After the Brexit: Fighting Racism

Kevin Hodder sent these notes from London:

I awoke in London to a shock. Travelling from New Zealand and only briefly abroad, I only had a relatively tenuous grasp on the debates going on in the UK around the “Brexit” vote.

The details of these debates are not for me to cover. Irrespective of why many people voted as they did, one thing that is known is that the racist elements of the Leave camp (embodied in the most familiar faces of the Leave campaign – Nigel Farage, leader of the racist UKIP party, and former London mayor Boris Johnson) will be substantially emboldened by this result. It is reasonable to expect increased attacks on migrants, refugees and anyone viewed as “foreign” in the coming months.

In this context, the demonstration that took place almost immediately following the results was an important line in the sand. Over a thousand people gathered in a central London park for a demonstration called jointly by the London Anti-Fascists and RS21, stating unequivocally that regardless of the vote, migrants were welcome in London, and that the racist elements of the Leave camp do not speak for all. Speakers from a number of different groups and organisations repeated the importance of standing with all those suffering against the leaders who seek to scapegoat and divide us to further their own interests.

Following the speeches, the congregation began to move through the streets of London, taking a circuitous route to the headquarters of News Corp – Rupert Murdoch’s media empire which hand no small hand in stoking bigotry and hate throughout the campaign. The march, which started with scarcely more than a thousand participants, swelled as it marched through the evening traffic, peaking at what I would estimate at several thousand. Chants of “Tories out, migrants in” and “say it loud and say it clear; Refugees are welcome here” shook the streets, bringing many inner city residents to their windows, garnering support from the passengers of the double decker buses stranded in the crowds and Londoners enjoying a Friday night pint.

A smaller demonstration also took place outside 10 Downing St (the British Prime Minister’s residence).
What the future holds for Britain, and for the tens of thousands of migrants and foreign residents of the UK, is uncertain. What is certain is that it will take powerful grassroots movements to prevent the powers of reaction from seizing this opportunity to spread racist hate. Tonight proved that such movements are possible.