20 May 2017
Stand up to racism election event
Statement from Green Party Spokesperson:
Our parliamentary candidate for Hove was due to speak at a Stand up to Racism event this afternoon. When he arrived, there was a picket outside the venue, composed of Sisters Uncut Brighton and the Brighton Benefits Campaign. Not knowing the full picture our candidate was very uncomfortable crossing the picket and felt, out of principle, he could not cross it.
The Green Party takes the issues that both campaign organisations raise very seriously. We wish to reaffirm our strong opposition to racism and xenophobia, and want to make it clear that we will do everything in our power to ensure that they play no part in the upcoming general election.
Phelim Mac Cafferty, the Green Party parliamentary candidate in Hove, would have given the following speech:
STAND UP TO RACISM
20th May 2017
Thank you for organising this important meeting to say that all of us together stand against all attempts to use the general election to divide us on the grounds of ethnicity, race and religion. The General Election on 8th June means there is the prospect of a another rise in racism. Hate crimes soared following last year’s EU Referendum, and much of the toxic scapegoating that fuelled this rise now threatens to dominate the general election. We have seen the heinous murder of MP Jo Cox and the recent vicious attack on Reker Ahmed, a 17-year-old refugee.
As a party I am proud that we have signed the Unity Statement because racism, xenophobia and hate is on the increase around the UK. And our city our neighbourhoods are not immune.
As a migrant and as the Green Party candidate in Hove I am proud to stand with you today.
The most pressing issue today of course is that as many as people as possible turn up to oppose the presence of the Front National candidate representing French Ex Pats (Tony Thommes) visiting our city. We must get as many people as possible on the against these far-right thugs in suits in our city.
First hand I know all too much about the sorts of ugly prejudice that immigrants to this country face. When I first came to this country twenty years ago I faced xenophobia and racism. I occasionally face direct prejudice and still face indirect prejudice. I am one of the 4 million EU citizens who have made their homes here in the UK and who in the context of Brexit face losing our rights. I have lived and worked in this country for more than half of my adult life and like many others after Brexit it really felt that this was no longer a country that wanted me or other foreigners to be here. It is a disgrace that EU nationals have been given no assurance about their right to remain in this country. We must be clear that this uncertainty is completely unacceptable and we will oppose any attempt to pit worker against worker.
It is shameful that our own Prime Minister in recent times has failed to take a stand against Trump’s hatred. The events in the US might be happening thousands of miles away but let’s be clear – where Mr Trump is committed to building a wall with Mexico, Ms May is also committed to building walls in Calais, she supports tougher immigration and in her time as Home Secretary, vans circled the streets emblazoned with the slogan: “In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest.”
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 A Pandora’s box of resentment and suspicion has been opened up by the fanciful claims that we could somehow “get our country back” through a Brexit vote. The xenophobic genie is out of the bottle but what do you expect against a backdrop of 6 years of Tory cuts, of nasty scapegoating. If you remember back to that time we had a Halal butchers in Walsall targeted by a petrol bomb, an Asian man on a tram in Manchester face racist abuse and a German woman ringing LBC in tears- afraid of what the future holds. It follows a massive increase in racist and xenophobic incidents since the results.
Even in trendy liberal Brighton and Hove we have had increases in hate crimes; even here there was a massive spike in racist crimes after Brexit. On other hate crimes there are large increases in incidents. Religiously-motivated crimes and incidents leapt from 29 to 37; Homophobic crimes and incidents rose from 49 to 64, including several violent homophobic attacks in the city. We need to think about how we will oppose bigotry in all its forms.
We also need to think about how we oppose the government’s damaging attempts to stoke prejudice. Sadly only the Green Councillors on Brighton and Hove City Council attempted to change the report on how we would work with the new Prevent proposals. We believe the new Strategy as it has been rolled out is wholly counterproductive and fosters mistrust. It is telling that Simon Cole, the national police lead for Prevent, said government plans risk creating a “thought police” in Britain. We already know that children, Muslims, anti-racist, anti-fracking and anti-austerity campaigners have already been wrongly targeted under Prevent. But we are also extremely anxious about the Counter-extremism Bill.
The massive issue facing our council, likes councils the length of the country, now though, as we all know, is cuts. And although we must fight cuts and for every job, as austerity bites and inequality rises under the Tories, we cannot allow disillusionment in politics to give ground to racism and the far-right.
In the past year we have received several warnings- the far-right is on the rise and it’s not just in Austria where the fascist Norbert Hofer was only knocked out of an incredibly tight race through postal votes. In elections in Holland and in France over the last weeks, far-right leaders have been 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.
All across Europe whether it’s the Party for Freedom in Holland, which now has 20 out of the 150 seats in the Dutch Parliament; The Sweden Democrats, the Finns, Alternative for Germany, the Freedom Party, Our Slovakia, Jobbik, Golden Dawn, Northern League, Swiss people’s Party, National Front, Freedom Party, Danish People’s Party they are all doing well in elections.
UKIP’s rhetoric on immigrants and the EU sees them have a considerable platform with 3 Peers and 22 MEPs and boast 40,000 members. Their rhetoric has been joined by the increased public profile of the far-right demonstrating and Britain First.
Put very bluntly if we don’t oppose racists and the far-right they will oppose us. If you look for eg today at the threat from Britain First which is launching a “direct action campaign against Muslim elected officials” targeting “where they live, work, pray”. They have said “Britain First specialises in militant direct action and has tracked down and confronted numerous hate preachers and terrorists.” Regardless of whether they can or would follow through with this threat, only a fool would ignore the seriousness of the situation.
I fear that some of the population has forgotten the threat that fascists face and that is in part because the left has failed to teach them who these people are. I believe some of it is also because we have yet to compellingly combat the message of hate from the far-right with one of hope. In the 1930s the German Communist Party believed that ‘it would be their turn’ after the Nazis had failed in office and we cannot be so naïve as to believe that not opposing fascists wherever and however they appear gives Nazis the toe-hold of credibility that they so desperately seek. If we give them an inch they will take a mile.
The far-right are desperately trying to tap-in to people’s fears about the future of the EU and the Syrian refugee crisis. On the former their task has been made easier by people like Boris Johnson who every time he opens his mouth has something dangerous to say. Fascists are hoping that instead of turning their fire on the Members of Parliament who tell us that austerity is necessary, that instead they blame foreigners or BAME or LGBT people for council cuts, libraries and day centres closing and jobs being axed.
I agree with the organisers of this event that something ugly is happening in this country- and in the 20 years I have lived here I have seen a marked difference in the way in which racism- casual and deliberate, xenophobia and prejudice are common in a way they just simply weren’t when I first moved here. What is as bad as the prejudice itself is how it has been normalised.
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, Farage and May are 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.
Ignoring prejudice of any sort has never made it disappear. We do not have the luxury of walking away from fascists appearing in our city. We must be clear: we can not allow openly racist organisations to hold demonstrations in our city unchallenged.
We must oppose them all the way. We must also re-commence the historic and strong work of educating people who fascists are and why we must oppose them and why we must counter their message of hate with one of hope.
We must oppose those who seek to divide us. After all: an injury to any one of our city’s diverse communities is an injury to each and every one of us.
We also have to say it loudly and clearly: immigrants you are welcome here.
We will oppose the new fear gripping this country. We are not afraid. We must counter the message of hate with one of hope.
An injury to any one of our city’s diverse communities is an injury to each and every one of us. We have to be dauntless in our opposition to those who seek to divide us. We will stand together.