Youth Movements come from?
The Asian youth movements (AYMs) arose in the late 1970s and continued into the mid- to late-1980s across the country. The late 1970s saw the children of post-war migrant populations from the Indian sub-continent, reach adulthood. And it was they that formed the AYMs and became their supporters. Whilst many members were of college age, there were individuals who were as young as 15 and others in their late 20s, who may have had experience of organising from political parties or the workplace.
The broad age range of members highlights a key concern of the AYMs: they wished to create organisations that represented and took up the concerns, the grievances, of young south Asians and their families. In a sense they were organisations of youth but not simply for the youth. They advocated for their communities as a whole and the issues that impacted them. They were responding to the climate of racism they faced, in a period of rising unemployment caused by an economic downturn that led to the decline of industrial Britain. This climate included attacks on the street, racist and discriminatory policies/practices in housing and the workplace, as well as racist immigration laws. In addition, most of the youth who became future members of the AYMs also faced discrimination and racism in their schools. As such, they could relate directly, to the broader issues which their families and others were facing.
The AYMs originally formed in cities and towns principally across the north of England. These included Bradford, Sheffield, Manchester, but also Coventry, Leicester, Birmingham and London. Others then developed in smaller towns such as Bolton, Burnley, Luton and Watford. In London there were a number throughout the city, the most prominent being in Southall, but there were also smaller AYMs in Haringey and in Newham.
The Newham Youth Movement came into being after the murder of Akhtar Ali Baig in 1980. A group of Asian youth in Newham, who were aware of the AYMs in Bradford and Southall, were spurred on to act using the AYM model. They played a critical and important part in organising a huge demonstration in Newham following Ali Beg’s murder. At the march the Newham Youth Movement adapted the slogan of the children of Soweto: ‘Don’t mourn – organise’.
Community-led and organised
The movements often developed in response to a local event. However, the national media coverage of the resistance in the communities and youth, particularly in Southall and Bradford helped to spread the message of various groups and played a crucial role in inspiring others. Bradford in particular was central in the development of the youth movements across Britain. This was because the AYM in Bradford, did not simply provide a spontaneous response to a new issue but also developed an organised response to a broader attack on their communities. It was the largest AYM and it developed a disciplined cadre of members. Whilst they saw their strength in mobilising locally, the Bradford AYM also saw itself as facilitator for the development of youth movements in other cities and towns.
A continuous development and a real understanding of racism and how it fitted into the broader political landscape was important to many AYM members. As such, study sessions were an important activity and many AYMs produced newsletters to better educate themselves and their wider community. It is important to remember that this was time when there were no laser printers or mobile phones, no social media or google. The only way to contact people was to make a phone call or write a letter; and phone calls were expensive. The journals from organisations like the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) and Race Today also played an important part in providing an understanding and shaping the politics of the AYM members. These were often photocopied and distributed to members to read.
Campaigning and solidarity
As mentioned earlier, the emergence of many of the AYMs was as a response to local events — a racist attack, a deportation, a wrongful racist police arrest or a murder (as was the case in Newham). A number of the local campaigns begun by a local AYM became national with support from AYMs across the country. One such campaign was the Anwar Ditta campaign which highlighted the racist immigration laws which prevented Anwar’s three children, who were in Pakistan, from reuniting with their mother in Rochdale. It was a campaign that won national coverage with its heart-breaking story. AYMs in Manchester, Bradford, Dewsbury, Sheffield and Nottingham worked together.
Challenging racist immigration laws and fighting deportation were huge activities for AYMs which worked together with other campaign groups, such as, the Campaign Against Immigration Laws (CAIL) and the Campaign Against Racist Laws (CARL). A large number of the immigration and anti-deportation campaigns were organised and run together with the Indian Workers Association (IWAs).
Anwar Ditta Campaign:
The Anwar Ditta campaign also highlighted the way that the AYMs put the families at the centre of the campaign to promote the issues, rather than the AYM organisation. The Anwar Ditta campaign also highlighted the ability and strength of the AYMs to organise and build solidarity, and also to empower the victims – in this case Anwar Ditta. I was a member of the Sheffield AYM when we launched a local campaign to bring attention to her case. I still remember the local march that we organised, the thousands of leaflets that we gave out and the impassioned speech that Anwar Ditta gave on the steps of Sheffield Town Hall.
