A fantastic show of strength and unity in Rotherham against the fascist Britain First last month showed how things are changing in the fight against racism as the refugee crisis intensifies.
More than 400 people joined the Rotherham Unite Against Fascism (UAF) protest under the slogan, “Enough is Enough — Muslim Lives Matter” following the shocking murder of Muslim man Mushin Ahmed as he walked to morning prayers in August.
A key element was the significant number of Asian people who supported the UAF protest, for the first time since the child sex exploitation scandal broke. Support from British Muslim Youth, a Rotherham-based organisation set up at the height of the Islamophobia over child sexual exploitation (CSE), was important.
The attack on the former engineering worker followed 18 incursions of racist and fascist organisations trying to exploit the CSE scandal which hit the town a year ago.
These demonstrations have coincided with a rise in racist incidents reported since the Jay Report into the abuse was published last year. The report identified 1,400 victims of CSE.
Racist attacks rise when Nazi groups march every few weeks. It gives confidence to racists to scapegoat and attack Muslims. At the same time the Tories have conducted a racist onslaught against migrants.
The slogan “Justice for the 1,400 — don’t let the racists divide us” has been the message from Rotherham UAF since the horrific scandal shocked and angered us all.
UAF had to take on the arguments about the need to mobilise when many, understandably so for the Asian community, did not want to directly oppose the racists and fascists. But it made a stand and built respect and support.
Anti-racists had to argue against the focus being on Asian men. CSE is a much bigger problem going right to the top, as the Whitehall sex scandal shows. The latest report from Rotherham Safeguarding, produced by Public Health Rotherham, reveals the majority of offenders in Rotherham are white.
Black and white unity is essential both to demand justice for the victims and to oppose the racist Ukip and fascist organisations that cynically exploit the issue to whip up anti-Muslim racism and division.
The same police force involved in the Rotherham cover up is also responsible for the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster and the attack on pickets in Orgreave during the 1984-85 miners’ strike.
The economic devastation of Rotherham, cuts in children’s services, social workers’ heavy workloads and appalling attitudes of those in power towards girls from poor backgrounds are some of the real causes. Young women’s voices were not allowed to be heard.
Fighting racism and austerity has to go hand in hand.
Throughout our work we have maintained a united front operation involving many newly radicalised young people, Palestine protesters, trade unionists, Labour Party members and community activists.
The demonstration marked a turning point against the racists in the town. The vast majority of people are sick of racists and fascists descending on the town. The sea change over refugees in September and mass support for Jeremy Corbyn have helped give confidence to anti-racists and anti-fascists.
Since the march British Muslim Youth have held a well-attended public meeting with the police which challenged and criticised the aggressive and provocative policing on the day.
Faced with an expression of community anger, the police were apologetic and accepted that there needs to be an investigation into the events.