Newcastle: standing up to racism?

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On 17 February, some 600 fascists led by Veterans against Terrorism (VAT) marched through Newcastle city centre. While Newcastle has been a frequent venue for such racist demonstrations over the years, this occasion saw the smallest mobilisation ever of anti-fascist forces, and one which was dominated by reactionary Labour Party politics.

The fascists paraded under a plethora of banners: Football Lads Alliance, People’s Charter,  Gays Against Extremism, Multiracial Alliance Tackling Extremism and Mothers Against Radical Islam And Sharia, mostly fronts for the English Defence League (EDL).

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Tyneside asylum seekers fight overcrowding

Victory! Following public pressure from the Migration and Asylum Justice Forum (MAJF) including FRFI supporters, Newcastle City Council has begun to take legal enforcement action against private housing and construction company JOMAST for breaking overcrowding regulations under section 139 of the Housing Act 2004. Hiding behind outdated housing law, JOMAST expect unrelated same sex adults to share bedrooms and cram multiple families into flats and hostels. Months of consistent protests, collecting testimonies and documenting asylum housing conditions have begun to yield results: several JOMAST residents have now been given their own bedroom after pressure from the campaign led to properties being inspected by Newcastle city council. This victory shows that asylum seekers and their supporters can organise to improve housing conditions.

The Home Office has contracted out the provision of housing for asylum seekers to the notorious G4S, which in turn has subcontracted private company JOMAST in the north east. JOMAST is making a fortune for housing people in run down, overcrowded accommodation. Newcastle City Council passed a policy against forced bedroom sharing in March 2017 but JOMAST ignored this. In response, MAJF rallied at the council in June to highlight the continued practice and demand the policy be enforced. Cabinet member Councillor Kilgour committed the council to 'inspect and if necessary take appropriate action in cases of forced room sharing against the wishes of the occupants'. Taking up this commitment, MAJF has knocked on doors and leafleted drop-in centres and has supported scores of residents to complain, leading to several victories. The campaign is calling on other councils to take similar action.

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Fighting racism in Newcastle

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Far from being a city of sanctuary as the Newcastle Labour council likes to claim, it is a city where

  • immigration raids regularly take place in predominantly migrant-owned businesses, targeting migrant workers with irregular immigration status;

  • asylum seekers frequently have their front doors kicked in during the early hours of the morning to be bundled into immigration vans and then imprisoned or deported;

  • the same asylum seekers are forced to live in privatised, severely overcrowded housing, with leaking ceilings, broken boilers and cookers and bed bug infestation, and are often tagged and put on curfew by the Home Office.

However, this repression has bred resistance, and migrants, asylum seekers and other working class people in Newcastle have joined forces to fight back. They face not just state racism, but the forces of the opportunist left, which in the guise of the SWP censors the views of migrants and seeks to restrict the fight against racism to a shouting match with the EDL.

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Residents call out Newcastle Labour council’s fire safety lies

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Your Homes Newcastle (YHN) - the Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) that runs Newcastle council’s housing stock - have been caught lying by their residents. Following the Grenfell fire, YHN issued letters to tower block residents claiming that they have smoke detectors installed in the communal areas of their blocks and self-opening windows at the top of every stairwell. In many instances, residents have neither of these things. The letters also claimed that children have not been housed in tower blocks 'since the turn of the century'. This prompted young mothers and other angry residents to take action, demanding YHN retroactively fit sprinklers in all of their blocks and address other fire safety concerns, which include badly fitted fire doors, bin chutes and sufficient evacuation procedures for young families, disabled and elderly residents.

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Newcastle speaks out: safe and decent housing for all!

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On Saturday 24 June, the North East branch of the Revolutionary Communist Group hosted a successful speak out in Newcastle city centre to demand housing that is habitable, safe and affordable for working class people.

Our demands were for ending forced room sharing in migrant housing, for more housing at social rent in Newcastle, and for an end to the racist ‘right to rent’ scheme, which discriminates against black and migrant people seeking to rent accommodation. We were joined by local housing campaigners who live in Your Homes Newcastle accommodation, a property management service which administers council housing.

