Rotherham refugees welcome protest Rotherham refugees welcome protest. Photo: John Westmoreland

Counterfire members report on the impressive mobilisations for solidarity with refugees and against the fascists in Rotherham and Liverpool

Rotherham – John Westmoreland

The Holiday Inn Express stands between an arterial road, Manvers Way, and a supermarket car park. The isolated multi-storey building gives the lie to claims by the racist right that the asylum seekers housed in the hotel cause anti-social behaviour.

After the fascist riot in Knowsley a week ago, there was a widespread anti-fascist mobilisation to confront a demonstration called by Patriotic Alternative and Yorkshire Rose in Rotherham on Saturday. Trades councils and trade-union branches, alongside Stand Up To Racism appealed to supporters across south Yorkshire and the Midlands.

Over four hundred people answered the call, and the small number of fascists was reduced to pitiful provocations. Some prominent trade unionists were present from Aslef and the NEU. Many of the protesters were young and vociferous, drowning the fascist obscenities with slogans espousing human solidarity. “Refugees are welcome here,” echoed down Manvers Way.

The banners on the demo showed a genuine labour movement response, and the organisers need commending for the turnout. The fascists themselves had little local support, and their extreme hatred must have turned off some that hold anti-immigrant views. However, it is a mistake to think that can’t change.

Patriotic Alternative is a growing fascist organisation committed to violence. The current Labour leadership is in danger of turning former Labour voters to the right through its willingness to sell out any commitment to social justice beyond electoral sloganeering. Extreme poverty doesn’t necessarily breed solidarity. It might be wrong, but workers who perceive that asylum seekers are getting better treatment can start to be impressed with the anti-immigrant message.

The fight against racism and fascism cannot be divorced from the fight against poverty and war. The left has to work together in every town and city to dominate the discussion about the problems working-class communities face.

Fascists are the rats that dwell in the sewers of capitalism, feasting on prejudice and hate and infecting those with whom they come into contact. We need to destroy the rats of course. But if we don’t blow up the sewers, the rats will start to breed again.

Photo: John Westmoreland

Liverpool – Tayo Aluko

When it was announced that a rally was to be organised outside St. George’s Hall, Liverpool last Saturday in response to the recent riot outside the Suites Hotel, Knowsley, it was rumoured that some right-wingers planned to make an appearance and cause trouble. Sure enough, before the rally started, a dozen or more people, referred to by some locals as ‘scum’, had appeared outside Lime Street station, surrounded by a ring of police.

Across the road, a large crowd listened to several rousing speeches, to poetry and song, by people from within Merseyside and far beyond; locally born and more recent immigrant backgrounds; asylum seekers and refugees, trade unionists, and local and national activists. “Say it loud, say it clear: refugees are welcome here!” was just one of the many slogans chanted.

And when the proceedings were closed by Jeremy Corbyn, he finished his own rousing speech, echoing the sentiments of all those who had gone before him calling for peace, love, brotherhood and justice, with Shelley’s famous words: ‘We are many, they are few.’ Knowing the man, he wasn’t directing the comments at the fascists penned in outside Lime Street, but they certainly got the message.

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