Hundreds of Mancunians, many from charities, campaign groups and religious organizations, gathered in the city’s St. Peter’s Square on Sunday to protest the government’s plan to deport refugees to Rwanda.
With just two days to go before the first refugees have to embark on flights to the Central African country, the protest was one of many in the UK, and came amid new challenges. after the high court ruled last week that the flights could go ahead.
Speakers included CaredyCalais’ Maddy Summerfield, who described the deportation scheme as “obscene” and told the crowd: “There are 6,500 people in Manchester’s asylum system and we’re here again to ask. justice for them. “
Other speakers included Martin Empson of the Campaign Against Climate Change, who said: “Many in the global south face the consequences of climate disaster on a daily basis. At the same time, they face racism and state oppression at all times. As a nation, we have to do something. “
He added: “Fighting for a sustainable future means fighting for one that is free from oppression.”
Dr. Rhetta Moran of the human rights group Rapar called on people to “stand shoulder to shoulder” and “continue to find ways to build solidarity.” His comment that “this cannot continue on our behalf” was received with enthusiastic victims.
Moran and other speakers referred to Saturday’s events in Peckham, south London, where protesters blocked a van carrying a man who had been arrested for immigration offenses.
Karen Reissmann of Unison echoed the comments attributed to Prince Charles on the Rwanda plan when she said: “From London to Manchester and beyond, people are horrified by what is happening.”
Speakers express opposition to the government’s refugee plan ahead of the march on Manchester. Photo: Sophie Zeldin-O’Neill / The Guardian
The Rev. Laurie Windle of the Church of England said she had come to speak on behalf of her congregation, adding: “Many are horrified by what they see as an ‘ungodly’ asylum system. This law goes against of the essence of God “.
Meanwhile, members of Manchester’s Syrian community spoke of their own experiences and said their hearts were “broken by this new, racist policy”.
Other groups present include Stand Up to Racism, Amnesty UK, Safety4Sisters, the People’s Assembly and the Status Now network, as well as voices from Manchester’s Iranian, Iraqi and West African communities.
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As they prepared to begin the march, chants of “Say it out loud, say it clearly, refugees are welcome here.”
Just before leaving the square, artist Will Belshah picked up the microphone and told the story of his grandfather arriving in Britain from Baghdad, adding that the deportation plan had left him “too angry to moderate. his language or calm down “.
He concluded: “Civil anger and disobedience are sometimes the only way to change things.”