Children of the Windrush Rally Support in Birmingham

Crowds gathered in Birmingham City Centre in protest of the treatment of those known as the ‘Windrush generation’.

Campaign group ‘Children of the Windrush Movement’ organised the rally in High Street on Saturday with guest speakers such as Birmingham City University Professor Dr. Kehinde Andrews, anti-racism campaigner Maxie Hayles and community activist Desmond Jaddoo.

People waved Jamaican flags and placards that read: ‘Windrush generation here to stay’.

Rev. Desmond Jaddoo led prayers calling on people to ‘rejoice for the contributions of our elders’ while remembering those who had been ‘stripped of their jobs’ and whose ‘families had been ripped apart’.

Mr Jaddoo said: “Nobody wants to talk about our contribution. There are those who want to belittle our contributions to this country. We are here today to say enough is enough.

“Unless we unite and start looking out for one another, who’s going to look out for us. We have seen for many years that people are not looking out for us. Until we get proper black representation we will never get the justice we deserve.”

The Home Office has recently come under fire after it was revealed that Commonwealth citizens who have lived in the UK for the last 50 years have been detained, made homeless, sacked or denied health care because they have struggled to prove they are British.

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The Prime Minister earlier this week issued a statement that she was “genuinely sorry” for the pain caused to victims while Home Secretary, Amber Rudd apologised for the ‘appalling actions of her own department’.

Dr. Kehinde Andrews, founder of the Organisation of Black Unity (OBU) and co-chair of the Black Studies Association, said: “We need to send a message to Theresa May, a message of amnesty and reparation. There are plenty of people that can’t come back to this country because of what this government has done.

“When we were invited here, we were invited not as citizens but as subjects. They only let us in because they were desperate. The country was gone. It was run-down. They had no people to build it. So, they asked our parents and grandparents to come from the colony and to rebuild the NHS, the housing, the drains – the whole country.

“For the last 50 years they’ve been trying to get rid of us and this is just the latest example of that.”

He added: “I was born and raised in Birmingham and I’m still a subject – subject to police brutality, subject to poverty, subject to racial discrimination but it’s not going anywhere.”

“Racism is as British as a cup of tea. It is what this country is built on.”

Maxi Hayles, said: “We must put pressure on this government. Who is next to be deported and denied rights? Are they going to turn on my daughter who was born in Worcester? Are they going to turn on my son who was born in Birmingham?”

“This government has endeavoured to murder and humiliate our people. We cannot allow this atrocity to continue.”

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Talk of An Anti-War Government in Birmingham

People from all over the country packed into a meeting in Birmingham to hear ‘Why We Need an Anti-War Government’.

Stop the War Coalition (StWC) hosted the event, which took place at The Priory Rooms in Bull Street on Thursday, to mark 15 years since what was the largest demonstration in British history.

Guest speakers on the night included Stop the War Patron Salma Yaqoob, Moazzam Begg, Director for CAGE, an organisation aiming to empower those affected by the War on Terror, Stop the War Officer John Rees and rapper and activist Lowkey.

The meeting was chaired by anti-racism campaigner Maz Saleem and focused around Jeremy Corbyn, the former chair of Stop the War Coalition, with each speaker highlighting the significance of his 2017 election campaign that saw him win 40 per cent of the votes.

John Rees said: “For the first time in British history, there is a possibility of seeing a prime minister in this country who not only was chair for the Stop the War Coalition, vice chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament but one of the most longstanding and most principled opponents of imperialism and advocates of international solidarity that the Labour party has ever produced.”

Salma, previously a councillor for the Respect Party, spoke of people in the election being given ‘a real choice of anti-war government’ and a ‘vision of welfare, not warfare’.

This year, meetings have been held nationwide in places such as Newcastle, Bristol and Manchester.

The meeting in Birmingham took place to remember February 15, 2003 when two million people took to the streets of London in protest over the Iraq War.

The largest demonstration in British history was jointly organised by StWC, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Muslim Association of Britain.

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Recalling the march, Salma said: “People marched in solidarity and humanity for people who did not share their religion, ethnicity or nationality and to simply say ‘we are with you’ and our government is not speaking for us.

“As I walked and marched with pensioners, some of them couldn’t even afford to heat their own homes and yet made a choice between food and warmth.

“It gave me hope and I know it gave hope to millions of people around the globe.”

She also spoke of Birmingham’s role in helping to mobilise people during the London demonstration.

