Over the last couple of years there have been a number of racist attacks around Edinburgh. SUtR has worked with other organisations, including trade unions, Unite Against Fascism and local politicians in order to build responses to these.
This has been in the context of a resurgence of overt racism, particularly by some populist politicians, and PCS recognises that the workplaces in which we represent members are not immune from scapegoating the most vulnerable in society.
In May 2018, a Syrian refugee sustained life threatening injuries in a racially aggravated attempted murder within our city, with the attacker reportedly having said “go back to your country”. As a PCS DWP GEC member and Left Unity member I took part in the SUtR campaign which was centrally involved in organising a protest of people to make it clear that racists were not welcome in Edinburgh.
A few months later, in August, a Sikh temple near where I work was fire bombed. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but again as part of SUtR I worked with the local community, including the Muslim Women’s Association, to hold firstly a vigil and then a march and rally. As I told the media at the time, we wanted the Sikh community and other religious minorities to know that we stood in full solidarity with them. PCS members came on the march with a branch banner and PCS flags. I spoke on behalf of the PCS at the rally of Edinburgh SUtR and a number of others, including a Hibernian football club supporters’ group, who brought their own banner.
PCS members in my workplace were very pleased that other members of their union had attended the demonstration and were keen to know how it had gone, as they were alarmed when they learned about this attack within the vicinity of where they work.
This was less than three months after a Sikh temple, along with a mosque, had been attacked in Leeds. Those assaults had followed a march in support of the jailed fascist Tommy Robinson. And later that year Robinson threatened to come to Edinburgh, to attend a Hearts v Rangers football match. As part of SUtR PCS helped organise around 100 football supporters to leaflet outside the stadium on the day telling Robinson he wasn’t welcome. We succeeded – he didn’t turn up for the game, and posted on Facebook complaining about being prevented from attending. Many of the fans thanked us for what we had done, and emphasised that racists were not welcome at their club.
Most recently, we helped organise a vigil after two shopkeepers of Asian origin were violently attacked by a gang of 20 youths, threatened with being knived and hit with a crowbar while being called racist names, demanding to know why they had come to this country. The gang had been hanging around the shop calling people racist names and threatening them over a two month period, but nothing had been done about this. SUtR circulated a petition calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that it’s policy of zero tolerance to racism is properly enforced; a position that Left Unity and PCS fully endorse.
These few examples illustrate why it is so important for working class organisations to be involved in Stand Up to Racism, and why I am particularly proud to have moved the motion at PCS Conference for our union to affiliate to SUtR.
I attended the recent SUtR trade union Conference as part of the PCS delegation led by Fran Heathcote and Mohammed Shafiq, both of whom are Left Unity members and whose excellent speeches demonstrated the seriousness with which we takethe fight against racism.
Racism comes from those in power who would seek to turn us against one another rather than fighting back against austerity. we’re confident we can turn the tide against racism but we must keep working very hard towards that objective.
Steve West is standing for the DWP GEC as part of the Left Unity slate