Fighting racism and imperialism!

Free Palestine!
Over the summer months, as Israel invaded Lebanon, the weekly Victory to the Intifada (VTI) emonstrations against the Zionist Marks and Spencer (M&S) flagship store in London have grown as people responded to the international situation and took a public stand. The opposition from Zionists flying the Union Jack, the Stars and Stripes and the Israeli flag still exists, but with an open microphone and a busy shopping street, the message Free Palestine! Hands off Lebanon! was heard loud and clear. London VTI had loud and militant contingents on the marches and held two large public meetings, with discussion of the current situation facing the Palestinians and those in the Middle East.

On 9 September we attended the 12th Anniversary celebration of the Turkish/Kurdish MLKP where our solidarity message was warmly received.

On 29 July on Market Street, Manchester FRFI members and supporters held a successful protest against M&S, with well over 150 people from different communities taking part. One of our members was assaulted by the Zionist opposition that came along in a vain attempt to intimidate the demonstrators. The police did little to stop the provocation and the week after, when we held another picket, the police banned us from using the Hizbullah flag – which we found out later to be legal on our part. The 5 August protest was again very well attended, despite many going down to London for the national demonstration there. The Zionist ‘counter-demo’ didn’t turn up so we were unopposed.

In the following weeks we held more M&S pickets in Manchester, during which we continued to uphold our right to fly the flags of the legitimate resistance movements in the Middle East. But opposition came, this time from the ‘left’, when Stop the War Coalition leaders at a public meeting on 21 August attacked the pickets. Mark Krantz of the Stop the War Coalition (STWC) said that it was fine to shop in M&S, and Rob Owen, general secretary of Manchester Students Union, ranted at what he called ‘sectarian’ protests ‘against individual stores.’ Shameful when their Boycott Israeli Goods campaign hasn’t been active in Manchester for a long time. Despite these attacks the protests kept a sizeable number of people on the streets, including a Hizbullah victory celebration organised by VTI in Piccadilly Gardens, which included ‘conquering’ the Queen Victoria statue with anti-imperialist flags!

In Newcastle, comrades are increasing their focus on the weekly pickets of M&S and as a result the pickets have received an increase in support from local people. Police harassment of VTI increased during the Israeli offensive. On Wednesday 9 August three supporters of the Victory to the Intifada campaign were arrested whilst doing a stall in the city centre in support of the Palestinian and Lebanese people. During this police harassment a large crowd gathered most of whom were very supportive of the VTI members and vocally opposed the police attack on their democratic rights. All those arrested where released without charge.

In the run-up to the Labour Party conference demonstration in Manchester on 23 September, FRFI activists attended several local public meetings organised by the STWC. In response to our challenge that it is necessary to go beyond the demand that it is ‘Time [for Tony Blair] to Go’ and to fight for a break from the whole of the Labour Party, the Socialist Worker speaker on the platform at one meeting made their position clear: ‘I would be proud to march alongside members of the Labour Party, and indeed those of the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives’.

In Scotland comrades from the RCG had a militant and lively contingent on the 8,000-strong march through Edinburgh in August in defence of the Palestinian and Lebanese people. Street stalls in Glasgow were held to highlight the role of British imperialism in the Middle East and we continued to stand on the streets in defence of Lebanon despite the ‘ceasefire’.

Support asylum seekers!
London FRFI activists have continued the monthly pickets of Communications House, exposing this place of fear for asylum seekers who have to sign on and risk detention. We have also been involved in launching the Kanyama Must Stay campaign (see p16). The demonstrations at Communications House will change from Mondays and will now be on the first Tuesday of every month from 1-2pm.

The North West Asylum Seekers Defence Group (NWASDG), initiated by FRFI, has been gathering momentum. We have begun to work with Halima, a Cameroonian refugee facing deportation to that war-torn African country. With her 5-month-old son Bailey Jr, she is facing deportation and has to walk miles from Blackley to Salford every day to report. As kidnappings continue at Dallas Court asylum reporting centre in Salford, so our protests outside it go on. On 15 September we held a lively demo with the support of Women Asylum Seekers Together, the Samina Altaf Campaign, and others. The place reverberated to the sounds of ‘Deportation is a crime! Lock up Labour!’ We now need to step up support for asylum seekers and get their communities on board. For more info on NWASDG contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.manchesterfrfi.co.uk/immigrant.html.

In Newcastle FRFI has continued working in Tyneside Community Action For Refugees (TCAR) which has organised a number of regular public meetings. Since the successful ‘Know your rights’ meetings two new local communities have decided to set up TCAR committees. On 19 August a rally was held at Newcastle monument and despite attempted disruption from other groups on the left, the rally was large and successful. Another large rally and march were held on 12 September against the National Asylum Support Services. This received coverage from a number of local radio and television stations with members of FRFI and TCAR giving interviews. The bi-weekly pickets of the North Shields Immigration Reporting Service also continue.

In August, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! held a well-attended meeting with asylum seekers in Pollokshaws, Glasgow discussing imperialism, racism and immigration. Speakers from the RCG in Scotland and Tyneside Community Action for Refugees gave talks on the links between racism and the capitalist system and a lively discussion ensued with asylum seekers about how to build a movement capable of resisting both. Street events in Glasgow city centre in defence of asylum seekers, drawing support from working class people, also continue.

Viva Cuba!

Rock around the Blockade has been busy mobilising for the Worldwide Days of Action in support of the Cuban 5 and demanding their immediate release. In London the events kicked off with a Cuban film night on 12 September, followed by street stalls on 16 September, a rally on 30 September, a sponsored bike ride on 1 October and a public meeting on 4 October.

Street events and meetings in Glasgow and Manchester are also in place as part of the week of action in support of the Cuban 5. On 27 August RCG supporters from Manchester braved turbulent weather conditions for a 10-mile sponsored walk up Kinder Scout in the Peak District, the scene of the 1927 mass trespass by communists which eventually resulted in the lands being made a public right of way. Retracing their steps, and with Cuban and communist flags in hand, we raised nearly £300 for Rock around the Blockade towards the sound system for the youth of Guantanamo. We are also deciding how we can mark the 80th anniversary of the trespass in spring 2007.

In Scotland two activists from Rock around the Blockade raised several hundred pounds for Cuba by completing a 50-mile cycle from Glasgow to Edinburgh.

FRFI 193 October / November 2006

 

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