Tomorrow Stand Up To Racism is staging a national demonstration in London to coincide with UN Anti-Racism Day, which commemorates the 1960 Sharpeville massacre when 69 peaceful demonstrators were shot by police in South Africa. Tomorrow’s demonstration takes place at a critical period in European history, when racism, xenophobia, and hatred towards foreigners and refugees are coursing through the continent.
This is why we have scenes like this:
And from the political mainstream, we have politicians who stigmatize and dehumanize migrants in a cynical attempt to distract attention from their own failings:
Meanwhile men, women, and children fleeing war and conflict drown virtually every week, and those who succeed in crossing Europe’s maritime borders are greeted by riot police, tear gas and truncheons:
Many years ago the Auschwitz survivor Rabbi Hugo Gryn wrote:
“Asylum issues are an index of our moral and spiritual civilisation. How you are with the one to whom you owe nothing, that is a grave test … and I hope and pray that it is a test we shall not fail. “
Increasingly, Europe is failing that test. We now have a continent in which governments are confiscating money and jewelry from men and women who have already lost their homes in order to make them pay for their upkeep. Of the 160,000 refugees who the European Union agreed to relocate last year, less than one thousand have actually been relocated. This week the European Union is attempting to complete a sordid and shameful deal that will result in the richest trading bloc in the world carrying out collective pushbacks of refugees into Turkey.
These exclusionary policies have contributed to what UNHCR has called a ‘crisis of Europe’s own making’. Failed and disastrous militarist adventures; selfish national self-interest; economic insecurity and inequality; the brutal con-trick of austerity – all these factors are transforming the utopian peace project of the European Union into a seedbed for fascism, in which migrants and refugees are becoming scapegoats and fair game for persecution.
Now, more than ever, European civil society must step up to oppose these sinister developments. Millions of people across the continent have been genuinely distressed and horrified by the events of the last year, and have not given into the fascist temptation. We need to win them over to a different kind of politics. We need to show that we are not the people the Camerons and the fascists think we are – or would like us to be.
We need to be in the streets to make our voices heard. Because if we can’t find out a way out of the increasingly dire trajectory that Europe is currently embarked on, then we are lost, and we will find ourselves engulfed by the poisonous shoots that are popping up across the continent.
That’s why I’m going to London tomorrow. I hope to see you there.
Details available here.