Shabbir Lakha reports from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership campaign rally for BAME communities
Over a thousand people gathered in Highbury Fields on Monday evening for Jeremy Corbyn’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) rally. In the current climate of emboldened racism in British society, this north London rally addressing the concerns of BAME communities was crucial. The current Labour leader has been an ardent anti-racism campaigner for most of his life and this was reflected in the diversity of the groups attending his leadership campaign rally.
Speakers representing the Latin American, Tamil, Black, Jewish and Muslim communities all spoke about the many times that Jeremy Corbyn has spoken out and marched in solidarity with their communities when they faced oppression, whether that oppression has been in their countries of origin or here in the UK.
One of the issues brought up by various speakers was the racist police brutality that BAME communities are continuing to face. In the early hours of Monday morning, Dalian Atkinson was tasered to death by police in Telford. Following the recent killing of Mzee Mohammed in Liverpool, the black former footballer is the latest of over 1500 people killed in police custody or following police contact since 1990.
People at the rally chanted Black Lives Matter and Roger McKenzie, Deputy General Secretary of UNISON, said: “We need to find out what happened to Dalian. Too many of our people have been killed in police custody”.
But as well as police brutality and hate crimes, BAME communities suffer from structural racism that is largely ignored by the government. The Conservative government’s regime of austerity disproportionately affects these communities as well as the poorest and most vulnerable in society. Jeremy’s platform based on austerity being a political choice and not an economic necessity is therefore critical for BAME people in the UK.
Another type of institutional racism faced primarily by Muslims is the government’s Prevent programme which Owen Smith recently spoke in favour of. Samayya Afzal, of the National Union of Students NEC, described Smith’s support for the Prevent agenda at the last Labour leadership debate as “woefully inept”. She described Prevent as “a policy that has entrenched Islamophobia; that has criminalised the thoughts and beliefs of Muslims everywhere; that has rendered us a suspect community.”
After the rally, I spoke to a young woman who said she voted UKIP in the last election even though she doesn't agree with their anti-immigrant politics, simply because UKIP was talking about a change that neither Labour nor Conservatives were proposing last year. She was quite interested to learn about Jeremy's message and his vision for a new kind of politics.
I found that the overwhelming feeling at the rally about Jeremy’s campaign and platform was hope. Something that Owen Smith doesn’t seem to realise is that Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t repeat idealist platitudes; he has aptly demonstrated that his vision is a collaborative venture based on principles. He is someone that BAME communities can be confident in to use his position to oppose racism and ensure policy decisions are in their best interests.
Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.
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