London Anti-Racism March Draws Tens Of Thousands Of Protesters
Above Photo: Participants in the Stand Up to Racism march make their way down Regent Street in central London. Photograph: Peter Cary/PA
Speakers at rally berate populism behind the rise of the far-right in Europe, Britain’s vote to leave the EU, and Donald Trump
As many as 30,000 people have joined a march against racism in London during which campaigners voiced their opposition to the wave of populism they say elected Donald Trump, saw Britain vote to leave the EU and fuelled the rise of far-right politics around Europe.
The former Guantánamo Bay prisoner Moazzam Begg, one of the speakers at the Saturday protest, said Trump was one of the “bad dudes” who should be sent to the internment camp in Cuba.
Speaking from a stage in Parliament Square, Begg referenced a speech by the US president in which he said he would be sending more inmates to the controversial facility.
“The rise of the far right and the Nazis and fascists has seen a new wave with the election of Donald Trump, who said when he came to power, ‘I’m going to load up Guantánamo with some bad dudes,” he said. “So my response is: ‘When are you going, dude?”
Begg, a British Pakistani from Birmingham, joined the Labour MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, in slamming a small group of counter-protesters. Suspected to be from the far-right political group the English Defence League (EDL), the group were spotted near crowds of anti-racism marchers on their way from Regent Street to Parliament Square.
He said: “We have smashed the EDL. They are no longer of any consequence. But let’s not pat ourselves on the back too early, because some of their views have become mainstream.”
Begg spent almost three years under US custody on suspicion of terrorist affiliations between 2002 and 2005. He was later released and has spoken widely of his experiences as a prisoner in Guantánamo Bay and other detainment camps under US control.
Anti-racism supporters carrying signs with colourful slogans including “Migrants make our NHS” and “Black Lives Matter” led a peaceful but spirited march through the fashionable thoroughfares of Regent Street and Haymarket, banging drums and singing songs.
Lammy said this week’s meeting between the former Ukip leader and Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage and the far-right French politician Marine Le Pen was evidence of the current ill-feeling towards minorities.
“This week Nigel Farage met Marie Le Pen and we are sending a message that we don’t want that kind of fascism and xenophobia across our planet and in our country,” he said.
“My parents arrived in this county in the 1950s to signs that said, ‘No blacks, no Irish, no dogs’, and we thought … that by the time we got to the 21st century we had turned our backs on racism. And then, we get June 23rd. We get a rise in hate crime across the country almost by 50%.”