Bradford 12 Campaign:
Another campaign that became national, championed by the AYMs was the Bradford 12 campaign. The summer of 1981, saw unrest explode in several parts of the country. There were racist attacks and there was fight back and rebellion. In this background, members of the United Black Youth League in Bradford, who were closely associated with the Bradford AYM, made petrol bombs – ‘in order to be prepared, should the need arise to protect themselves and their communities against the fascists’. These petrol bombs were never actually used.
But this didn’t stop 12 youth being arrested a few weeks later and charged with ‘making as explosive substance with intent to endanger life and property’ as well as ‘conspiracy to make explosives for unlawful purpose’. Immediately following the arrests, there was huge support for the young men both from the local community and activists. The network of AYMs across the country mobilised for the campaign. They were also heavily involved in ensuring that there was solid legal defence. The trial of the Bradford 12 brought national attention to the issues of self-defence and conspiracy laws. It was in this campaign that the phrase ‘Self Defence = No Offence’ was coined. It also acted as a national focal point against repressive policing policies and practices towards black people. Another slogan coined during this time was – ‘Whose conspiracy – Police Conspiracy’ referring to the conspiracy charges that the Bradford 12 were charged with.
Newham 8 Defence Campaign:
The use of the conspiracy laws was a significant part of the state’s strategy to crush independent and militant black organisations during this period. We saw this strategy also being used in the case of eight youth, in Newham in 1982, who were protecting school children from racist attacks – a case that became known as the Newham 8 and the Newham 8 Defence Campaign.
There had been a spate of racist abuse and attacks in schools in Newham against Asian children. In response, a group of older youths decided that they would protect and walk the children home after school. On one occasion, three white men stormed out of a car and started running towards this group of school children in a menacing way. Thinking it was an attack, the older youth stopped and fought back, only to later learn that these three white men were plain clothes police officers. Eight youth were charged with conspiracy to cause affray. As with the Bradford 12, from the start there was huge support for the young men both from the local community and activists. The Newham 8 Defence Campaign was set up following a community-organised meeting.
Once again, the network of AYMs mobilised for the campaign and make sure that there was support from across the country. The case of the Newham 8, again, brought to national prominence the issues of self-defence and conspiracy laws. ‘Self Defence – No Offence’ and ‘Whose conspiracy – Police Conspiracy’ were again the main slogans, shouted this time outside the Old Bailey where the trial was held. These are just three examples of campaigns that AYMs took up, other significant ones include: the New Cross Massacre, Solidarity with the Miners and the Newham 7 Defence Campaign.
Building a National Movement
The AYMs made several attempts to try and become a national movement and a national organisation. As mentioned earlier, Bradford AYM saw itself as a facilitator for the development of youth movements in other cities and towns, with a view to strengthen working links. Groups in London also made efforts in this direction. However, the AYMs never achieved a national organisation, in part because of the changing priorities of the different AYM organisations. That is not to say there were not always links between the different AYMs, but they focused on their local issues and sought support for their campaigns from other AYMs as and when required.
A national organisation focused on the struggles of the British Asian community was also complicated by the internationalist outlook of AYMs. Whilst focused on Britain and the issues that impacted them and their families, these young people saw a direct connection between the global political context and their own experiences. They were inspired by both the anti-colonial struggles of the previous decades as well as the Civil Rights and Black Power movements in America. At the same time, anti-colonial struggles were still being waged in Palestine, Zimbabwe and South Africa and the youth felt these experiences related to their own. They were motivated by political ideas and strategies from organisations across the world such as the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa, communism in China and other international struggles. The AYMs were outward looking, wanting to make links with groups with similar beliefs in Britain and abroad.
The AYMs did more than just read and learn about these struggles. For example, there was strong support for Ireland’s right to self determination and a number of AYM members made visits to Belfast to learn from and draw closer links with the Republican movement. There was also solidarity with Irish Republican prisoners, with AYM Bradford sending two delegates to the North of England Irish Prisoner’s committee in relation to the imprisonment of Bobby Sands.
