Published On: Fri, Mar 24th, 2017

Tragic Irony: The London anti-racism march held in the week of the Westminster attacks

Just days before the area became the centre of a terrorist incident, Parliament Square played host to demonstrators rallying against rising UK sentiments of racism and Islamophobia. Lily Masoud reports.

Image Credit: Lily Masoud

Image Credit: Lily Masoud

While this week has seen London suffer a major attack, with five killed and a further 40 injured near the Houses of Parliament by British-born assailant Khalid Masood, 52, campaigners have been rallying against racial and religious divisions that have occurred in recent times.

Masses of protesters gathered in London for the March Against Racism over the weekend as part of the activities to commemorate UN Anti-Racism Day (Saturday March 18).

The march, organised by Stand Up to Racism (SUTR), aimed to send a message of support for migrants’ rights before Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to trigger Article 50 reaches its climax on Wednesday March 29.

It was part of a nationwide campaign involving similar events in Cardiff and Glasgow. SUTR said that the protest would challenge “anti-migrant hysteria following the EU referendum”.

Demonstrators met at noon in Portland Place, near Oxford Street and followed a route through Regent Street before assembling in Parliament Square at 2.30pm.

Crowds chanted “no borders, no nations, stop deportations” and “no Trump, no Brexit, no racist EU exit” to the sound of banging drums coming from the marchers walking behind them.

Image Credit: Lily Masoud

Image Credit: Lily Masoud

One of the speakers at the protest was Dr Siema Iqbal (pictured right) of the Muslim Engagement and Development community. She told the demonstrators gathered in Parliament Square how racial hatreds could put everyone at risk: “I have had enough of wondering whether my dad will be the next person killed on his way back from the mosque.”

The march follows a string of rallies against Donald Trump and the rise of far-right political parties in Europe.

SUTR claims the existing situation in the UK as one where “migrants, Muslim women and anyone considered to be ‘foreign’ are being attacked on a daily basis”.

According to Home Office figures, hate crime spiked by 41% in the month following the UK’s Brexit vote, and some of the pre-vote campaigning material was reported to police for inciting racial hatred.

The event was backed by the TUC conference, Unison, Unite and Love Music Hate Racism among other organisations. For more information about Stand Up to Racism groups based in Islington or Hackney, check the website here.

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