We need working class solidarity in support of the refugees - John Westmoreland reports on building the convoy in Doncaster
In Doncaster we recently took a coach to the March for Health, Homes, Jobs and Education. On our return we began organising the Doncaster People’s March, in support of the junior doctors, and set to work on the Convoy to Calais on 18 June.
The Convoy aims to show massive solidarity with the refugees in the Calais camps. It is being organised by Stand up to Racism, The People’s Assembly, Stop the War Coalition, a number of major trade unions and other movements.
We are treating the Convoy as a practical issue in the first instance and so we want to tap into the experience of groups and individuals who have done work around refugees and Calais.
Network of supporters
Sheena Connor, a local member of Unite and a supporter of the People’s Assembly, has been to refugee camps in Dunkirk and Calais, and helped organise a convoy of medical supplies with the group Care for Calais.
Our convoy was built up using a network of supporters. We visited pharmacies all over Doncaster getting things like Paracetamol and Calpol, skin creams and soap.
Mary Black, who has played an important role in organising convoys to Calais, had a clear idea of what was essential.
We were given plastic packing cases, and got access to storage facilities – all from goodwill in the community. We also took cash so that the refugees could get some shopping from local supermarkets.
In Doncaster the key has been using our ever-widening People’s Assembly network to create a working group for the Convoy. We have been able to tap into the goodwill and enthusiasm of a number of people before bringing together the groups who initiated the Convoy.
We have brought in contacts from the CWU and Unite to get the ball rolling and then looked at community-based organisations. For example, an excellent supporter of the Convoy is the Reverend Tom McCready who coordinates the project ‘Muslim-Christian Friendship’, who has suggested that we use the Convoy to launch Refugee Week which begins on 20 June.
John is a history teacher and UCU rep. He is an active member of the People's Assembly and writes regularly for Counterfire.