Anti-racist marches ‘will carry on even if policing Bill passes’ as Cambridge plays it safe
The UN’s Anti-Racism Day on Saturday (March 20) was marked in Cambridge by a gathering on Parker’s Piece in which participants shone a spotlight on the shocking rise in racist behaviour in the UK, the US and internationally.
Organised by Cambridge Stand Up To Racism, the socially-distanced event – #WorldAgainstRacism, “fighting racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and facists” – was also matched by an online event linked in to the national campaign online.
Roger Green, convenor of Cambridge Stand Up To Racism, said: “There were three or four hundred people there, and what was so good was it was so socially distant and so organised. Even the police commented on how well it was organised. We wanted people to be safe. What was also remarkable was the number of people who spoke and the range of people who spoke, the support was very broad. It was very heartening and this was just one demonstration against racism there were 60 towns involved and in online event in which Diane Abbott spoke there were 3,000 people.
“Overall I feel it was a very successful day and it isn’t a day which must just pass because racism is with us all the time, look at the public figures of BAME origin who get horrible abuse online and footballers who get racism continuously, it’s a deep, deep problem. We are still facing two viruses. There is no vaccination against racism.”
Community consciousness of the importance of standing up to racism and recognising it in oneself is helped by the activism taking place over the last year. Cambridge has seen the largest anti racist demonstrations for years. The United Nations March 20 day of protest has a particular importance in linking with the world wide Black Lives Matter protests against racism triggered since the police broad-daylight killing of George Floyd.
In referring to George Floyd’s death as one of ‘awful events’ of 2020, MP for Cambridge Daniel Zeichner expressed his support for the UN’s annual Anti-Racism Day.
“I believe there are reasons to be hopeful with the new occupant of the White House,” he said, “but we continue to see horrifying scenes in our country and around the world. As a football fan I am particularly worried that we are seeing more online racist abuse against players. We have also seen the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on people from BAME backgrounds. There is never a better time to reaffirm the beliefs of tolerance, equality and anti-discrimination that Cambridge people hold dear and to stand together against racial prejudice and intolerant attitudes here and across the world.”
Affirming the collective spirit of Cambridge’s strong stand against racism, Sejad Mekic, principal imam of Cambridge Central Mosque, said that the Cambridge Muslim community is firmly supporting the international day of action against racism and would take the knee outside the mosque to mark the day.
“We, Muslims, believe that it is very important to stand alongside all those who condemn racial and every other kind of discrimination and tyranny. We, worshippers at the Cambridge Central Mosque, express our solidarity with the world on March the 20th and are fully committed to stand up to racism, Islamophobia, and other types of discrimination.”
Expressing solidarity with the UN’s International Day and Black Lives Matter, county councillor Jocelynne Scutt reflected on the importance of challenging racism and government crackdowns on demonstrations and demonstrators, whilst ensuring safety for everyone wishing to join in.
She said: “That government is taking a stand against demonstrations and demonstrators in a show of force in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is not surprising. As voices grow louder, injustices are exposed and daily oppressions cannot be ignored, racism and misogyny are identified as at their heart.
“Through using the airwaves and online platforms too, we can show those in power that abuse of power will be fought against, whatever measures they seek to prevent us from speaking.”
Roger Green, a retired teacher who proposed the National Union of Teachers supported the Anti Nazi League in the 1970s, also insisted on that the right to protest must continue.
“We feel there must be demonstrations and absolutely we will carry on doing demos even if the policing Bill passes,” he said.