Out on the streets fighting imperialism and racism

Members and supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! have been extremely active throughout October and November, campaigning against the brutal occupation of Iraq, against racist deportations and in support of the Palestinian struggle for national liberation, particularly during the international week of action against Israel’s apartheid wall.

With Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! student societies now established around the country, our presence on campuses has been consistent and lively. In London, the North East, North West and Scotland we mobilised bus loads of students to attend the founding conference of the Student Anti-Imperialist Network (SAIN –see page 3 for details). That work has forged groups of committed student activists.

FRFI students at Strathclyde University have teamed up with other left groups and progressives on campus to campaign against the university’s investment in the arms trade. In Glasgow students have held stalls opposing the war in Iraq and supporting Palestine.

In London, as well as regular stalls on campus opposing the occupation of Iraq, we held two street theatre events during the week of protest against

Israel’s apartheid wall, blocking first LSE, then SOAS campuses with a symbolic wall. Dressed as Israeli soldiers we demanded ID from students before they could pass. During this theatre, described as ‘controversial’ in the student press, we stood up to harassment from the university establishment, student union officials and Zionist students. Future street theatre will focus on illegal detention and torture of US and British detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and other secret detention centres. Contact us to get your costume!

In Newcastle, FRFI also participated in lively street theatre, with members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). On Saturday 12 November, we visited M&S and high street shops which stock Caterpillar products, a company which makes the bulldozers Israel uses to flatten Palestinian homes. With a large fabric ‘apartheid wall’, we set up mock Israeli checkpoints at the entrances. Since then there have been lively pickets of Marks and Spencer (M&S) stores in Newcastle and Durham, facing up to police harassment and abuse by a Christian Zionist.

In Manchester where the boycott M&S pickets began over five years ago, the Victory to the Intifada group run by FRFI organised a picket of M&S for the week of action. Zionists mobilised through the Jewish Telegraph, hurled racist abuse and insults at us. However, our picket was a large, defiant, militant and multicoloured demo, and members of the public joined us.

The final court hearing for the M&S 9, arrested during the police ban on the Manchester picket, was heard in late October. Five of the nine were forced to plead guilty to the charges under the Public Order Act, incurring costs and fines totalling £1,350. Please send donations to Defend the M&S Picket Campaign, PO Box 20, Bridge 5 Mill, 22A Beswick Street, Manchester M4 7HR.

The weekly boycott M&S pickets in London’s Oxford Street have employed street theatre, poetry, singing and drumming in keeping our solidarity vocal and our feet warm. The Zionist counter demonstration continues without impact. In Argyle Street, Glasgow, pickets of M&S continue to receive a positive response from local people. On Saturday 26 October, FRFI was joined by the PSC and the Glasgow Palestine Human Rights Campaign.

Across the country we have held regular stalls opposing the illegal occupation of Iraq. In Brixton, London, FRFI activists opposing the war faced harassment from the council and police. We united with other left groups, successfully challenging the council officials by citing the Human Rights Act and have continued undeterred (see letter). On 15 October in Glasgow centre, FRFI highlighted the ongoing hunger strike in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
As the war in Iraq generates a crisis for British imperialism, so the racist attacks on immigrants in Britain intensifies. FRFI is actively supporting anti-deportation campaigns around the country.

In Glasgow FRFI has joined a campaign against the Brand Street Immigration Centre, campaigning with asylum seekers, particularly Congolese and eastern Europeans, against forced deportations. We joined 600 marchers on 22 October opposing the deportation of the Buvaj family to Albania.

On 1 October northwest FRFI joined over 300 people in Bolton demonstrating against the deportation of the Sukola family and opposing Section 9 of the Immigration Act which denies benefits from ‘failed’ asylum seekers. On 19 November we supported the 300-strong ‘Schools Against Deportations’ demonstration in Manchester with the Defend Eucharia and Timeyi Campaign.

In Newcastle, FRFI are working with the SWP/Respect-organised campaign to defend a Nigerian student activist, Courage. We are involved in a local network to defend asylum seekers. The first public meeting on 21 November was a success. The asylum seekers participating demanded ‘solidarity not sympathy’. Unfortunately, within this network, FRFI has had to battle against the censorship of literature, ours and other people’s.

In London, FRFI joined a march on 19 November against the deportation of children. We also took part in the annual demonstration against deaths in custody called by the United Friends and Family Campaign.
Please join us in this important work against war, racism and imperialism!

FRFI 188 December 2005 / January 2006


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