By Fiona Edwards, Student Broad Left
Over 1,500 anti-racist campaigners gathered at the Stand Up To Racism National Conference on Saturday to discuss, debate and organise a new movement to confront the Tories’ enormous racist offensive.
The crowds that gathered to attend the event were very diverse, with large numbers of young people and students uniting alongside a broad range of anti-racist organisations as well as progressive politicians, trade unionists and campaigners.
The Conference could not have happened at a more critical moment in British politics, taking place just days after one of the most racist Tory Party Conferences in generations. The new Prime Minister Theresa May has clearly set out her stall: ramping up racism, bigotry and seeking to blame every problem in British society whether it’s the lack of affordable housing or the crisis facing the NHS on immigrants, foreigners, Muslims and Black communities. With living standards falling as a result of austerity and the Tories’ hard Brexit, the racist offensive of divide and rule is increasingly taking centre stage to serve as a distraction from the real causes of poverty, declining public services and low wages.
Discussions on how to build a movement to confront this situation, to defend immigration, to stand in solidarity with Black communities and EU migrants facing a huge increase in hate crime, to demand a solution to the refugee crisis and to stand up to every manifestation of racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism were the central themes of the Stand Up To Racism Conference.
In stark contrast to the Tory Party Leadership, senior Labour Party figures Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott spoke at the event sending a clear signal of their intentions to fight the Tories’ racist offensive head on.
A standing ovation greeted the newly appointed Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott who said:
“I am proud to be shadow home secretary. It is no small thing for someone whose parents emigrated here in the 1950s. I will also work to uphold our rights. And I will also work to fight against racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant policies.”
Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corby also spoke to overwhelming applause and cheering. Jeremy said, “I consider it an honour to be amongst people I have known for many years who have stood the test of time in standing up for a decent society that drives racism from its midst.” He went on to discuss the importance of building a progressive movement to oppose all forms of racism, confront myths on immigration and provide a solution to the refugee crisis.
Students standing up to racism
The NUS National President Malia Bouattia addressed the Conference, drawing attention to the forthcoming NUS national demonstration ‘United For Education’ taking place on Saturday 19 November and inviting Stand Up To Racism to take part in this as part of the campaign to defend international students from a Tory government that is attacking their rights and has a shocking record of deporting students during their studies.
NUS Vice President Welfare Shelly Asquith spoke on ‘Prevent, the Extremism Bill and the defence of civil liberties’ whilst Barbara Ntumy from the NUS Black Students’ Campaign spoke on ‘Brexit: oppose racist violence, defend migrant rights.’
The ‘Students Organising Against Racism’ session was attended by more than 100 students and was addressed by Antony Hamilton from Students Stand Up To Racism, Shakira Martin NUS Vice President Further Education and myself from the Student Assembly Against Austerity. This session proved a great opportunity to discuss how we can build the anti-racist movement on campuses from challenging the Islamophobic Prevent agenda, building the Black Lives Matter campaigns, to supporting and building solidarity with refugees. A key conclusion coming out of the session was the need to establish a Student Stand Up To Racism group or society on every campus.
There are huge, difficult tasks ahead of us – uniting to stop and reverse the enormous growth of racism is the most crucial task facing progressive campaigners in Britain today.
Stand Up To Racism is organising a number of protests, meetings and campaigns over the months ahead.
Looking ahead to 2017, Stand Up To Racism is joining forces once again with the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to organise a national demonstration on Saturday 18 March to mark UN Anti-Racism Day.
Whether it’s joining Stand Up To Racism as an individual member, or setting up a group on your campus – we all have a role to play in building this movement.
Email email@example.com for more information on setting up a Student Stand Up To Racism group.