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Stop using race to smother dissent: another Letter to The Guardian

one of the authors | 20.10.2004 16:04 | European Social Forum

The following letter was sent to The Guardian yesterday but too late to be
published. We are publishing it here, on Inydmedia and re-submitting to
The Guardian today.

Dear editor

We are appalled at yesterday's letter by amongst others, Lee Jasper, the
Mayor of London's Policy Director on Equalities and Policing ('Unwelcome
Anarchy at the ESF', 18/10/04), in which he attempts to silence genuine
criticisms of this year's ESF by playing the race card.

Any form of physical aggression must be condemned, but the direct action
protest against Ken Livingstone's abortive participation in the ESF
session on Racism and Fascism had nothing to do with race and everything
to do with the undemocratic way in which the ESF was organised this year.

Inexplicably, having made their point, the protesters were then followed
by 15 police riot vans with several violent arrests taking place just
nearby Alexandra Palace.

Whatever one thinks about direct action, the tremendous response the stunt
received from the audience shows that the protesters were not alone in the
belief that the London ESF dramatically parted company from the
refreshingly democratic, transparent, non-party and consensual principles
upon which the World Social Forum movement was established in Porto Alegre
in 2001.

Co-ordinators from Babels, the international network of volunteer
interpreters that translated all plenaries and seminars at the ESF, also
issued a statement from the platform in which they condemned the Greater
London Authority's suffocating control of the Forum. Babels directly
promotes and allows cultural diversity and accessibility of national
delegations to social forums through allowing inter-linguistic

Attempting to paint the 200 or so protesters as racially motivated white
thugs when they actually included many black, Hispanic and Arabic
activists is disgraceful. Does Lee Jasper really believe that a scuffle
broke out, as reprehensible as this is, because the chair of the meeting
was black or because there were Jewish speakers on the panel? He surely
does not, which can only lead to the conclusion that he is using identity
politics to smother dissent.

Asad Rehman, Newham Monitoring Project, member of the UK ESF organising
Cathy Arnaud, Babels Spain
Panayotis Yulis, Greek Social Forum
Naima Bouteldja, independent activist, UK
Laurent Jesover, Babels France
Oscar Reyes, Red Pepper, member of UK ESF organising committee
Jean-Baptiste Eyraud, Annie Pourre, No Vox network, Paris
John Street, Babels UK, member of the UK ESF organising committee
Julie Boeri, Babels UK
Emmanuelle Riviere, Babels UK
Dave Jones, Indymedia UK volunteer and Nomad
Anselmo Schweitzner, MNLM, Brazil
Stuart Hodkinson, independent activist, UK
Julien Lusson, French activist
Jeanne Gasset, Babels France

one of the authors


Hide the following 2 comments

This letter published in The Guardian, Weds 20th Oct

21.10.2004 00:19

"ESF protest was not racist

Wednesday October 20, 2004
The Guardian

Lee Jasper, senior race advisor to Ken Livingstone (Letters, October 19), engages in a crude attempt to portray as a "racist attack" what was effectively a protest against the lack of democracy and consensus by the GLA in the organisation of this years European Social Forum. As members of some of the UK's leading anti-racist organisations, we feel compelled to ask Lee Jasper to stop using accusations of racism to provide political cover for what was clearly political dissent aimed at his employer, the GLA, and the mayor of London.
We witnessed the protest, and while there is never any excuse for any sort of "scuffle", the protest was supported by large sections of the audience, with banners highlighting the Labour party's policies on racism and war, and calling for its representative, the mayor, not to be allowed to speak in the forum. Whatever the rights or wrongs of such protests, Lee Jasper and the GLA must not play "the race card" to silence these voices.

But the ESF did clearly highlight that our real fight is against David Blunkett and his policies, which have done so much to legitimise popular racism and herald the re-emergence of the BNP. Let's save the accusations of racism for where they really belong.

Piara Power, Kick It Out

Ashika Thanki, Newham Monitoring Project

Suresh Grover, National Civil Rights Movement

Cilius Victor, Black Racial Attacks Independent Network

Rajiv Menon, NMP Educational Trust"


Any comments red tom et al?


Jasper was right

21.10.2004 17:19

Thursday October 21, 2004
The Guardian

I was the chair of the anti-fascist plenary at the European Social Forum. I would like to clarify the incident referred to in your leader (October 18). Shortly after the meeting began, around 100 people marched into the hall and stormed the stage. Despite the fact that I allowed the intruders to make a statement, I was hit in the face and pushed off the table. My wallet and mobile phone were snatched.
As a black activist, I have been involved in the movement for many years. I have only ever been attacked in this way by racists. It is outrageous that an anti-fascist meeting organised by black and Jewish people should be attacked for any reason.

The ESF was the biggest gathering of global justice activists ever seen in Britain. It should be remembered for that. But we need also to be clear that this kind of behaviour should never be repeated in our movement.

Weyman Bennett
Unite Against Fascism

John Brown