Despite rules introduced in 2007 that stated that all tower blocks had to have sprinklers, residents of YHN are still awaiting their installation in their homes. They have also raised concerns about fire doors that are unfit for use, and the lack of transparency on what materials were used to clad and insulate their property. These tenants have raised their concerns before, but on every occasion have been ignored by both YHN and the local Labour council. A Facebook group to facilitate tenants’ campaigns can be found here. A petition demanding the installation of fire sprinkler systems can be signed here

The RCG's open-mic was incredibly popular, with local people taking the opportunity to share their experiences of substandard housing in Newcastle, the discrimination against migrants, disabled people and the working class within housing allocation and the housing market, and the need for organisation and direct action to ensure rights to decent housing. In a city with a Labour majority council (which has ruthlessly imposed austerity) and a clear slate of Labour MPs, it was painfully obvious to everyone that relying on any capitalist party to sort out the housing crisis is an exercise in futility. It was shown again and again on the microphone that the housing crisis is a symptom of the capitalist crisis, as the bourgeoisie attempt to make up for their shrinking profits by squeezing more and more rent from tenants for increasingly poor and unsafe housing. As such, only the working class as an organised force fighting to end capitalism can stand any chance of solving the housing crisis.

Videos from the speak-out can be seen here and here.

Asylum seekers challenge G4S and Jomast over housing conditions

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In recent months the Migration and Asylum Justice Forum has been working hard to expose the conditions faced by asylum seekers housed by Jomast under the Home Office COMPASS contracts. Following a protest at Jomast’s local offices, press coverage and complaints to the housing and environmental health departments of Newcastle council, the campaign won the right to address representatives of G4S and Jomast directly. Following the meeting the campaign released this statement:

‘Sharon Holmes (G4S Head of business services), Juliet Halstead (G4S Head of housing), Charlie Cleverly (G4S Head of technical services), and Stuart Monk (CEO of Jomast), who has personal wealth of £175 million, met with representatives of the Migration Asylum Justice Forum on 22 May. Eight current Jomast tenants spoke about the problems they have been facing, including bedbugs, cramped conditions in the mother and baby hostels, issues with reporting repairs and getting them fixed, room sharing and being moved without sufficient notice. We have won some commitments to resolve specific problems and improve the reporting system for repairs. However, we know it is an uphill battle and the accommodation conditions will need continued monitoring by tenants and their supporters.

‘Despite the policy against room sharing for asylum seekers passed by Newcastle city council in March, the implementation of that policy by G4S and Jomast so far has not been agreed to and is still under discussion between the council and the providers... we await the outcome!

‘We continue to be concerned about the use of mother and baby hostels which can see up to 10 families sharing one kitchen and four toilets. We will continue to work with mothers in these hostels to raise awareness about the impact this accommodation has on the lives of their children and support them to take action.

‘Well done to all the tenants who spoke out. Some were fairly nervous about attending the meeting due to fear of retribution. If we hear of anyone being targeted as a result of yesterday we will campaign to defend them and expose this.’

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! North East activists have been supporting the campaign and congratulate the tenants on winning these concessions. Although Jomast was at pains to point out that our campaign had not prompted them to take any action, the fact remains that they were forced to turn up to the meeting and listen to our complaints. Many tenants report that Jomast staff are being more polite to tenants while ongoing problems which have been reported several times are suddenly being addressed.

The Migration and Asylum Justice Forum is committed to fighting for decent housing for asylum seekers, exposing the poor performance by subcontractor Jomast while remaining opposed to the privatisation of asylum accommodation by the Home Office. Despite our uncompromising position against the COMPASS contracts, collective action pressured top representatives of housing providers to meet with those directly affected. Rather than muting our criticism, organising with asylum seekers to speak out has won improvements, highlighting that grassroots organising and protest can make a progressive impact.

Asylum housing in Newcastle ‘hostile to the well-being of children’

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Newcastle Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! activists have been campaigning with the Migration and Asylum Justice Forum to demand decent housing for asylum seekers, exposing the despicable conditions of housing provided by Jomast under the private COMPASS contract. In 2012, notorious subcontractor G4S won a big chunk of the Home Office contract to provide housing for those waiting for asylum case decisions. Across the north east, G4S has sub-contracted this service to property developer Jomast, whose tycoon owner Stuart Monk is worth an estimated £175 million.

Many Jomast houses are HMOs (houses of multiple occupancy) with five or more tenants over three floors. Many of the HMOs that we have visited are for single men or single women, housing eight or more adults, with strangers being forced to share bedrooms in filthy conditions, with leaking roofs and bedbugs. The failures of privatised accommodation for asylum seekers is most acute for women and children. In West Newcastle, two town houses have been converted into a hostel comprising 16 rooms, housing up to 16 adult women and 21 children. Many women have to share a small room with two children. The hostel is split into two sides with a kitchen in each with two washing machines and two cookers. These white goods are cheap and are simply not designed for the heavy use required by so many families. Consequently the women are often left without functioning cookers or washing machines.

