It is brilliant to see so many people here this evening. We stand shoulder to shoulder with protesters at airports at Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Dallas, New York’s JFK, Raleigh, Houston, Seattle, Portland, Atlanta. Over a million people in Britain – and 5.4% of Brighton and Hove’s population, have now signed a petition calling for a ban on a state visit for President Trump.
It has been horrifying to watch the events unfold in the last few days in the US.
I can’t be the only one who felt sick when I saw Teresa the Appeaser take the hand of Mr Trump on Holocaust Memorial Day.
It was on that very same day that President Trump signed an executive order placing an immediate ban on immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries and on all refugees entering the US. The measures from president Trump have been a disgusting attack on Muslims in the USA and everywhere. There will be people in our City who are directly affected by this, their relatives, their friends. An injury to any one of our city’s diverse communities is an injury to each and every one of us.
It is shameful that our own Prime Minister has failed to take a stand against this hatred. The events in the US might be happening thousands of miles away but let’s be clear – Ms May is also committed to building walls in Calais, she supports tougher immigration and as Home Secretary our country deported higher numbers of refugees and immigrants.
During Brexit, we were encouraged to be ‘afraid’, of immigration, of migrants, of ‘other’ people. We were told to categorise our fellow citizens and humans as ‘legal’ or ‘illegal.’ Muslims were often the direct target of this disgusting message. After almost six years of Tory cuts and scapegoating,–the xenophobic genie is out of the bottle
In the U.S and in Europe, there are now calls to ‘take our country back’ . Racist orders banning Muslims or scapegoating refugees will take us back for sure – back in time, to a dark place. Only a matter of months ago, we were handed another warning: in Austria, fascist candidate Norbert Hofer only just missed the top spot in the race to become the next Austrian President. In elections in Holland and in France over the coming weeks, far-right leaders are strong candidates. They shout loudly. We have been warned that in a crisis if you give the far-right an inch, they will take a mile.
It all sounds so foreboding, I know. But I am also hopeful.
As we stand together, this new energy we have for change is a chance to organise and become more active than ever in our local politics. As a Councillor, I know that the amazing energy and community of our city makes a real difference.
We are a city of Sanctuary. We take in and support refugees. We are known for being a city of a thousand welcomes, for taking a stand against hate – Islamophobia, homophobia, for having pride in our communities.
We stand defiant that we must be ready to do everything in our power to fight Islamophobia and racism. We say migrants aren’t to blame for public service crisis. We will not stand by while public services are cut and the richest and most powerful on both sides of the Pond are spared pain.
In the days and months ahead we will need cool heads but we will also need warm hearts. We need to raise up the voices that are being drowned out by the sound of hate and fear.
In your local Council we will be working with other political leaders to make sure the social wellbeing of the city, and of all of our citizens, is protected. We must continue our work to ensure that our city carries on standing up for refugees.
Acts of kindness that bind us stronger as a community have never been needed more. Those at the sharp end of the fear and scaremongering that Trump is desperate to stoke need our support. It is no longer acceptable to remain quiet or walk to the other side of the road if we hear or see prejudice, xenophobia or racism – all of us must challenge them directly. We must promote the voices of the vulnerable and marginalised that the far right wish to silence. We will reach out to local community groups and those who are affected. In politics and local government, we must be champions of compassion and concern.
We will oppose the new fear that Trump and co attempt to bring to our shores through the appalling behaviour of Teresa the appeaser.
I will be asking my counterpart in the Scottish Parliament, Patrick Harvie, to petition the Scottish Government to have Donald Trump barred from Scotland. Let’s stop someone who terrorises and instills fear into Muslims and immigrants from getting on to his golf course..!
We also have to say it loudly and clearly as protesters have on the other side of the Atlantic: No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here
Ignoring prejudice of any sort has never made it disappear. We do not have the luxury of walking away from hatred anywhere in our city. We must be clear: we will oppose the growth of the far-right and will not allow the current climate of fear to go unchallenged. That’s because not just Brighton and Hove – but this country -is better than this.
Tonight we join protests in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Dundee, Aberdeen, Cardiff, Aberystwyth, Swansea, Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, York, Leeds, Sheffield, Leicester, Nottingham, Birmingham, Cheltenham, Bristol, Exeter, Cambridge, Plymouth, Portsmouth. These have all been organised overnight. A magnificent 1,316, 435 had signed this afternoon to withdraw the state invitation to Mr Trump. A firm example of what we can do when we organise.
We will not be silent as far right leaders try to unveil a long night of darkness for America and the world. We are not afraid. We must counter the message of hate with one of hope. We will stand together.