On Monday 20 February as part of the One Day Without Us national day of migrant solidarity, over 100 people gathered in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens for two events.
The gatherings were organised by Right to Remain with local migrant groups including United For Change and Manchester Migrant Solidarity, under the campaign banner of These Walls Must Fall.
The afternoon rain stopped, sort of, just long enough for the lunchtime gathering at Piccadilly Gardens. Over the last few weeks, people involved with Manchester’s These Walls Must Fall campaign had been meeting up to plan the day, and make leaflets placards and banners. Most of the members of these groups are migrants, people who have come from all around the world. They have found a home in Manchester, but for most of them that home is at risk. While they try to navigate the legal system to regulate their status, they know that any day they could be picked for deportation, or a spell in a detention centre.
It was great to see so many people coming together for this event, to stand in solidarity. Beside the controversial concrete walls of Manchester’s central plaza, we created a paper wall of reasons, with people writing short messages spelling out why they were here today.
It was a friendly occasion, people stopped to ask what was going on, to read the signs, to take a leaflet or have a chat. One woman said she’d come along because, since the brexit vote, she and her French wife were increasingly worried about their own situation and about the increase in racism they are seeing in Manchester.
A young homeless man, ex-army, said he was fed up with the way immigrants were being treated, and angry about the proposed state visit by racist US president Donald Trump
At 1pm, with the assistance of Steven from the Salford Star, who is a star at herding protestors, we came together for a group photo, part of a nationwide unifying image to be posted online alongside similar pictures from towns, cities and villages across the country. We sang a few chants like Trump and May, hear us say, immigrants are here to stay, and Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here. As the Manchester rain returned, we were winding down and dispersing, with promises to be back again at 5 o’clock.
And at 5pm were back, this time with more people. The refugee and migrants’ rights messages were now joined by people protesting Donald Trump, and we marched down Market Street and along to the Town Hall, singing songs of solidarity. The connections are clear: in the USA, as in Britain and the rest of Europe there is a rising tide of racism and xenophobia, with extreme far-right politics becoming the mainstream. But there is also a rising tide of resistance, with more and more people coming together, speaking out, taking action. That is what the These Walls Must Fall campaign is all about, about bringing down the walls that divide our communities as much as bringing down the walls of the detention centres.
Politicians have created a hostile environment designed to exclude and isolate migrants from our society, pushing more and more into irregular status without papers, without a right to work, education, healthcare, public or private housing. Doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, employers and private landlords are being co-opted as border guards. This doesn’t stop migration. It just turns our country into an open prison. And when the enforcement kicks in, more and more people are ending up in the real prison-like conditions of immigration detention centres.
More and more people are realising what the hostile environment really means, and are speaking out against it. If you want to get involved, sign up to the These Walls Must Fall campaign, and you can keep up to date with upcoming events, meetings, and actions, starting in Manchester and Liverpool.
We are millions. Let us stand together and show it. Let’s reject the politics of division and hatred. Let’s bring down these walls.