Protest on Kenmure Street, 13 May Protest on Kenmure Street, 13 May. Photo: Jonathon Shafi

The mobilisation of the community in Pollokshields which successfully stopped the deportation of two asylum seekers is a lesson in class solidarity and anti-racism in action, reports Mark Porciani

Two asylum seekers picked up for deportation on Thursday were released after hundreds of activists and neighbours came out on to the streets of Pollokshields and successfully stopped the Home Office van from taking them. They blocked off Kenmure Street for over eight hours and one protester crawled under the van to ensure it couldn’t move for the entire duration.

The timing – on Eid day – is truly shocking. One neighbour compared the heartless actions of the Home Secretary Priti Patel like “raiding a Christian’s home on Christmas Day.” This part of Glasgow has Scotland’s largest Muslim community. According to a brother on the radio “two doors from the raided home is a mosque.”

The treatment of the two asylum seekers, kept in the back of the van for all that time without concern for their welfare was outrageous. According to Frank, an activist from Living Rent who has campaigning on this matter since 2018:

“Hundreds of activists have gathered in Pollokshields to stop the inhuman practice of dawn raids. I was in attendance for over four hours. In that time the the two detained people hadn’t been offered any water, food or access to legal representation.”

The courage and defiance of the community was a remarkable sight. The crowds chanted “Let our friends and neighbours go” and didn’t back down even when riot police arrived on the scene. Their victory in stopping the deportation is a demonstration of the power of working class solidarity and collective action. It will be an example for communities across the country of what can be achieved when we come together and that when we fight we can beat back racist Tory attacks.

1/2 The community have forced the Home Office to retreat. Black, white, Asian stood together in an act of class solidarity that will he remembered. Refugees are welcome here – let this be a warning that we will resist these attacks. No justice – no peace.

— Jonathon Shafi (@Jonathon_Shafi) May 13, 2021

As well as being defeated, the Johnson and Patel’s actions have helped strengthen the case for an independent Scotland – one that can have the right to welcome refugees. One of the banners hanging from a flat overlooking the protest read “if this is TeamUK we reject it”.

Nicola Sturgeon, in whose constituency this happened, criticised the Home Office and called the Tory asylum and immigration policy “apalling”. Aamer Anwar, a human rights lawyer and anti-racist activist, said that Sturgeon and the Justice Secretary Hamza Yousaf had been part of the negotiations when he announced to the crowd that the Home Office had backed down and the two men were being released. 

The fight must continue

This is the second dawn raid in Glasgow in as many weeks and Priti Patel’s draconian ‘New Plan for Immigration’ is only going to make the hostile environment for refugees and asylum seekers worse.

Glasgow has a proud history of resistance and on Thursday they showed immigration enforcement that they’d picked a fight with people who were willing to put themselves in harm’s way to protect their community. This is what anti-racism looks like in action, and to stop these abhorrent scenes becoming the norm, activists everywhere should take Glasgow’s lead.

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