The fight of the Palestinian people was another issue taken up in a huge way by the AYMs. In 1982 thousands of Palestinians were massacred in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon. Bradford AYM supported the ad-hoc committee against the genocide in Lebanon. In Sheffield, the AYM mobilised to put pressure on members of the local Trade Union who were meeting the Israeli Trade Union Federation. Several other AYMs supported and mobilised for local marches that were taking place at that time against this massacre.
How to struggle for Truth
By the mid-1980s, many of the AYMs were in decline. The state had poured a significant amount of money into youth schemes, education projects, a vast array of cultural organisations, rights organisations and legal centres which resulted in the shift of many AYMs from campaigning to service-provision. Many AYM members took up jobs in these newly created organisations which meant the demise of the former AYMs. New organisations were formed to try and take up the work but their success was diffused.
That the AYMs were only around for roughly a decade does not diminish the huge contribution they made. I would like to end using the words of Gareth Peirce, the solicitor who defended some of the Newham 8 and Newham 7, when she was asked to comment on the Bradford 12 Campaign and the AYMs.
‘It was for many of us the happiest time of our life because we were fighting a war on the same side and when you are involved in that fight, the bonds you make are the strongest bonds you will ever make in your life … we owe to them that line of history that gives us still some hope in saying that whatever the language used, however the false narrative is sustained wherever it is in the world that we are party to the same disgraceful injustice of calling self-defence something different, we absolutely owe it to you our thanks for teaching us how to struggle for the truth.’
Jasbir Singh is a campaigner and activist who has been involved in many campaigns including, founder of Black consciousness group at Sheffield University (1978-1981), Sheffield Asian Youth Movement member (1981-83) and Campaigns worker/ Managing Committee member at Newham Monitoring Project (1983-1986/1989-1998)
This is a piece based on a speech given at an ‘Activating Newham’ project workshop session on Asian Youth Movements in the 1980s at Rabbits Road Press, London.
Exhibition at Old Manor Park Library, 2 – 29 November, 2019 (Saturday & Sunday only) https://createlondon.org/event/activating-newham/
If you would like to attend the private launch event on 2 November, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
In a republished speech given at a Feminist & Women’s Studies Association event, IRR’s Sophia Siddiqui asks if publishing can be a form of resistance.
It’s clear that our current moment is a moment of crisis – state racism permeates all aspects of life for many communities, the rhetoric of the far Right has become normalised, solidarity can feel tenuous in the face of a neoliberalism that atomises us. But these crisis points are also times of political awakening and an opportunity for social transformation – and publishing has a role to play in this, particularly grassroots self-publishing and DIY cultures, that challenge racism and sexism.
Roots of struggle
One of the most important practices of publishing is to actively engage with histories of anti-racist feminist struggles which have put down strong roots. This does not mean looking at the past in a static way. Seeing the past in relation to the present and understanding how the work we do today builds upon a legacy of feminists before us, can be a source of strength.
Two key books that tell the struggles of working-class black and Asian women in the UK are Finding a Voice by Amrit Wilson (1978) and Heart of the Race by Stella Dadzie, Beverly Bryan and Suzanne Scafe (1985), both originally published by the feminist press Virago and republished in 2018. These two books never set out to be seminal texts; they were written by and for a community – demonstrating how publishing is not just as an individual endeavour but a collective process. The authors’ involvement in OWAAD (the organisation of women of African and Asian descent), and Awaz (the first feminist Asian women’s collective) provided the material conditions for these books to have been written, and the books themselves fed back into activism on the ground.
Publishing and activism were not seen as separate spheres – but they were intrinsically linked. For instance, in Finding a Voice, Amrit Wilson documents the horrific virginity testing that some migrant women were subject to by immigration officers, in the voices of the women themselves. This documentation did not provide evidence in the pages of a book, but it led to direct action – in 1979, OWAAD and Awaz organised a powerful picket protesting virginity testing at Heathrow Airport. Many people don’t know of the horrors of virginity testing, but recalling this history is crucial in order to understand the long legacy of racism that is written into our immigration laws. Women seeking asylum continue to face routine sexual abuse in detention centres like Yarl’s Wood.
