Saturday 18th February sees the second Peckham Pride march, co-organized by Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSM), Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary (MFJ) and Sisters Uncut (South East London branch), which is expected to bring hundreds marching through the streets to protest the harmful impacts of the UK’s immigration regime.
The day begins with a community breakfast from 10am at the Peckham Platform so people can get to know their neighbours, meet new people and make banners for the day. The march will then gather outside Peckham Library at 12pm led by asylum seekers and former detainees, featuring speeches from migrant groups, local shop owners and those resisting raids and deportations.
The event is organized and managed by activists and volunteers and as such they are crowdfunding to cover the cost of staging, lights, chairs, food and drink and fees for the performers entertaining into the evening. The link to support can be found here.
Every year around 2000 people including mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers from Peckham and elsewhere are loaded onto secretive night-time charter flights, which have been described as ‘modern-day slave ships’ and are removed from the country. They are taken to places they may have no connection to or have previously fled from to seek asylum.
The event comes less than a month after a mass deportation charter flight left for Nigeria and Ghana on January 31st, which came under heavy criticism and protest including subvertizing on London Underground, marches through targeted communities and public pressure on the Home Office, Titan Airways and Stansted airport. Among the 100 deported was at least one LGBT asylum seeker, who campaigners fear has been put in potentially life-threatening danger.
Antonia Bright from Movement for Justice said:
“Peckham is a place where people have stood up and stopped immigration raids, preventing border agency thugs from snatching colleagues, neighbours and friends. We are facing the biggest ever anti-immigrant attack in the form of Brexit, which must be stopped. We’re marching through Peckham to build the mass movement needed to defend our community and collectively resist racist attacks.”
It is estimated that around 6,000 workplace raids take place a year, which a report by Corporate Watch suggest often take place without a warrant and are used to ‘fill up’ charter flights and meet targets.
February is also LGBT+ history month as well as marking 50 years since the UK decriminalized homosexuality, posing both cause for celebration as well as political dissent over the continued ill-treatment of the community and specifically LGBT+ asylum seekers.
Ahead of the day, the Leveller spoke with Ida-Sofie Picard from Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants about the motivations behind the event, shared struggles and need for solidarity beyond charity.
“The idea came from our first open meeting for anyone who was interested in getting involved in LGSM. A lot of people from Movement For Justice attended, many of whom are migrants. It was during that meeting that we had the idea of putting together a Pride march that was explicitly in solidarity with communities that are being targeted with immigration raids, detention and deportations.
LGSM was initially set up as we wanted to use the strength of the queer community to be in solidarity with the most targeted and oppressed communities right now. Something that we talk quite a lot about is seeing the parallel of how LGBT people have been treated, for example in being deemed ‘illegal’, having our venues raided and targeted by police, and understanding how that’s linked to how migrants are treated today.
For a lot of us what we’re also trying to do is make an intervention into the mainstream LGBT community. With mainstream Pride events like London Pride and others, the focus is very commercial and it’s always about a specific type of queer person that’s celebrated – a more assimilationist ‘we can be like straight people and live happy lives’ – but that’s not the reality for a lot of us, particularly queer migrants.
A lot of the time there seems to be more interest from getting sponsorship from big banks or Starbucks or getting the police to march at Pride for example rather than thinking about what we can actually do to struggle together and fight back against things that are oppressing us and other communities.
One of the things we really want to do as well is just prove by example that actually our enemies as queer people are not migrants or Muslims. It’s about challenging the kind of assumption that’s always peddled by the press and right-wing politicians that migrants are a threat to gay rights, that they come from ‘these backwards cultures’ and we ‘need to close our borders to protect LGBT people’. In reality we have a lot of shared struggles. If you think about the context of austerity, you have a lot of cuts to specific support services that impact LGBT people, but also austerity is used as justification for why we supposedly can’t take in any more refugees or don’t have enough hospital places for migrants.”
Rosanna from Sisters Uncut (South East London) also emphasized the cross-community harm of austerity:
“Many migrant women fleeing domestic violence have no access to public services or risk facing detention or deportation in trying to access help. Most of the support services destroyed by austerity were specialist services for African, Caribbean and Asian communities, and LGBT+ people. In the post-Brexit climate, not only do survivors stand to lose the already restricted access they have to professional support services, but now migrant sisters, LGBT+ people and sisters of colour are more likely to face violence from individuals and the state. This is a result of the racist, xenophobic and islamophobic discourse that has taken a stranglehold over our country.”
The hope is that Peckham Pride – in acting as both a show of unity and strength within and between oppressed communities while also an act of protest and dissent against the practices and policies of Theresa May’s government and the harm of post-Brexit xenophobia – can present a more positive, progressive future and the kind of movement that can achieve it.
Ida made clear what must be at the heart of this movement:
“Solidarity is vital because the divide and conquer tactics are such a standard weapon of the government and the media. Every kind of fight risks being forced into its own little silo where we just think about our own rather than linking up and working together. The thing about solidarity is it’s not about charity, it’s a very intensive political thing understanding that your struggles are connected and that if they strike one community, it has an impact on all of us.”
Where: Assemble outside Peckham Library, SE15 5JR. Post-march performances at the Copeland Gallery, SE15 3SN.
When: Saturday 18th February, 12pm – 6pm
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants is an activist group that takes up the mantle from the 1980’s Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. They use creative activism to challenge the right-wing media narrative around migrants and stands in solidarity with migrants entering the UK.
Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessary is an independent, integrated movement, with many migrant, asylum-seeking and refugee leaders, fighting for immigrant rights and against racism, sexism and anti-gay bigotry and the growing inequalities within our society. MFJ is fighting to stop the anti-immigrant attack that is Brexit.
Sisters Uncut South East London is the South East London branch of Sisters Uncut. Sisters Uncut are a direct action feminist group protesting cuts to domestic violence services. The group was formed by domestic violence survivors and sector workers in 2014 to defend domestic violence services from austerity cuts, and has blossomed into a mass movement across the UK, with groups in Doncaster, Brighton, Edinburgh, London, Newcastle, Bristol, Portsmouth and Birmingham. Sisters Uncut is formed of non-binary people and women renowned for bold protest tactics, including jumping on the red carpet at the ‘Suffragette’ premiere, dying the Trafalgar Square fountains red and subvertizing on London tubes ahead of the Autumn Statement.
Image: Claudia Moroni