One of the tenants explained: ‘We phone up Jomast to complain and they just ignore us. When we have phoned up about the cookers, they have tried to blame us for breaking them. They don’t understand that we are 10 women sharing one kitchen and these cookers break all the time. It’s very hard. The other day it took two hours to boil an egg! They told me to use the microwave or the oven… how can you boil an egg or fry onions in the microwave or oven?”

On one side of the hostel, 10 adults and 14 children share just two bathrooms with an additional two toilets. The limited lounge area and stairwells are full with buggies and belongings that simply can’t fit in the cramped rooms, which are fitted out with scant bedroom furniture. Due to draconian regulations on overcrowding, which have changed very little since they were set out in the 1957 housing act, this living arrangement is not technically classed as overcrowded. However, the provision of toilets and bathrooms is insufficient for the number of residents and due to the lack of storage space, the actual amount of floor space is much less than the 110 square feet ’space standard’.

With so many toddlers and small children in the property, opportunities for playing, and learning to crawl and walk are severely curtailed... and that’s without the hazards of steep stairwells with no safety gates.

Every HMO has to be licensed by the local authority, so Newcastle city council has licensed the mother and baby hostel and must be held accountable for monitoring and reviewing the living conditions.

We visited the property with John Grayson, an independent housing researcher and co-chair of South Yorkshire Migrant and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG) who has visited several mother and baby units across the country and documented their many failings. He notes that at the Newcastle hostel: ‘Stairs are winding and very steep. Mothers are forced to carry babies and food or drinks up and down to kitchens and bedrooms. This is hazardous and should anyone develop mobility injuries etc would quickly be impossible. At present because of these difficulties there is the risk of babies and toddlers being left unattended in rooms whilst mothers have urgent tasks or visits to toilets. In other hostels this has had serious consequences – a baby was accidentally locked in a bedroom in the G4S Headingley hostel and the fire services had to attend, another baby in the same hostel was injured rolling off a bed when his mother had to rush to the toilet.

‘In 2008 the Newcastle mother and baby hostel had a serious fire when it was being used as a hostel for single asylum seekers. Now, rapid escape from the second floor at present with babies in arms would be a pretty hazardous process and there are no very obvious escape route posters in rooms or on corridors.’

We have been in contact with Surestart workers who have been supporting the families. They also raised concerns around fire safety and explained that they had encouraged the tenants to visit the local fire service to request an inspection. As a result, the fire service drew up a big list of faults and hazards including the lack of fire exit signs, an out of date fire extinguisher and an open cupboard with live electrics easily accessible to toddlers. Whilst this prompted Jomast to address some of these issues, the fact remains that such a high concentration of adults and children in a small space is a tragedy waiting to happen.

Pregnant women are also housed at the hostel and there are concerns about maternal and infant health. Currently one of the women living on the top floor has a child over one year old and is heavily pregnant. She has high blood pressure, and the continuous strain of carrying her child up and down several flights of stairs is taking a toll on her health. Meanwhile, her neighbour’s little boy has asthma and living at the top of the house with condensation and an erratic heating system is making his condition worse. Despite doctors letters and requests to be relocated, the Home office and G4S have refused to move the family.

As John Grayson highlights: ‘The property is hostile to the wellbeing of the children. It certainly does not promote their welfare. It is having a negative effect, it is stressful and is blighting the crucial first months and years of tiny children so crucial as all parents know for future development. These parents and children are refugees – asylum seekers at present by definition traumatised and vulnerable.... the hostel should be converted and used for single room occupancy for single men or single women but G4S and Jomast will be reluctant to do this because according to their own published figures, taxpayers give G4S/Jomast £9.20 per night for each of the residents in the hostel. That’s £2,383 per week and £123,906 over the coming year.’

Despite the daily grind of living under such conditions, the women are staying strong, speaking out against their treatment by Jomast and joining with us in the campaign to expose this inhumane situation.

Relocation does not guarantee a better standard of living. One mother of two was moved out of the hostel a few months ago when her eldest child turned four. She highlighted: ‘At first I was happy, I thought I was going to be moved into my own house, or at least into two rooms so I would share with my baby whilst my older child had their own room, but they just moved me into a two bedroom house, allocating me one small room for me and my two kids, whilst another woman and child was in the other room. My situation has not improved at all and now I`ve just been moved away from my friends.'