No rape, no racism
For publishing to be a form of activism, as well as making historical connections, it must challenge state power, actively seek out justice and resist racialised stereotypes, whilst amplifying grassroots resistance. This isn’t easy. When writing with an anti-racist feminist praxis, you’re treading a contested line – saying that we will not stand for racism and sexism at the same time. But why is this so difficult to maintain? The far Right often racialises sexual violence and co-opts the issue to push a racist agenda, and the mainstream media is central is promoting this toxic narrative – and yet abuse still occurs across communities. In Rotherham following child sexual exploitation cases, this has resulted in Pakistani survivors being erased from the narrative, and the Muslim community being collectively blamed. The impact of this has been daily racism – in 2015, 81-year old grandfather Mushin Ahmed was murdered on his way to the mosque by two men who shouted ‘groomer’ at him.
We must take back the narrative on sexual violence into our own hands through our own words, not by racists who co-opt the issue for their own agenda. This means talking to people on the frontlines who are working to end violence against women and girls and amplifying the voices of survivors. (Read a recent IRR News interview with Zlakha Ahmed who founded Apna Haq, a specialist services for BAME women escaping violence which explores some of these issues).
The co-option of sexual abuse is a narrative that we can see across Europe, as an emboldened far Right continue to make gains on the back of Islamophobia. Now, more than ever, publishing needs to move from the local detail to the transnational – actively creating links to other countries across Europe, as seen in the women’s strikes across Italy, Spain, Poland and the US and beyond earlier this year.
At the heart of feminist activism must be the foregrounding of resistance – women of colour are still and always have been resisting gendered racism and racialised patriarchies. And it’s under the harshest of conditions – in the gig economy, in detention centres, in precarious and exploitative employment – that many struggles are being fought and won. Amplifying these voices is one the most crucial aspects to feminist publishing today, as well as ensuring the language we use is accessible. As the late founder of IRR Sivanandan said, ‘the people we are writing for, are the people we are fighting for’.
Publishing as activism is not just via the written word. Campaigns led by young people such as ad-hacks on the tube by Education not Exclusion, the creation of zines such as Daikon* (a platform for the south east Asian diapora) and oral history projects such as ‘Fighting sus’ all demonstrate the creative ways new generations are responding to urgent issues today, often by harnessing the power of DIY cultures to explore alternative forms of publishing, outside of capitalist co-option and outside of the academy. The active participation that is integral to DIY cultures brings people together, forming a community. Through events, workshops and discussions, young people are coming together to collectively self-publish their views and make crucial interventions.
By taking a broader view of feminist publishing, and ensuring that it challenges racism, we can build on the struggles of black women, anti-racists and women of colour across the word to work towards a more inclusive feminism, what Nancy Fraser calls ‘a feminism for the 99%’, which stands for all those who are oppressed and exploited in order to transform society as a whole.
Read a review article in Race & Class, ‘Anti-racist feminism: engaging with the past’ (October 2019) that explores these issues further.
Racist violence involving public order offences, physical attack and criminal damage has increased, but the Home Office and the media are in denial as to the real causes.
On 16 October, the Home Office released the 2018/2019 statistics on hate crimes in England and Wales with all hate crime (race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or beliefs, disability, transgender) increasing by 10 per cent from the previous year (a total of 103,379 recorded crimes). And in the days that followed, regional newspapers broke down local police force data (More details of this in our calendar.) The data, both national and regional, shows overwhelmingly that while crimes based on sexual orientation, transgender identity, and disability are increasing at a higher rate than those that are racially aggravated, they do so from a much lower base than for race hate crimes (which can also include a mixture of race and religion as motivating factors.) Simply put, race hate crimes continue to be by far the highest category of all reported hate crimes, as they were in 2017/18 and continue to be so today, with (76 per cent) of recorded incidents (a total of 78,991 incidents) categorised as race hate crimes. From the local data emerges much the same pattern, albeit with variations – two thirds of all recorded hate crimes were motivated by race hatred in Cheshire, Hampshire West Mercia, Dorset, Lincolnshire, North Wales, with that rising to three quarters in Thames Valley and Teeside.
