FRFI ROUNDUP / FRFI 194 Dec 2006 / Jan 2007

Free Palestine
Over the past two months we have seen the brutality against the people of the Middle East escalate. British imperialism has blood on its hands in Iraq and Palestine. There is an overwhelming need for solidarity with those who are fighting back under such barbaric conditions by supporting their just struggle and opposing the murder and lies of the Labour government.

In London and Newcastle, FRFI activists have continued regular Thursday evening pickets of the Zionist company Marks & Spencer. Victory to the Intifada (VTI) also supported the 4th International Week of Solidarity against the Apartheid Wall from 9-16 November by joining students at the London School of Economics (LSE) for a street event and holding a public meeting about the wall. The meeting included a showing of Hole in the Wall, a film produced by the Alternative Information Centre in Jerusalem.

On 11 November, the annual day of solidarity against Israel’s Apart–heid Wall, London VTI held a demonstration outside M&S’s flagship store. The demonstration featured a mock-up of the Apartheid Wall and street theatre to symbolise the brutality of the Israeli occupation. We reached hundreds of people and raised awareness of the situation in Palestine. On the same day there was a militant demonstration outside M&S on Market Street in Manchester. In the run-up to the event VTI activists met with the police. The inspector put forward a ridiculous suggestion. Apparently the Zionist ‘counter-demo’ had told him that they would leave our picket in peace if VTI a) stopped flying the flag of the Lebanese resistance group Hizbullah, and b) censored placards so that they wouldn’t ‘offend’ the fascists. Of course we refused, and we continue to exercise our right to express solidarity with the armed resistance of the Palestinian and Lebanese people.

It has not been just the police and Zionists but also the ‘left’ which has at–tacked our demonstrations. On 4 November Betty Hunter, Palestine Solidarity Campaign National Secretary, launched an unprincipled attack on the Marks & Spencer boycott campaign. Speaking at the end of an LSE dayschool she rounded on an FRFI speaker who had called on those attending the event to also support the Thursday evening pickets of Oxford Street M&S. Far from expressing support for this event, Hunter called on those present to boycott it, claiming that the picket is seen as an ‘anti-semitic action, because M&S is a Jewish company’. She also claimed that the picketers brought the police harassment and Zionist intimidation that they experience onto themselves for targeting M&S. At a time when dozens of Pales–tinians were being slaughtered in Beit Hanoun, Hunter’s purpose was to kill off any pro-Palestinian solidarity action taking place outside of PSC control. M&S is not a Jewish company and Hunter knows this. She is using the same false excuse as the Zionists themselves to attack the pickets. The PSC leadership is not only limiting pro-Palestinian activity and action but its sectarianism towards those serious about the necessary task of building an anti-imperialist struggle is directly helping the Zionist cause, not the Palestinians. They, along with the Zionists, must be confronted.

Support asylum seekers!
Asylum seekers in Britain are now organising in the face of racist attacks. FRFI has been actively supporting those who have taken a stand against op–pression, exploitation and forced deportations.

Tyneside Community Action for Refugees (TCAR) has continued to be extremely active. Large and lively pickets of North Shields Immigra–tion Reporting Centre took place on 13 and 26 October, whilst a militant demonstration in the centre of Newcastle on 18 November put forward the central demand for an end to the detention of children. Over 2,000 children were locked away in detention centres during 2005. On 13 November members of Durham University FRFI Society, working together with the Socialist Students’ Society and other activists, began a series of weekly actions on campus in solidarity with asylum seekers. One of these actions in–cluded supporting the case of a Ugandan asylum seeker Faridah (see page 16).

On 7 October in Glasgow, a militant FRFI contingent marched with asylum seekers from the Gorbals to the city centre to join up with hundreds of others protesting against the brutality of dawn raids and deportations that have been taking place in the city. FRFI members also attended protests against the visit of Labour’s immigration minister Liam Byrne to Glasgow, as asylum seekers fought back directly against police re–pression which left one African woman hospitalised and a Turkish man injured and arrested. Comrades also stood with asylum seekers in the Pollokshaws estate, south Glasgow, on early morning vigils held to watch out for the Immigration Service’s dawn-raid snatch-squad vans.

FRFI supporters in Manchester and Bolton have been increasing work in sup–port of asylum seekers in recent months. Through the North West Asylum Seekers Defence Group (NWASDG) we have been involved in helping to build campaigns within a broad front of support for all asylum seekers. Organising NWASDG protests outside Dallas Court Immigra–tion Reporting Centre in Salford we have met and helped to build campaigns in support of migrants from Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Rwanda, Kurdistan, Burma and Pakistan, including the case of Halima Aboubacar (see Letters p15).

Sectarian opposition has already occurred. The National Coali–tion of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (NCADC) contacted Adela, a Rwandan asylum seeker active with NWASDG as well as her own Mohoro Must Stay campaign, advising her that NCADC would not allow itself to be a listed supporter on Adela’s leaflet as long as NWASDG was on there. The reason given by NCADC’s Emma Ginn was that ‘NWASDG is very involved with a group called Fight Imperialism! Fight Racism! [sic]... some people (including me) find them offputting and it may narrow the appeal of your campaign. On the other hand, some may find them appealing. I don’t know’. NWASDG have written to Emma Ginn asking for a meeting to resolve the issues. Adela, meanwhile, has stated her intention to keep working with NWASDG.

In London FRFI activists had a contingent on the recent migrants’ rights march and have continued monthly pickets of Communica–tion House where asylum seekers have to sign on and risk detention.

Viva Cuba!
Rock around the Blockade (RATB) held several events to mark the International Days of Action for the Cuban 5 (12 September 6 October), called by the Cuban National Assembly to mark the eighth anniversary of the arrest of the Cuban 5 and publicise the injustice of their case. A Cuban film night raised £200 toward material aid to be taken to Cuba on the next RATB brigade in Spring 2007. A further £700 was raised when RATB supporters braved wind, rain and hailstorms on a 35-mile sponsored cycle ride in Essex. On 30 September the cause of the Cuban 5 was brought to Trafalgar Square with a lively RATB rally. The event was joined by supporters of the Turkish newspaper Atilim, which has suffered repression in recent weeks, with many of its key journalists arrested in a crackdown by the Turkish government. FRFI had joined Atilim supporters on their demonstration against Turkish Airlines earlier in the day and the two groups marched together to Trafalgar Square afterwards.

In Newcastle a ‘Free the 5’ stall and street meeting was held on 7 October, and RATB members participated in a film showing of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised organised by Hands Off Venezuela on 11 October. RATB members’ interventions on the example of Cuba, and its contribution in supporting Venezuela and progressive movements throughout Latin Ame–rica, were warmly received. On 21 October Rebel Music played host to a night of political hip hop, spoken word and rock, raising £150 towards the sound system being taken to Cuba by the 2007 brigade.

November saw FRFI members win a victory against the Labour-run Glasgow City Council. In the guise of ‘anti-sectarianism’, the council brought in by-laws this year banning the sale of political material outside football grounds in Scotland. These laws have been used to criminalise such symbols of anti-imperialism and resistance as the image of Che Guevara, the Palestinian flag and the Starry Plough, often displayed by the strongly Republican fans of Celtic FC. However, after several protests by FRFI outside Celtic Park in defiance of the by-laws, vendors have announced that police are no longer enforcing the laws, and tricolours with Che’s famous image are again freely available. Victoria!

FRFI 194 December 2006 / January 2007


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