Last night on our TV screens we saw the inspiring scenes from Glasgow as the community rallied to successfully defend two Sikhs from deportation. Here are reports and comments from Scottish comrades:
Paul was involved in the direct action … here is his eye witness report:
We saw a wonderful victory won in Glasgow today. This morning the Home Office attempted a dawn raid on Kenmure Street in Glasgow’s Pollokshields neighbourhood, but the news quickly got round and local activists were quickly on the scene, including one brave soul who crawled underneath the home office van, thus stopping it from moving.
That man remained underneath the van for around eight hours as a crowd of protesters flocked to the scene and filled the street, blocking out the path in front of and behind the van. I and my flatmate arrived in the early afternoon and took part in blocking the road.
At one point the police made a number of arrests (three, I heard) at one end of the road as activists tried to stop them removing a car that had been parked so as to block the road from police vehicles. Additionally, later on the police attempted to clear the road behind the home office van, but we held fast against them and they withdrew to much jeering and chanting.
As the afternoon wore on the police drew up a considerable number of vans and equipment on either end of the street, as well as horse boxes. Everyone on the street was committed to remain in place and block the van as best they could, but we were all uncertain as to how the standoff would shake out: Either the release of the prisoners or the violent clearing of the street and the removal of the comrade underneath the van, thus allowing the deportation to take place.
Thankfully, it did not come to scenes a la Bristol. Throughout the demo, sympathetic MSPs (Minister of the Scottish Parliament) and MPs had been trying to get hold of the Home Office to no avail. First minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and justice secretary, Humza Yousaf had been in terse discussions with the Home Office over their dawn raids policy, discussions which seem to have broken down.
I am not in possession of the full facts at the moment and much of my understanding comes from the stream of updates/hearsay/overheard announcements I got amid the crowd. However, essentially it seems like the Scottish government agreed a stand-down with Police Scotland, allowing the two asylum seekers to be liberated. Human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar communicated this agreement to the crowd, stating that he had it in writing that he would be allowed to go with the two men to a nearby – Sikh Sabha Association centre on Nithsdale Road) escorted by the police. In this video here you can see the wonderful moment when the van was opened and the prisoners freed:
Campbell Macgregor also reports from the scene:
Priti Patel and the Home Office just experienced a serious defeat in Kenmure Street in Pollokshields in Glasgow yesterday, May 14th.
When I got up this morning I found out on social media that there was a protest taking place against the deportation of two men taking place in Kenmure Street. I had some urgent business with the DWP I had to carry out, but when I had done that I headed off. I was prepared for the possibility that the protest might be a lengthy one or that I might even be arrested, so I took my medication with me.
When I got there I saw that a Home Office Immigration Enforcement van was being guarded by police, but it was surrounded by a crowd of several hundred people blocking it from moving either way. There was also a large Palestinian flag. This stand-off continued for some time, with anti-deportation slogans shouted. The police at one end of the street attempted an advance at one point, but did not get very far. I texted a lot of contacts suggesting that they come. I am not sure how organised this protest was, there are some anti-deportation groups active in Glasgow, but it looked as if it might have been a relatively spontaneous protest by the local community. I did see a few known leftists but not that many.
The crowd looked quite young, mostly white but some ethnic minority, a high proportion of women. The radical lawyer Aamer Anwar turned up and addressed the crowd. I thought that this stand-off might last well into the evening and even into the night, I was prepared to stick it out but it was getting slightly chilly, so I decided to head home for a short break and to pick up a warm jumper and gloves. However when I got home I found out from social media and TV news that the protestors had won, the two men in the van had been released not long after I left.
Although this is speculation, some people will be wondering if it was just a coincidence that the Home Office mounted an action like this in Nicola Sturgeon’s constituency so soon after the Scottish election.
Mike Picken (supporter of Fourth International in Scotland) adds:
I think we can take massive inspiration from the battle of Kenmure Street.
Direct action clearly worked.
But what is also clear is that Police Scotland behaved differently to what any English police force would have done and that the reaction to the protests from across Scotland was overwhelmingly supportive of the action and the defence of migrants.
The media coverage was amazing highlighting interviews with local residents demanding their neighbours were welcome and should not be removed. Strong statements of support both the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Greens and, very importantly, Scottish Labour politicians were clearly at complete odds with the direction of the UK Labour Party under Keir Starmer.
At the same time as the Home Office were unsuccessfully attempting to deport ‘illegal’ migrants the newly elected Members of the Scottish Parliament were swearing their oaths in the Scottish Parliament and used a wide variety of over a dozen languages to reflect their various diverse origins and backgrounds including not just historic Scots languages such as Gaelic, Orcadian and BSL, but also migrant languages Punjabi, Arabic; Maggie Chapman, left wing ecosocialist and new Green MSP, swore her oath in the Shona language of her native Zimbabwe, and even a Tory MSP took the oath in Welsh. Nicola Sturgeon pointedly said her oath was not to the Crown but to the “Scottish people” with whom sovereignty rests.
The Scottish Tories are reactionary and unionist but even they advocated a largely right wing social democratic programme in the recent election (including support for the abolition of university tuition fees!) – and anyway they only got 25% of the vote much of it tactical voting on the sole issue of independence. The extreme reactionaries/far right were completely routed, attracting only derisory votes and much opprobrium.
What is clear for us is that you cannot apply the notion of ‘ creeping fascism’ in Scotland . There is a reactionary authoritarian state in Westminster and Whitehall and we need to fight it. But fascism relies on mass support.
I thought one of the many great home made banners in pictures at the protest yesterday was one that said
“If this is Team UK, count us out!”.
The National, a daily Scottish newspaper, had a great front page, Glasgow 1 Team UK 0. People power stops detention.