Stand Up To Racism Conference
Germany, Austria, Nigeria and the US, came together in a 2,000-strong online Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) conference in October. The event featured a series of forums on how to build on the momentum of the recent protests. Three priorities were identified. The first focused on Covid-19. A disproportionate number of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities have fallen critically ill or have died in the pandemic. The underlying reasons for this are the social, economic and health inequalities that are an inevitable feature of capitalism.
A public inquiry on the pandemic will be held sometime in the future, so it is important that what emerges is not a whitewash. Activists committed themselves to campaigning for an independent investigation modelled on the landmark 1998 Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. A second concern was the issue of decolonisation. The sight of white protesters dragging down a statue of slaveholder Edward Colston in Bristol was a defining image of the BLM protests in Britain.
That act was cited by Rev Al Sharpton at the funeral of George Floyd. This movement has revived long-term demands for a more inclusive education system. Stop and search A key focus was on the use of stop and search by the police, in particular those under section 60 of the Criminal Justice Act. This has been a major bone of contention between the police and black communities. Refugee solidarity has always been a central feature of SUTR’s work with a commitment to support Care4Calais winter appeal. In addition, many groups are planning activities for Islamophobia Awareness month and pledged to organise events marking Holocaust Memorial Day in January 2021.
A highlight of the plenary sessions was the contributions from Greek activist Petros Constantinou and lawyer Thanasis Kampagiannis who described how the united front strategy put an end to Golden Dawn. Contributors from the US spoke about the challenges and opportunities facing them in Trump’s America.
They were joined by leading figures in Britain, such as SUTR president Diane Abbott MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, newly elected Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy, rapper Lowkey, former footballer Shaka Hislop, the teachers’ union leader Kevin Courtney and Roger Mackenzie from the Unison union. The demonstration SUTR planned for 21 March this year was an early casualty of the pandemic. It would’ve been part of an international day of solidarity called to mark United Nations Anti-Racism Day. The aim has been to rally all those who recognise that racism remains a deeply entrenched, deadly and growing toxin. A continuing pandemic notwithstanding, the conference ended with a pledge to mobilise the maximum possible numbers for 20 March next year.