She explained how she had been battling Jomast against bedbugs: ‘My children were getting bitten every night, we were scared to sleep on the mattresses so we put them outside. When we called Jomast to tell them about the bedbug problem they told us to bring them back inside, but when we said we didn`t want to, they said we were choosing to sleep on the floor.’

The situation was left for weeks and got to the point that a child was rushed to hospital after a bite to the face caused his lips to swell. With the campaign, tenants and activists made several complaints to environmental health, Jomast and their contractors G4S until eventually the house was treated with insecticide and new bedding, and mattresses and bed frames were provided. At first Jomast tried to fob the tenants off with replacement second hand mattresses and bed bases that were also infested with bedbugs. They then tried to state to G4S and the tenants that a private professional pest control service had been contracted, but the tenants in the house had seen Jomast workers applying the pesticide, refuting this claim. Whilst the situation has been resolved for now, the fact remains that Jomast refused to take action for weeks, resulting in the hospitalisation of a child, before they responded to collective pressure.

The Migration Asylum Justice Forum are organising with the tenants to expose Jomast and demand action. A buggy brigade of mothers and babies attended the local councillor’s surgery recently, resulting in a surprise council inspection in the hostel. Following protests, complaints and the exposure of the conditions of the hostel and other properties, G4S and representatives from Newcastle City Council have agreed to meet with us to discuss our concerns. Jomast tenants, including mothers from the hostel, families fighting against bedbugs and men organising against room sharing have committed to attending the meeting and speaking out. Whilst we have no illusions that G4S are interested in the wellbeing of refugees, this meeting is an important step in holding them to account. We know we need to keep up the pressure and demand decent housing for asylum seekers as central to the demand for decent housing for all!

Follow the campaign on facebook ‘MigrationandJustice’ or contact us on 07404433235.

Sam McGill

Pictures: John Grayson

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Durham teaching assistants continue fight against wage cuts

On Saturday 25th March 2017, supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! North East joined the Durham teaching assistants’ march to defend their wages and contracts. The teaching assistants have been engaged in a heroic 18 month struggle against Durham Labour council who, in 2016, voted unanimously in favour of cutting wages by 23%. The campaign has forced the council (who were due to be sacking the workers and rehiring them on the new contracts on 1st January) to temporarily back down and go back to the negotiating table.

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No to charter flights – End all deportations!

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On the 21st of January, a speak-out was organised by the Migration and Asylum Justice Forum (MAJF) as part of the two weeks of action organised by Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessary. Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) supporters are affiliated with MAJF and this speak out was seen as a good opportunity to campaign together against the secret mass deportations on chartered flights to countries such as Nigeria and Jamaica.

The speak-out took place in Newcastle city centre, and was attended by around 50 people, with members of the public stopping by on the busy thoroughfare. FRFI supporters spoke about Britain’s racist immigration history and called for the end to all deportations, as well as highlighting the role imperialism plays in creating the racist divide that allows these deportations to take place. Other members of MAJF also spoke against the mass deportations undertaken by the airline Titan, an airline usually associated with flying celebrities and musicians around the globe.

As part of the event, there was a street theatre performance highlighting the story of Raul Ally, a Somali man who lived in Newcastle with his family after his father was assassinated for his political organising. In April 2013, at the age of 18, Raul’s refugee application was denied and he was abducted by immigration police before being deported to Tanzania and left in a refugee camp which he was not allowed to leave.

The event was well received and the stall we had attracted a lot of attention. The Speak out was a success thanks to organisation and cooperation between MAJF and FRFI.

Sectarianism of Newcastle Unites

Newcastle Unites

On 14 September Newcastle Unites - a coalition between the Labour Party and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) - published a statement on their Facebook page banning the Socialist Party (SP) from attending a forthcoming demonstration against the racist English Defence League (EDL) on the grounds that an SP member is secretly affiliated to the British National Party. Newcastle Unites has published no evidence to support its claim, and until the SP says otherwise, we assume that it has either taken action against the member, or cleared him of the allegation. In these circumstances, we condemn the ban of the SP as both sectarian and anti-democratic.

