By Mustakim Hasnath
On the day of Wales’ Grand Slam, traffic was brought to a standstill when over 1,000 protesters took to the streets of Cardiff for the UN Stand Up To Racism march. The event was the sixth annual march of its kind and saw participant numbers more than double since last year.
The procession, organised by Stand Up To Racism Wales, was led by the charity’s committee members, local councillors and community leaders, consisted of representation from both local and national trade union groups. Logan Williams, speaking on behalf of one of these trade unions, Unite Wales, told Gair Rhydd the march was ‘a day for all sorts of trade unions, progressive parties and communities to come together and show our solidarity to communities facing racism’. He added, ‘racist attitudes are starting to come up in our workplaces and we need to stamp them out, especially here in Wales’.
Phil, who was chief steward for the march, told Gair Rhydd ‘particularly at a time when there’s a growing threat of racism, it’s an incredibly important time to be standing up to those dividing us’.
Crowds gathered outside the city hall before marching to Grangetown, passing Cardiff Castle and the city centre. Before the march began, local councillors, Assembly Members and event organisers delivered speeches centred around the theme of equality and inclusion, as well as observing a minute’s silence for the victims of the terrorist attacks in New Zealand the day before.
One of the speakers at the mass congregation before the demonstration began was the imam from Cardiff’s Dar Ul Isra mosque. Speaking to Gair Rhydd, he said ‘attacks such as what we have seen in New Zealand, because we are human, naturally fuels hatred and division’. ‘This is the act of the Satan’, he added,’ we all have a duty to be opposed to racism, fascism and terrorism at all times and especially now’.
Common chants made were ‘Refugees are welcome here; say it loud say it clear’ and ‘Hey, Theresa May, Migrants are here to stay’, whilst others shouted ‘brothers, sisters – we are one’. With the use of numerous megaphones throughout the procession and a band of Sikh drummers, it was clear the city had the march’s attention. Among those in the march was Cardiff University Students’ Union’s newly elected Black and Ethnic Minorities Officer, Cincy Skie, who told Gair Rhydd ‘racism is something which affects everyone, whether you are black, white, Asian or from any different race… race is a very complex thing and that’s why we should stand up for who we are’. Amr Alwishah, the Students’ Union’s current VP Welfare and Campaigns also attended and commented, ‘It’s really important because we go to a multicultural university and race isn’t something we decide, it’s who we are and that’s something which should be celebrated’.
A key speaker throughout the event was Wales Trades Union Congress’ president, Shavanah Taj, who shared with Gair Rhydd her personal experiences with racism and the importance of the event for her. She explained, ‘I am the mother of two young children and this is the first time myself as a person of colour and my Nigerian husband are having to consider a plan B. When the right-wing media and politicians normalise the reference to people such as myself as “tinge” and the extent of Islamophobia today, I think it’s shameful for our country to be in this position’.
As well as political organisations, local business representatives were also in attendance. Speaking to Gair Rhydd, Tarek Majid who is the chair of the Cardiff Taxi Alliance reflected on the widespread problem of taxi drivers across the city being targets of racial abuse: ‘…it’s verbal hate and often physical too.
‘These drivers are often in a very vulnerable state, being on their own and often picking up people where the issue of racism is fuelled by the consumption of alcohol and drugs’.
Tarek hopes the march’s success will lead to better coordination of trade unions and local government with the community to fight this kind of abuse.
As a march which brought the community together to stand against hatred and the recent terror attacks in New Zealand, many view it to have been a successful day of activism. For others though, the event highlighted the extent of racial abuse and how truly stamping out its forms such as institutional racism requires a lot more work in all aspects of our society.