Support is growing for a “People’s Inquiry” into the Rotherham sex abuse scandal.
Barrister Michael Mansfield QC has already agreed to help such an investigation after the launch of a trade union campaign calling for “Justice for the 1,400 – don’t let the racists divide us”. The justice campaign has been welcomed after the horrific extent of the abuse — estimated by the Jay report to be 1,400 victims over 16 years and so far only five convictions — shocked and angered people.
Black and white unity is essential both to demand justice for the victims and to oppose the racist Ukip and fascists from the English Defence League and others cynically exploiting the scandal to try to whip up anti-Muslim racism.
Very few local people have supported the EDL and Britain First when they have marched. There has been a rise in abuse by racists, given confidence by the media using the tragedy to attack anti-racism — falsely blaming “political correctness” for stopping social workers and police pursuing Asian men.
Ukip’s poster “1400 reasons to vote UKIP” in the South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner election caused a storm of protest.
When 700 cases of abuse in Sheffield were revealed, the social worker who raised the alarm said she had been told by police that their priority was burglaries and car thefts. Cuts in children’s services, social workers’ heavy workloads and appalling attitudes of those in power towards women and girls from poor backgrounds are some of the real causes.
But the tide has been turned against the racists. The vast majority of people are sick and tired of marches by racists and fascists descending on a town they label “Muslim paedo town”.
When Britain First marched, the ranks of Rotherham Unite Against Fascism were swollen by local shoppers. That’s why it was important UAF made a stand against the EDL when they first marched in September.
A demonstration of 400 called by British Muslim Youth and supported by Rotherham UAF and trade unions a week later showed the potential for unity.
Rotherham Trades Union Council, supported by British Muslim Youth, organised a public meeting which heard from Zlakha Ahmed from the domestic abuse charity Apna Haq and Michael Lavalette from Social Work Action Network.
The meeting made it clear that while the focus is on Asian men it is a much bigger problem and goes right to the top, as the Whitehall sex scandal shows. Zlakha Ahmed said the idea that Muslim men target white girls had to be challenged: “Young women’s voices were ignored. If a man is going to be abusive, he will abuse whoever is available.”