- Created: Wednesday, 13 July 2016 12:45
- Written by Manchester FRFI
'The last time I saw Moss Side like this was 1981' – Tony Eriza
This was a stirring of political anger the likes of which have been eerily absent from Manchester's streets in recent years, and all the more significant that it should kick off in an area still suffering from racist police harassment, poverty and inequality, despite all the Labour council's 'regeneration' programmes. Well over a thousand marched to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement's demand for justice for Philando Castile and Alton Sterling at the hands of US police, but also expressed anger at the British state's own violence and racism. As in London and across the country, the RCG supported the protests and signed up more than 100 people to a petition connecting the issue of killer cops with Britain's racist deportations policy.
By 6pm there were hundreds of people gathered in Alexandra Park, with more locals joining as they found out about the protest. There was a palpable sense of urgency from many in the crowd with some keen to march and becoming restless with speeches. Tariq Mehmood, a veteran of the Bradford 12 and Asian Youth Movement, was rapturously well-received for a fiery political speech, connecting the racism of Britain and the US with their role as imperialist powers. Carole Duggan spoke of the uprisings sparked by the murder of her nephew by British police in August 2011 and of the continuing struggle for justice against a ruling class set up to protect its own.
As we would expect with such a new movement there were all sorts of political standpoints, including those from forces of the past. An example of this was Colette Williams, one of the protest’s organisers, who attacked the RCG stall as soon as we arrived and said that our paper, Fight Racism!, didn't support #BlackLivesMatter. Other protesters defended us, shocked at this sectarian behaviour, and another organiser told us to stay put. As a Respect candidate standing in Moss Side in 2014 elections Williams supported a 'points-based immigration system' – a reactionary policy designed to exclude refugees and other migrants from Britain. Then, she spoke of the 'vital' role of police in Moss Side(!) and would only criticise 'the minority of officers who would undermine that relationship by their inappropriate use of stop and search.' On the #BlackLivesMatter protest she told sisters from the Free Munir Farooqi campaign that there was no time for them to speak on the 'open mic’ and then gave time for a prominent member of the local SWP to speak.
Later, supporters of the Industrial Workers of the World [sic] (IWW) attacked the RCG stall in Albert Square and accused the group of 'co-opting' the #BlackLivesMatter struggle and ignoring the wishes of the organisers. The RCG has fought over the years with police, council and prison governors' attempts to censor our anti-imperialist and communist message. The IWW has now joined with these forces of the state. We built the largest anti-deportation campaign in Manchester – the Viraj Mendis campaign. We have a long history of helping to build campaigns to further the interests of the oppressed, including other successful anti-deportation campaigns, and won't be policed or censored by social democrats and autonomists who play no progressive role in building a movement for justice. After grabbing a handful of our papers an IWW supporter passed them to his female comrade when confronted – an infantile gesture. For all their talk of solidarity, this was their sole political contribution to the march. They then retired to a Wetherspoons half an hour before the protest ended.
Meanwhile on the streets, the protesters – young and old, black, white, Muslim, East European, kids who were due in school the next day and many of whom had never marched before – stayed out in the square until after 10pm, talking politics and discussing what should happen next. They had marched a long way into town, blocking streets, stopping buses and increasing their numbers along the way. There were no megaphones but young women led loud chants of 'no justice – no peace' and 'hands up, don't shoot!' As she was leaving Albert Square for the walk back home an elderly Jamaican woman told us, 'I hope it’s not a one-off.' The RCG stands with all those committed to building lasting movement to fight racism.
Seize the time!
No justice – no peace!