Failure of regional newspapers and Equality Commission report
It was very disappointing that nearly all the regional newspapers failed to go out to local representative BAME organisations to discuss the impact of racially- and religiously-motivated hatred on communities. Efforts were made, quite rightly, to discuss the impact of crimes based on sexual orientation or transgender with local groups, as well as Stonewall, but the views of ethnic minorities were largely not sought, though Lincolnshire Live made efforts to search through its archives and link to its previous coverage of racist and far-right attacks. The fact that the local newspapers did not turn to community sources to comment on these figures, or discuss the impact of Brexit, which was actually mentioned by an Avon and Somerset police spokesperson as giving a ‘mandate’ for hate crime, reinforces what one interviewer told a recent Channel 5 documentary on hate crimes. ‘It’s really sad to say, it’s become normalised’.
A recent study by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into racial harassment in universities has also come under criticism. This is because of its flawed methodology. On the one hand it treats racism as a series of incidents carried out by backward individuals who simply hurl abuse. On the other hand, it diminishes the experiences of BAME students by calling claims by white students that they had experienced ‘anti-English’, ‘anti-Welsh’ and ‘anti-Scottish’ sentiments also racial harassment, thereby, as NUS black students officer, Fope Olaleye, explains ‘positioning white people as equal victims of discrimination’. But one statistic buried in the report, which clearly relates to the experiences of BAME students, does call out for further interrogation. Around one fifth of students who were racially harassed and who had reported suffering racial slurs and insults, including the N-word and the P-word, told the EHRC that they had also suffered physical assault.
How hate crime frameworks obscure
Reducing everything to a generic ‘hate crime’, the approach that has become fashionable since the 1990s, tends, as Kehinde Andrews puts it in relation to the EHRC report, to reduce racism to ‘individual encounters’ and a ‘series of incidents’. In reality hate is not an abstract category, and cannot be delinked from the material act, whether it is discrimination or physical violence. And hate is not merely the prejudice shown in individual encounters, but the verbal and physical working out in aggression of racist ideas imbued in individuals by a wider political framework that demonises minorities. Hate when it is expressed is most often violent, ranging from a public order offence on the street or on the transport system to physical assault on individuals and criminal damage to religious and community centres. In other words, the racially aggravated aspect of the offence (i.e. the hate) is accompanied by violence against the person, whether it is verbal or physical.
In too much of today’s media debate the hate is being de-coupled from the causes of violence and its impact on individuals and communities. This is a narrative that might well suit the Home Office, which plays a rather schizophrenic role, overseeing the hostile environment towards immigration, while having a responsibility to fight the hate crime that anti-immigration and xeno-racism engenders. This may explain the Home Office’s crass decision to release a video on Twitter encouraging people to report racists hate crimes, in which a young black man talks of being told to ‘go home’ by strangers, despite the same Home Office deporting black citizens and emblazoning the very same message ‘go home or face arrest’ on vans in its notorious 2013 advertising campaign. And it could also explain the self-satisfied approach of the home secretary, Priti Patel, who told a parliamentary committee that the rise in hate crime was a ‘good thing’, as it showed the police were doing their job. While the recently released Home Office statistics, do acknowledge that there were spikes in attacks following the EU referendum and the Manchester and other terror attacks, the analysis accompanying the release of the statistics suggests that the increase in reported incidents reflected increased public confidence in reporting hate crimes. But this is just an interpretation, as it is not backed up by hard evidence.
Preparing the ground for the Right
It is now feeding into the racist frameworks of the hard Right of the Conservative party, as well as UKIP and the Brexit Party, which argue that hate crime is trivial and people are just becoming too sensitive to prejudice and need to ‘man-up’. Karen Harradine, writing in Conservative Women (‘Hate crimes are the only ones that count for our PC police’) claims that ‘anyone can alert the police to perceived slights against their identity and the police are then compelled to investigate, no matter how nonsensical the accusation is, leaving them with less time to tackle real crime’. And Brexit party candidate, Stuart Waitron, a lecturer at Alberta University, Dundee, says concerns about Nazi salutes on the football terraces is an ‘overblown moral panic’ and that far from racism being on the rise, people are just more sensitive to it.
