"Through immigration raids, detention and deportations, the government is trying to tear our communities apart. We must fight back together".
"As a society we desperately need to change the narrative on migration and, as LGBTQ people, we can start by challenging the notion that we should fear migrant communities and by resisting these attempts by right-wing nationalists to pinkwash their politics."
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
On 11 November activists from LGSMigrants and others held a ″remembrance day″ for migrants.
For the remembrance ceremony we gathered on the steps of the Ministry of Defence where speakers from The Peace Pledge Union, Global Women's Strike, Women of Colour, Queer Strike and All African Women's Group spoke passionately and movingly about the plight of refugees, not only those fleeing into Europe from wars and violence in the Middle East, but also those who are internally displaced in places such as Eritrea, Somalia and Uganda. We received a message of support from BARAC (Blacks Activists Rising up Against Cuts).
We took our banners down to give greater emphasis to names on the cards we held up (many anonymous) of all those who had died in refugee camps or crossing borders this year including one card for those trapped in the Calais ″jungle″ that had been buried in unmarked graves.
We were not allowed to take our banners and placards to the Cenotaph so we held a silent, dignified procession there with Orange wreaths, poppies, candles and veiled faces leading the way. Seventeen wreaths were laid down to represent the number of people who have died each day crossing borders (now approaching a total of about 5,000). We completed the ceremony by holding a minutes silence for the dead.
Some may ask what's the point of a remembrance day ceremony. Was it was only a meaningless symbolic gesture of little political value. Not so. Any challenge to the hegemonic view of honouring the ″glorious dead″ must surely be worth pushing at a time when the capitalist powers that be continue to wage wars globally. Anyway we managed to stop the Orange Order from monopolising the small space allotted to ″unofficial″ groups.
Formed in September 2015 and spurred into action by the Film 'Pride', about solidarity with the miner's strike in 1984/5, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants continue this tradition by supporting the struggles of marginalised, oppressed groups. Stepping beyond the confines of ″single issue″ identarian politics LGSMigrants take unqualified solidarity action to secure social and political justice for migrants and refugees. Finding a common ground between oppressed groups on which to fight back as a social movement is their main aim.
The clarion calls of the group are ″No Human is illegal″ and ″No pride in Borders″. Among many other things members are on board with the campaigns to close down detention centres, especially Yarl's Wood, where migrants and asylum seekers are ill treated and brutalised on a daily basis. This falls especially heavily on women detainees with rape and other forms of sexual/physical abuse an ever present threat. The group has also been engaged in anti fascist demonstrations in Dover and solidarity action with migrant workers at Byron Burgers where managers colluded in their entrapment by police and border guards.
LGSMigrants were also responsible for co-organising the first ever Peckham Pride event. The procession snaked its way along Rye Lane where victims of racist policing, border control raids, arrests and detention came out of their homes to testify about their treatment and their struggle for justice.
The action didn't specifically highlight the demand for free movement of workers. In one of the speeches on the steps of the Ministry of Defence, the working class only featured as one of several groups with which we ought to show solidarity: part of the shopping list of LGBTQ+, BAME, Women etc. To me this approach typifies the direction many social movements have adopted in the past and still do. It cuts across any clear-cut class analysis of the working class being the class that can overthrow capitalism.
A possible danger is that the social movement being created will fizzle out through all action with no strong political direction. However what LGSMigrants is doing is impressive, and I encourage people to get involved.