In the final paragraph of the statement, Newcastle Unites says that they ‘have only had reason to exclude one other organisation, the Revolutionary Communist Group (FRFI) because they wilfully published details of an anti-fascist meeting which led to the Trades Council building staff being threatened by the EDL.’ FRFI was banned from attending a Newcastle Unites march against the EDL on 25 May 2013 because Newcastle Unites knew we would challenge the Labour Party’s history of vicious racism. To enforce its ban on the day, Newcastle Unites, led by the pro-cuts Labour councillor Dipu Ahad and with the support of SWP members, colluded openly with the police to ensure the arrest of 14 anti-fascists, including 7 FRFI supporters, who were accused of conspiracy to commit violent disorder. After a determined defence campaign no charges were brought.

Newcastle Unites is a sectarian organisation whose purpose is to defend the Labour Party against charges of racism. For this reason, it attempted to undermine the march organised by the Migration and Asylum Justice Forum against the 2016 Immigration Act on 25 June this year. Instead of attending the march to show solidarity with migrants and refugees, Newcastle Unites organised its own demonstration against an EDL counter-mobilisation. It refused to publicise the March Against the Immigration Act, attempted to stop the march from reaching its scheduled end-point where SWP members tried to drown-out Migration and Asylum Justice Forum speakers with childish anti-EDL chants of ‘Nazi scum’.

FRFI will be attending the Newcastle Unites’ march against the EDL on Saturday 24 September where we will speak out against the government’s attack on migrants’ and asylum seekers’ access to welfare, housing, healthcare and other services and its powers to detain and deport them, and its drive to criminalise and terrorise Muslims. There can be no successful fight against fascist organisations on the street except as part of a fight against state racism: the EDL would not exist if it were not for the racism of the British state. There is an urgent need to build an anti-racist movement in Britain today. We urge anyone committed to building it to join us on the Newcastle Unites’ demonstration.

 

Byron Burgers targeted in Newcastle – End immigration raids!

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On Saturday 6th August supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! North East held a picket of the Byron Burgers restaurant in Newcastle. The picket was against the recent immigration raids, which Byron and the Home Office orchestrated, when Byron workers were pounced upon by immigration police in a phoney health and safety meeting called by Byron, and subsequently 35 workers have been arrested and deported.

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Newcastle marches against racism

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On Saturday 25 June, two days after the EU referendum, the Migration and Asylum Justice Forum marched through Newcastle against the racist 2016 Immigration Act. Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! North East is centrally involved in the Forum and played a key role in organising the demonstration. Anti-racist and migrant-led organisations from all over the country joined the Forum’s protest: the Edinburgh Migrant Solidarity Network, Manchester Migrant Solidarity and the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group from Sheffield, the Newcastle-based Angelou Centre, Beyond Borders, Keep Our NHS Public, Amnesty International and Peace of Mind, as well as supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham.

The Immigration Act is intended to deepen the oppression of migrants from outside the EU, making it even easier for the government to deport them, restrict their access to jobs, health services and housing, and increase powers of surveillance with immigration checks ordered at every level of society. The purpose of this is to force migrants into accepting super-exploited, casualised, poverty pay jobs. With the post-Brexit rise in xenophobia and racism, now is the time to redouble our efforts in the fight against state racism, and, despite EDL threats, we went out onto the streets confidently, loudly and defiantly marching down the roads and stopping traffic from the heart of Newcastle's West End, a working class community, home to many migrants and black people who will be subject to the Immigration Act.

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Join the march against the racist 2016 Immigration Act

Statement from Revolutionary Communist Group/Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! North East (a member of the Migration and Asylum Justice Forum)

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On Saturday 25th June, the Migration and Asylum Justice Forum will march in Newcastle upon Tyne against the racist 2016 Immigration Act. We will assemble at 12pm at the top of Stanhope Street, NE4 (intersection with Dilston Road) and march to Grey’s Monument for a rally. There are anti-racist and migrant-led organisations and individuals travelling to Newcastle to march with us from Sheffield, Manchester, Edinburgh, Teesside, Sunderland and Gateshead.

The British state has the power to impoverish, incarcerate and murder migrants and black people on a daily basis. The Immigration Act intensifies this government repression in order to intensify the hostile environment for migrants. We are clear: state racism is the principle threat to migrants and black people in Britain. We urge all committed anti-racists to march with us on 25 June to oppose this racist Act.

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Newcastle council cuts: Corbyn’s Labour in motion

On Wednesday, 2 March, Newcastle Labour council will vote on its next cuts budget. Another £30m will be cut from the city’s public services, bringing the total to £220m since 2010 - £785 per person living in the city. The list of proposed cuts is the stuff of nightmare.

