FRFI Round up: End Labour’s war in Iraq and Afghanistan

The bloodshed and murder in Iraq have escalated to new heights of brutality in the last two months. The Bush administration is seeking to push another 22,000 troops into Iraq in a desperate gamble to strengthen the occupation and defeat the resistance. The British Labour government continues to participate in this barbarity. Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters have been on the streets throughout Britain calling for an end to Labour’s war and occupation.

On 3 December FRFI held a meeting in Newcastle to discuss the role of the 38,000 mercenaries who are part of the occupation of Iraq, many of them employed by British companies. On 8 January RCG activists attended a public meeting of Tyneside Stop the War Coalition and won the support of the meeting for a local demonstration alongside the national Stop the War demonstration on 24 February.

In Manchester FRFI members have been working closely with a relatively new group, Stop the Warmongers, which includes progressively minded people who oppose the anti-democratic tactics of the Stop the War coalition and its Labour-loving politics. As one Stop the Warmongers activist commented: ‘We are against the slogan “Stop the War” because we support the right of the Iraqi people to wage war against the invaders...we are against imperialist war and against the Labour warmongers.’ With this group we are working towards a demonstration in Manchester on 17 March to mark the 4th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Victory to the Palestinian people!
In London FRFI activists, working with the Victory to the Intifada group (VTI), have continued to picket Marks and Spencer’s flagship store on Oxford Street. M&S is Britain’s biggest corporate sponsor of Israel and we have been holding weekly protests against the company for the last six years. On Saturday 16 December, VTI held a demonstration on Oxford Street to highlight the plight of Palestinians living under siege in Bethlehem. A large photo exhibition on the pavement outside M&S illustrated the reality for Palestinians living under occupation.
Several lively Saturday afternoon pickets of Marks and Spencer were also held in Newcastle over the Christmas period. On 16 December, Manchester VTI held a successful demonstration outside Marks and Spencer on the busy Market Street. The police were absent so we took the opportunity to re-establish our presence outside M&S’s main doors, leafleting, petitioning and displaying flags and placards and calling for a boycott of the store, Israeli goods and for an end to all British support for Israel.

Defend asylum seekers!

Asylum seekers are continuing to face racism from the state on a daily basis, both from the reactionary media and from the Labour government. Families are being snatched from their houses and placed in detention centres from where they face being deported back to their countries of origin and possible imprisonment and torture.

On the first Tuesday of every month, comrades in London continue the demonstrations outside Communications House to highlight the Labour government’s racist treatment of asylum seekers in Britain. Communications House is an unmarked austere building which the public pass, unaware that it is a place of fear for asylum seekers who are forced to sign on and face the regular threat of arbitrary detention and/or deportation. Comrades are regularly joined by members of the asylum and migrant community, who show their courage and determination by coming out on the streets to highlight their cases and support each other. United we stand, divided we fall.

On 8 December members of the FRFI and Tyneside Community Action for Refugees (TCAR) supported a march through Newcastle organised by members of the Congolese community to expose the recent sham elections in DRCongo, which had been supported and legitimised by the ‘international community’ of imperialist plunderers. The following day, on 9 December, Congolese asylum seekers were amongst those taking part in a demonstration organised by TCAR in solidarity with the protests at Harmondsworth and the hunger strike at Yarl’s Wood.

During December and January the Immigration Service carried out a wave of dawn raids in Newcastle focusing on Kurdish asylum seekers from Turkey. TCAR responded with several emergency demonstrations outside Government Offices North East and with campaigns of protest at Turkish Airways and the Home Office, which helped to avert several attempted deportations. On 20 January TCAR held a militant demonstration through the centre of Newcastle to protest against deportations of asylum seekers and to launch a pledge of resistance to snatch squads. Over 100 protesters from diverse communities participated in the march, which included a rally at Grey’s Monument. Speakers included asylum seekers from Côte d’Ivoire, DRCongo, Ethiopia and Turkey and representatives from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! Stop the War Coalition and the Jesus Army. Protesters marched under the banner ‘Here to Stay, Here to Fight – Defend Asylum Rights!’ and demanded an end to dawn raids, the brutal policy of snatching failed asylum seekers from their homes in the early hours of the morning.

Hands off Ireland!
FRFI attended two demonstrations in Glasgow on the weekend of the 20-21 January to mark the 35th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when British paratroopers shot 26 civil rights protestors in Derry, killing 13 of them. FRFI comrades marched through the city centre alongside the several thousand working-class people who came out on the streets to commemorate the atrocity, braving freezing weather, hundreds of police and two hundred loyalists on a counter-picket. The march was addressed by relatives of one of the victims, and a delegate from the Basque country. Comrades in Glasgow also leafleted at Celtic Park with the Republican Prisoners’ Action Group, continuing to bring attention to the plight of the Republican POWs in Maghaberry gaol.

Viva Cuba!
On 23 December Rock around the Blockade held a demonstration on the north pavement of Trafalgar Square, London in solidarity with the Cuban 5, the five Cubans in gaol in the US for fighting terrorism and exposing the reactionary role of the Bush regime and their supporters in the Miami Mafia. This was part of an international week of action called by Cuba on the fifth anniversary of the trial of the five men. They have now served eight years in gaol and the campaign for their immediate release is growing.
In December three street stalls were held in central Manchester linking the issue of the 5 with Cuba’s struggle for socialism. Images of the Cuban 5 were displayed visibly alongside Cuban and Venezuelan flags, making our stalls the revolutionary alternative to Santa’s grotto.
Throughout December stalls were held in Newcastle to call for solidarity with socialist Cuba and to fundraise for the 2007 brigade. These activities culminated in a ‘Celebration of Resistance and Revolution’ on 31 December, held to celebrate the eve of the 48th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. Supporters gathered on the streets of central Newcastle with flags, banners and music, and were joined by an Ecuadorian folk band as well as hip hop and spoken word artists.

FRFI 195 February / March 2007


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