“It was Birmingham that sent off 200 coaches to London and we had huge contingents,” she added.

Lowkey, a musician who combines intellectual clarity with passion and integrity, said: “When the march took place and around two million people mobilised in London, you had a global mobilisation of around 30 million people. That is unprecedented in human history.

“Anti-war organising strikes fear into the hearts of those in the highest echelons.”

He added: “Britain is currently involved in 7 covert wars, though it would be hard to discern these facts from mainstream media. Its army is the fifth strongest in the world and it is the second biggest arms manufacturer.

“You have £3.8 billion of British made weapons being given to the Saudi government. They now have more British made fighter jets than the British Army have.

“Over the last three and a half years, the UK has dropped 3,400 bombs on Iraq and Syria at the cost of £133m.

That’s £133m not being used in the NHS and not being used to house people.”

Stop the War Coalition, which was founded in 2001 in the wake of 9/11 attacks, seeks to campaign against unjust wars.

Moazzam Begg, who during the 2003 march was held at Camp Echo in Guantanamo Bay, said: “You may disagree with Jeremy Corbyn on some issues but, one thing I know, he stood with us at a time when very few would, when people were terrified of siding with those accused of terrorism held in Guantanamo Bay.”

He added: “He stood many times with me on a platform campaigning for Shaker Aamer, who was held for 14 years without charge or trial in Guantanamo, tortured, coming back to the UK to meet children, some of whom he had never seen in his life.

“This was a 40-year-old living in Battersea in London.

“This wasn’t a story from Guatemala and somewhere in Africa. This was a story from Britain and nobody had the guts at that level to do anything. It wasn’t popular to do so, but he stood firm.”

John Rees concluded the meeting by addressing Donald Trump’s forthcoming visit to the UK, saying: “Donald Trump is going to come and when he comes, he has got to be met with the most enormous demonstration.

“In February 2003, we had the biggest demonstration in Britain’s political history, but the record has stood for too long.

“I want to be able to say I was part of the second largest demonstration in British political history. That’s what we need when Donald Trump lands on our shores.”

 

 

 

 

The Nigger in the Woodpile

To think that politics had moved on from the days of Enoch Powell and his ‘Rivers of Blood’ address in 1968 would be to, at least on the surface, appear oblivious to the Conservative party and their long history of racist outbursts. In 2008, David Cameron faced surmounting pressure to suspend Lord Dixon-Smith, a Tory peer who described the government housing legislation at the time as “the nigger in the woodpile”. The fact that he was the Tory minister for communities and local government only brought with it more condemnation of his remarks. Now we fast-forward nine years and we are again made privy to how at ease members of the government are with rehearsing this racist rhetoric as Anne Marie Morris, MP for Newton Abbot in addressing concerns over whether the inability to reach a finalised trade agreement with the EU spelled out the UK’s downfall, stated “Now I’m sure there will be many people who’ll challenge that, but my response and my request is look at the detail, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Now we get to the real nigger in the woodpile which is, in two years, what if there is no deal?”

Miss Morris has since been suspended, amounting to nothing more than a poor attempt at damage control and has profusely apologised. This is merely a last ditch attempt to close the proverbial stable door after the horse has bolted. Or should we see her statement instead as a ‘gift horse’ – a chance to address Britain’s sordid involvement with the Atlantic slave trade, imperialism and colonialism? The response from the press and politicians alike, all in a bewildered state of shock at even a hint that the Tory party might house racist politicians is ironic considering the badly run EU referendum campaign which hinged itself on immigration as the remedy to Britain’s social ills as well as Adolf Hitler suddenly trending on the tongues of politicians like Boris Johnson, as if Hitler is a great reference point for how to run a campaign without racist undertones.

The term “nigger in the woodpile” as with most divisive terms that carry negative connotations, over time lend themselves to revision and as such, has come to describe something that is concealed and hidden from plain sight, and yet this by definition attempts to gloss over and conceal its true meaning. As unintentional as Morris suggests her remarks were, there were other colloquialisms that would have undoubtedly driven home her message while avoiding unnecessary controversy. The term refers to the smuggling and concealment of runaway slaves via the Underground Railroad throughout the 1800s at the height of slavery. The desperate struggle for freedom from the bondage imposed by slave-owners resulted in slaves hiding in stacks of pulpwood on board carriages as their only viable escape route.