The North East as a region has the highest suicide rate in England and is second to Wales for Britain. There were 13.8 suicides per 100,000 people in the North East in 2013, compared to a London rate of 7.9 per 100,000. The council’s proposed cuts strip away support on an inordinate level. 100% of ‘non-statutory’ mental health services are to be cut. With nothing left to cut, they go further: the mental health recovery team will cease to function unless alternative funding can be found, 21% will be cut from adult social care and 28% will be cut from care in the home services.

Alongside this, the council will begin its assault on the elderly. In September, 2015, Newcastle Labour council leader Nick Forbes stated, ‘We are at a dangerous time for the city, where the next round of spending cuts risk being so severe they could undo decades worth of work helping the disadvantaged and the elderly.’ He wasn’t lying. Preventative services for the elderly - for example, the council providing a handyman to repair items in the home - will cease entirely. Lunch clubs for the elderly will be cut by a third. Byker Lodge - a 20 bed dementia care home - will close. No discussion as to the fate of its residents has been made public.

And still, the budget goes on. Libraries across the cities will face a reduction in opening hours of over half: from 400 hours per week to 181 hours. The assault on the city's leisure services, which resulted in the closure of Elswick pool last year, is set to continue: Newburn Leisure centre and Kenton Park Sports centre will both face a reduction in support, amounting to a total cut of £145,000.

Family and women’s services will suffer dire blows. Presently, the council partially funds domestic violence services, in partnership with volunteer-led services. Its contribution, which amounts to £20,000, will cease: a 100% cut. All childcare available in statutory homeless accommodation will be cut. The council will introduce a charging policy where it does provide childcare. This is on top of cuts to Sure Start of 65%, agreed in 2014.

The list does not end here. Cuts will also be made to learning disability services (3%), early help and inclusion services (61%), youth services (22%) and the education service Connexions (13%). Public museums will be gutted, their pieces sold to the highest bidder. 240 jobs will be lost. To top it all off, council tax will increase by 3.9%.

Newcastle’s services and the lives of its residents are being destroyed. At every opportunity, the Labour council has voted unanimously in favour of the cuts. It has offered not an iota of resistance. Instead, it has repeated that it must pass a balanced budget and that if it does not then a Conservative commissioner will be sent to Newcastle to institute a cuts budget far worse than that we could ever imagine. This is smoke and mirrors. Here is the reality: there is nothing left to cut. The council have already implemented devastating cuts, and are following the instructions of their leader Jeremy Corbyn not to set an illegal budget. Don’t listen to him! We say it is better to break the law than break the poor. Bring on the commissioners! The people of Newcastle will deal with them.

There is one path left: resistance. The council has shown, over the course of 6 years, that it will not do anything close. It stands against the working-class of Newcastle today, as it always has done, bleeding the city dry. We must organise now. Class war has been declared on us, and it is to class war which we must respond.

James Bell and Anna Snaith


No Cuts to Council Services! March and protest on budget day

5pm, Wednesday 2 March.

On the 2 March, Newcastle Labour council will pass a cuts budget of £30m. Enough is enough.

Assemble at 5pm at Newcastle Monument.
We will march up Northumberland Street to the Civic centre where there will be a protest.

No cuts to council services! No cuts at all!

Hands off Syria! HSBC forced to close doors in Newcastle

On Saturday 19 December, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters in Newcastle attended a march organised by Stop the War Coalition against British airstrikes in Syria. Around 100 people assembled at the city’s Centre for Life and proceeded through the city, to Grey’s Monument. FRFI led chants of ‘Hands off Syria!’ and ‘1, 2, 3, 4, we don’t want your bloody war! 5, 6, 7, 8, Britain is a racist state!’ Once at Monument the demonstrators were addressed by speakers representing various organisations and trade unions.

After the rally, FRFI supporters continued to protest, holding a picket outside a nearby branch of HSBC. HSBC is an associate company of one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest banks, SABB, and underwrites the Israeli state budget. Saudi is a major source of support and inspiration for Islamic State and poisons the Middle East with sectarian hatred. British imperialism will not confront Saudi because it is the world’s biggest exporter of arms and is crucial to arms companies’ profits. Israel plays a role of attacking progressive forces in the region that are resisting imperialism, such as that of the Palestinian people – this is crucial to British imperialism securing its interests in the Middle East. HSBC has blood on its hands. The picket succeeded in forcing HSBC to close its doors on a busy Saturday. We will continue to build such protests.

Hands off Syria! Victory to the Palestinian and Kurdish resistance!

