With the racist UKBA ‘go home’ campaign escalating in recent weeks, local community groups have been communicating a need to confront the scrutiny that people of colour, among them British citizens with full British passports have been facing and the threat of increasing controls and the impact this will have on our futures. Of course in these situations, it is obvious that we will look to an organisation that knows how to tackle this kind of oppression. Southall Black Sisters have been supporting women of colour since 1979 and whether they have challenged violence in the home or recurring racism from the UK home office, they have been radical in their approach and it is because of this they have achieved results and notoriety, for being black and for simply not shutting up when told to, even if at one time that might have been from the white majority. They got angry about the virginity tests women like my mother were probably subjected to in the early 80s and have fought for the rights of women with no recourse to public funds. They struggle over 30 years on.
I was proud to stand side by side with them today. As we walked to the demonstration point, I couldn’t at first see anyone because of the police vans; I felt the familiar knot in my stomach at their presence but from the other side there seemed only to be a few officers. One of the vans had mobile CCTV emblazoned on it. We heard them before we saw them, vuvuzelas making a god awful din and chanting “ukba, go away”; it sounded promising. I recognised a couple of faces from training that I’d had through my job as a domestic abuse worker; it’s always exciting to be with people you admire. A young woman played a dhol whilst another couple lead the chants with their megaphones. Apart from the few greying officers who seemed annoyed at having to stand there and watch us, it was a good demo. Many of the cars driving past honked their horns in support although there were a few fascists foaming at the mouth as they struggled to say all of the swears at once. That will never fail to shock me, that there are people out there who don’t know who you are, but the very presence or cheek of speaking up sends ripples of fear through them. It will always be bizarre.
The police, while few in numbers were no less irritating or evasive than usual. After a copper threatened possible arrest for swearing in the street, one righteous sister replied that her abusers would never be arrested for verbally attacking her in the street. He seemed to shrink back. I asked a black woman officer what she thought of the demo and she responded she literally hadn’t given it a thought, in the least convincing way possible. As I began to explain that when the fascists take over, she, just like the rest of us will be evicted, a white male officer asked if he could speak with her and then they both walked off in opposite directions, not making any secret of the fact that he’d ‘saved’ her.
We had a decent turn out but unsurprisingly, the people I have been appealing to the last few weeks weren’t there. I can’t say I am surprised, or disappointed, it is just what it is. We haven’t won, this is only the beginning. The anti-fascist network is growing and as one of our sisters reminded us, we have been here before, we can fight them again.