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Anti-Racism Demonstration in Glasgow: “Refugees are welcome here”

This article was originally submitted on the 23rd March

Written by Deniz Yalçın and Eliška Suchochlebová

To mark United Nations (UN) Anti-Racism day, hundreds gathered in Glasgow on 19th March for a demonstration organised by Stand Up To Racism and supported by various social movement groups. 

People met at Kelvingrove Park on a sunny Saturday morning and marched through the streets, chanting “Say it loud, say it clear. Refugees are welcome here.”, “No justice, no peace. No racist police.” and “No borders, no nations. Stop deportations.”

One protester told The Student:

“I’m here with my trade union because I think it’s important that trade unions are at the forefront of the fight against racism, not just in our workplaces but in our wider society. I work for the civil service union and unfortunately racism is still a very real factor in our workplaces, and it is something that all workers need to come together to fight.”

Demonstrators in Kelvingrove Park getting ready to march. Image courtesy of Eliška Suchochlebová

Another protester said: 

“I’m here today because as a black person, I think that as a country we need to do better in accommodating more people from diverse backgrounds. I feel like there shouldn’t be such a thing as deportations. Everyone is welcome and everyone is equal.” 

After marching, people assembled in George Square where speakers from a diverse range of organisations took to a small podium and spoke to the crowd.

The Nationality and Borders Bill, described by some as the anti-refugee bill, was discussed by multiple speakers, who encouraged protesters to write to their MPs to oppose it. This bill would criminalise those who do not enter the UK through official schemes, and make it possible to strip people of their British citizenship without warning.

A spokesperson for Stand Up To Racism Edinburgh said:

“The plight of Ukraine is there for everyone to see. But we have also witnessed the crude racism whereby white refugees are allowed to cross the border, but those who come from Asia and Africa are not. We say all refugees are welcome here. This and many more are the reasons why we are in stark opposition to the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill.”

Protestors gathered in George square for the rally. Image courtesy of Eliška Suchochlebová

MSP Humza Yousaf criticised MP Michael Gove for his recent claim that the UK has a long history of generosity towards refugees and added that anyone who has been affected by the ‘hostile environment’ can attest otherwise, including those affected by the Windrush scandal, and refugees from Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. 

Despite the upsetting nature of most topics discussed, multiple speakers talked about hope and power of community. 

One example given was about the now-infamous case of Kenmure Street, where southside Glasgow community members successfully resisted the deportation of their two neighbours in May 2021.

The podium was also a space to celebrate diverse cultures. Three Roma women from Poland sang and danced on stage in traditional clothes to share their culture with the protesters. 

One of the performers said to The Student: “We came today to stand up for all people who are discriminated against. We are all humans and everybody deserves to have the same rights.”

Roma women performing on stage at a demonstration
Roma women performing at the rally. Image courtesy of Eliška Suchochlebová

Later on, lawyer Aamer Anwar referred to racist police brutality in the UK and the case of Sheku Bayoh, an unarmed black man who died in police custody after being restrained in Kirkcaldy, Scotland in 2015. No police officer was prosecuted and there is an ongoing public inquiry into the circumstances of his death. 

“If you marched for Black Lives Matter, if you marched for George Floyd, then Sheku’s family demands your solidarity. Seven years on, the family requests that on the 10th of May,  when the public inquiry opens in Edinburgh, that you join the family outside in a vigil of remembrance,” said Anwar. 

Protestors marching through Glasgow with ‘Black Lives Matter’ signs. Image courtesy of Eliška Suchochlebová

UCU Scotland President Lena Wånggren spoke about racism in higher education as one of the reasons why eleven Scottish universities are striking this week:

“There is currently a 17 per cent pay gap for black workers. That is not acceptable. You are literally being paid less and employed on horrible contracts because of the colour of your skin. Universities in the UK are institutionally, structurally racist, but we want to change that.” 

Several speakers highlighted how capitalism harbours racism and exploitation. They also spoke about how racism ties in with other social issues such as gender inequality, Islamophobia, workers’ rights, housing issues and the climate crisis. 

Images courtesy of Eliška Suchochlebová