 

Newcastle protest against Britain bombing Syria

On Tuesday 1 December, supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! North East joined the rally called by Newcastle Stop the War Coalition against Britain bombing Syria. In a great show of strength hundreds of people joined the rally in the city centre of Newcastle. There was a lot of anger and a lot of energy for taking further action.

After only 45 minutes, Tony Dowling, leading member of Stop the War attempted to halt the protest. Given the energy of the protesters, FRFI supporters insisted it should continue. A clear division emerged as Dowling not only wanted to limit the duration of the protest, but also decided he should defend Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to allow Labour MPs a free vote on airstrikes. We argued that Corbyn had effectively placed Labour unity before the need to oppose imperialist war. We were met initially with hostility from staunch Labour supporters but quickly were able to keep the protest going with the help of all of the people who did not want to call it a day, and who could see through the deceit of Labour Party apologists. We set up an open mic for everyone, and many of the protesters used it.

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Freedom for migrants! Justice for refugees! Report of march in Newcastle 12 September 2015

On 12 September 2015 supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! joined hundreds of people on the ‘Newcastle Welcomes Refugees’ march. This was part of a national day of action in response to the on-going crisis faced by refugees and migrants across Europe.

FRFI supported the demands of migrants in Calais to open the borders and to grant safe and legal passage to Britain, and called for an end to deportations and the closure of all immigration prisons. A leaflet with the text below was distributed:

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Save Elswick Pool! Fight the Cuts!

Public meeting of the campaign

On Saturday 22 August, over 30 local residents came to a meeting in Elswick pool. The meeting was organized by local activists, Parents Against Cuts and FRFI supporters to discuss the planned closure of the pool in late October. At time of writing, an online petition to save the pool, launched earlier in the week, has over 2,100 signatures. Many residents have commented that this is one of the last remaining facilities in Elswick, one of the poorest areas of the city. Meanwhile the council has recently announced plans for a £45 million refurbishment of its own offices in the Civic Centre.

The pool’s closure is the consequence of Newcastle Labour council’s cuts programme which it launched in 2012 and has continued to pursue in subsequent years. As regular readers of FRFI may remember, this involves cuts of £100m over three years to Newcastle’s public services. Every single Labour councilor voted in favour of this plan. In regards to Elswick pool, the council agreed to attempt to transfer the service to another operator. In other words, to privatise the pool. This was never going to be viable and the planned closure should come as no surprise.

What should, perhaps, come as a surprise is the attendance of Labour councilors Habib Rahman, Dipu Ahad and Anne Schofield at the meeting: all three voted for the withdrawal of funding to the pool but had the audacity to turn up at a meeting against its closure. The councilors refused to answer our questions, Rahman stating only that ‘we’re here to listen’ and that the pool ‘is very personal to me’. These platitudes are not enough. After pressure from the meeting to respond, Schofield commented that she thinks it ‘very unlikely that the pool will be saved’. The councilors agreed to answer our questions publicly at a later date.

The meeting agreed upon several public actions to fight to keep the pool open. These are listed below. What is clear is that Elswick’s residents will not back down and will not accept the council’s political wriggling. FRFI urges its readers to get involved, support the campaign and to hold the council accountable to its actions.

Save Elswick Pool!
No Cuts – Full Stop!

James Bell

Events:

Friday 28 August, 12-1pm

Petitioning outside Elswick pool, in the park, at a local community event. There will be music. Come and join us and build support for the campaign.

Saturday 29 August, 2pm

Organising Meeting. Join us at Elswick pool to organise the campaign's next steps. Main discussion points will be organising to march to the civic centre on Wednesday, 2 September, and how we can continue to build the campaign.

Wednesday 2 September, 4pm

March on the Civic Centre. The council will be having its monthly full meeting on 2 September. We will assemble outside Elswick pool from 4pm, march to the civic centre and attend this meeting. We will be presenting our petition to save the pool to this meeting. 

Marching for Justice and Dignity for Refugees in North Shields

On Monday 15 June, over 100 people marched in North Shields, North East England, to demand justice and dignity for refugees and asylum seekers. The protest was organised by Beyond Borders and was supported by several other organisations.

Protesters held an open microphone and chanted 'Justice for immigrants! Freedom for refugees!' as they went from the metro station through North Shields. Although met by a counter-protest of half a dozen racist thugs from the English Defence Leafue, the mood was high. After an hour, the march arrived at the Home Office Immigration Reporting Centre and held a rally. A march organised by Sunderland City of Sanctuary met us at the centre, having walked the 13 miles from Sunderland. The reporting centre is place of fear for many asylum seekers, with reports of frequent racism, intimidation and harassment when they go to sign. Immigration enforcement teams operate from the centre to snatch migrants and take them into detention or to be deported. But on Monday the mood was one of anger and defiance.