The uncensored story
One exception to this approach by politicians and the media was Channel 5’s excellent Hate Crimes: Uncensored produced by Zeppelin Films broadcast on 21 October and still available on Catch up. Director Mark Henderson’s approach involved no reporter, no voiceover, no expert ‘talking heads’ but the giving of authority to the victims of racist violence to tell (and analyse) their own stories, with their testimony backed up by film of actual incidents, including racist rants caught on mobile phones. Those interviewed included a Greek photographer called a ‘smelly, dirty foreigner’ and subjected to a vicious physical assault, individuals present at the scene of the Finsbury park mosque attack in 2017 when a van was driven at speed into a crowd, the daughters of 75-year-old Mohammed Saleem who was stabbed to death in Birmingham in 2013 by a Ukrainian fascist, as well as African-Caribbean men and eastern European women who have been at the butt end of racist abuse and discrimination. In contrast to the local newspapers who, for the most part, gave no platform to BAME individuals or their representative organisations to explain the impact and causes of racist violence, those who testified were given space to analyse the cause of the violence, pinning much of the blame on the EU referendum and Brexit, as well as the attitude of the media and the racist comments of politicians. ‘It’s like othering Muslims as though they were a totally different species’ says one young Muslim woman, with interviewee after interviewee adamant that, ‘the people in power are responsible for what’s happened’.
The impact of austerity
One controversial but very necessary aspect of the documentary was the decision to broadcast mobile phone footage of individuals delivering excruciatingly racist rants on the streets or on public transport, many clearly under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It gave a sense of the bleakness of Britain and the way society is unravelling under the impact of austerity. Yes, they were poor and uneducated and victims of substance abuse – yet, still, they are violently abusing others, with ethnic minorities now paying the price for £700 million cuts in community drug and alcohol services since 2015-16, which, according to King’s College London researchers, is leading to a ‘national epidemic’ of substance abuse problems which are not being tackled. The public health crisis and the breakdown of community are other factors obscured today in our very limited discussion of hate crime. In this respect, it is worth observing that austerity, often described as a ‘war against the poor’ also unleashes a ‘war between the poor’, with neoliberal policies abandoning communities to the hate, violence and dog-eat-dog mentality that austerity engenders. As another Channel 5 interviewee put it, ‘it’s a free for all’.
- Free exhibition at Old Manor Park Library, 2 – 29 November, 2019
- (Saturday & Sunday only, 10am – 6pm)
- Including a showing of award-winning filmmaker Ayo Akingbade’s documentary inspired by the history of Newham
- More information here
Letter organised by Stand Up To Racism and Care4Calais, published in the The Independent, signed by Diane Abbott, Alf Dubs, Ben Okri and leading campaigners, politicans and trade unionists
The deaths of 39 people found in a container lorry in Essex is a major tragedy and a stark reminder of the human cost of a system which treats some of the most vulnerable people in the continent as if they were criminals. … Read the rest
This year’s Islamophobia Awareness Month comes at a crucial moment, following the horrific rise in Islamophobic hate crime and far-right terrorism against the Muslim community across the world.
Stand Up To Racism groups will be working with muslim organisations and mosques across the country to put on events marking #IAM2019 and build solidarity against Islamophobia. … Read the rest
An evening of remembrance including poet and activist Chris Searle and his former students Ramona Harris and Tony Harcup, exploring the inspiration, purpose and legacy of the Stepney School Strike in 1971. 800 pupils went on strike in Stepney, demanding that their teacher, Chris Searle, be reinstated after the school fired him for publishing a book of their poetry.
There will be an opportunity to look at collections materials relating to the strike.’
- 14 November 2019, Tower Hamlets local history library and archives at Resource for London at 6 – 8pm.
- The event will be chaired by BBC Radio 4 broadcaster Alan Dein.
- More information here
After 39 Deaths – Home Office Vigil Thursday Evening
Following the tragic deaths of 39 people found in a container lorry in Essex, anti-racist and migrant rights campaigners have called a vigil in solidarity with the victims of the latest horrific example of the “Hostile Environment” for refugees and migrants. … Read the rest