An estimated 15,000 people marched through central London on Saturday during a ‘Refugees Welcome/Stand Up To Racism’ demonstration that was implemented to coincide with the United Nations’ ‘Anti-Racism Day’ which is to be commemorated on Monday.
March 21st was first declared by the UN as ‘Anti-Racism Day’ – officially entitled ‘International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’ – in 1966, to commemorate the Sharpeville Massacre which took place on March 21st 1960. 69 protesters were killed during the massacre when the South African Apartheid regime’s police forces opened fire at non-violent demonstrators who were protesting the Apartheid ‘Pass Laws’ system.
In the week preceding the demonstration, the EU announced it had reached an agreement with Turkey that is intended to halt the flow of refugees reaching Greece. Many speakers at Saturday’s demonstration deplored the agreement, which they said contravenes basic human rights as well as the very principles on which the EU claims to be built.
Saturday’s protest in London drew together a wide coalition of activists from various backgrounds and struggles – Trade Unionists marched alongside student doctors; Palestine solidarity activists marched alongside those from UK branches of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign; anti-Fascist networks marched alongside student blocs from various institutions.
A small counter demo was held by the right-wing nationalist ‘Britain First’ organisation on Oxford Street, although no more than 50 supporters joined the counter-demo.
Amongst speakers in Trafalgar Square was comedian Jeremy Hardy who described the ‘inhuman’ conditions that he witnessed during his recent trip to the notorious ‘Jungle camp’ in Calais. Soon after Hardy, a young Iraqi refugee named ‘Amara’ took to the stage. Recently arrived in the UK after spending time in ‘the Jungle’, Amara passionately described her plight and that of millions like her who have been displaced over recent years:
“We are all refugees [not ‘migrants’] and we don’t want anything except to live in safety… We didn’t want to leave our countries, we had no choice. Once my country is safe I will be the first one to go back, because I love my country.”
Exclusive Images by MEMO Photographer Rich Wiles.