The protest presented a set of demands that had been agreed amongst participating organisations in open organising meetings in the weeks leading up to the march:

  1. Don't bomb Libya - let migrants pass safely;
  2. Shut down all immigration prisons in Britain - end indefinite detention;
  3. End destitution - decent housing for all.

The Home Office staff refused to accept our demands, hiding behind private security guards and police and claiming that the centre manager had left the building. We handed the demands to the police to pass on to the Home Office – after all, they are ultimately part of the same machinery of repression. Following this, the protest marched back to the metro station, dancing and chanting.

More actions are planned, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 07858346276 to find out how you can help.

Land Day & solidarity with Palestine - picket of M&S in Newcastle

On Saturday 28 March Palestine Action Group (PAG) and local supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) picketed Marks & Spencer in Newcastle city centre in solidarity with Palestinian resistance and against British support for apartheid Israel. M&S is Britain’s biggest corporate sponsor of the Zionist settler-state and a company that supports the occupation and colonisation of Palestine ideologically as well as economically. Their economic support alone amounts to an estimated £250m worth of trade each year.

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Parents Against Cuts hold Referendum on Austerity in Newcastle – 21 February 2015

On Saturday 21st February supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) in Newcastle joined Parents Against Cuts for a lively city-centre protest against cuts to SureStart and family services – taking their message of ‘No cuts to SureStart – No cuts at all!’ to the streets and holding a ‘People’s Referendum’ on austerity. Below we reproduce a report of the event from Parents Against Cuts:

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Nick Forbes accuses Parents Against Cuts of being a communist front: Our response

Labour Council Leader Nick Forbes claims that the Parents Against Cuts campaign, which is fighting the proposed cuts to Sure Start children's centres in Newcastle upon Tyne, is a front for the 'Revolutionary Communist Party' (RCP) ('Cuts, cuts and more cuts', Evening Chronicle 18 December 2014). Given that the RCP was disbanded in 1997, we assume Forbes is referring to the Revolutionary Communist Group. We are proud to be part of Parents Against Cuts, but Newcastle parents didn't need us to tell them to organise a campaign: they understand the devastating impact these cuts will have on their families, and they know that determined resistance is their only chance of stopping them. It seems that Nick Forbes is getting desperate and is trying to split the campaign. What he is really afraid of is any working class opposition to the cuts he is implementing – but as a Labour politician he cannot say people are wrong to oppose the cuts without looking ridiculous, so he concentrates his fire on communists. We will continue to support campaigns like Parents Against Cuts that are building genuine resistance to austerity and encourage others to do so.

Revolutionary Communist Group, Newcastle branch

Parents Against Cuts confronts Council Leader in Newcastle – 12 December 2014


The Parents Against Cuts campaign confronts Newcastle's Labour Council Leader Nick Forbes

On Friday 12 December Parents Against Cuts and supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) in Newcastle confronted Labour Council Leader Nick Forbes as he spoke at a ticket-only event organised by The Northern Correspondent magazine. Taking the meeting entirely by surprise, the campaign arrived, banners-in-hand, took to the stage and proceeded to question the Council Leader on the proposed cuts to Sure Start and family services.

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Anti-eviction action in Newcastle – smash the bedroom tax!

On 27 November 2014 Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) supporters in Newcastle joined with local residents alongside Anarchist Federation, SolFed, Socialist Party and other activists in opposing an attempt by Newcastle’s Labour council to evict a local man with disabilities from his home for bedroom tax arrears.

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Contact North East FRFI

078 5834 6276
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North East Events coming up

We have street actions and political educational meetings in Newcastle every week.

For more information on events in the North East you can also join the FRFI North East e-mail list and the mailing lists of campaigns we are involved in on the following pages:

Subscribe to Riseup

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! North East
Tyneside Community Action Against Racism
Palestine Action Group
Viva Cuba! Rock Around The Blockade
Facebook: www.facebook.com/FRFINE

Smash the Bedroom Tax - Mark Moncada Live @ RED, 25/09/13

Save Newcastle Libraries 5 Dec 2012

Solidarity protest for Palestine, Newcastle 8 Jan 2011

Victory to the Intifada - Mark Moncada

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