Will the government impose the same standard in rooting out hate speech when it exists within the confines of their own party. With so much of the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy casting an overshadow on the wide chasm that exists between the ruling elite and ethnic minorities, it is difficult to imagine the mere suspension of Anne Marie Morris as an adequate bridge to build trust when our history and culture becomes a platform for political puns and public ridicule.

Misreading the Riot Act

The summer of 2011 will forever be branded in my mind, albeit for entirely the wrong reason. It is August 4th to be exact and an air of dissension lingers on the streets of London. A 29-year-old man from Tottenham will be shot dead in a concerted effort by armed police in an undergoing Trident operation to arrest him. His name is Mark Duggan. The truth surrounding his death is soon to become entangled in an intricately spun web of false information and police cover-ups. In the aftermath that ensues, the police swiftly assume their self-appointed position of judge and jury as they seemingly ‘lead the witness’ in defaming Duggan’s character whilst providing a rationale for their actions. The media will alert our attention to the alleged handgun in his possession and the supposed exchange of gunfire between the parties involved. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) will later issue a retraction stating, “It seems possible that we may have verbally led journalists to believe that shots were exchanged”. The handgun in question would later be discovered unused, approximately four and a half metres from his body. Also placed firmly at the feet of the IPCC was the allegation that the family had not been notified of his death. As friends and family of the deceased picked up the baton and marched on the local police station in a spirit of protest demanding answers, the sparks triggered by the death of Mark Duggan ushered in a wildfire which spread nationwide as cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, just to name a few joined in the chorus, seemingly singing in unison, the political anthem of social inequality and a fight to be heard. However, as the days of rioting continued, I became less convinced that the rest of the country were singing in key or even from the same hymn sheet at all.

As the world’s media, the police, politicians and experts within the field of social science alike gathered what little intelligence they had in a desperate attempt to stay abreast of the events occurring before their eyes, the reason that undergirded the rioting were as vast in number as the rioters that littered the cities’ streets. It seemed that the tragic death of Mark Duggan served as a catalyst, tacking down another well placed nail in the coffin for the already strained relationship between the police and those living within the black community. For those old enough to remember, this was the proverbial ‘trip down memory lane’ they would rather have avoided, as they were forced to recall similar scenes in the Brixton uprising of 1981. However, if this was a final stand against the abuses of power and the racially motivated mistreatment of black people at the hands of the police, the correlation between the fight for social justice and the countless shops that were looted was lost on me.

A collaborative effort from both the Guardian newspaper and The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) resulted in ‘Reading the Riots’, a 40-page qualitative analysis of the 2011 riots, where it is suggested that “many rioters conceded their involvement in looting was simply down to opportunism, saying that a perceived suspension of normal rules presented them with an opportunity to acquire goods and luxury items they could not ordinarily afford. They often described the riots as a chance to obtain free stuff”. Surely this presents somewhat of an antithesis over and against the intended purposes of the friends and relatives of Mark Duggan that rallied outside the local Tottenham police station seeking answers. Even if we give credence to the claim that all these nightly free-for-all ‘shopping sprees’ and the senseless anarchic acts of criminality serve as a way of making their voice heard, far from being hailed as freedom fighters for the plight of those who daily fall prey to the ills imposed by racial stereotyping and victimization, they now allow the authorities in question to forge for them, new identities – those of ‘looter’, ‘arsonist’ and ‘criminal’. If indeed the police were the intended target when venting their frustrations, then it can be argued that the rioters hit wide off the mark, forcing local business owners and shopkeepers to bear the brunt as homes and businesses were reduced to rubble and entire shops were left empty after being pilfered for their contents.

Five years on, I tend to think less about understanding the reasons behind the looting and place a more focused lens on the question of whether they are evident signs of reparations made between the police and the community at large. If the looting were simply a classic case of opportunism, then it needed no prompting to raise its ugly head, but instead searched for, dare I say it, the opportune moment. The inquest into the death of Mark Duggan, however has left us with more probing questions than it initially sought to answer. The returned verdict of ‘lawful killing’ only serves to perpetuate a system of policing with little to no accountability to those it promises to serve and protect. At the heart of the issue seems to be that despite not possessing a firearm at the time of his shooting, officers still believe Duggan posed an ‘imminent threat’. What constitutes the basis for such a belief? Answering this may help to steer the conversation in the right direction and uncover some of the ingrained prejudices that influence not only the decision process of the officers involved, but the Metropolitan Police as an institution.