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More from Harmondsworth 10/2

Jerinmagus | 11.02.2007 00:26 | Anti-racism | Migration | Social Struggles | London

Around 250 people assembled outside Harmondsworth today, a mix of refugees, asylum seekers and their supporters. Some had travelled by coach from as far away as Manchester, Leeds and Bradford. Some played Samba. Some wanted to give long speeches and pump their ego's for the Labour leadership race.

The day started very early for those travelling down from the North. On arrival, the Samba band on the Leeds/Bradford bus led their coach load round to the main entrance, mostly on the pavement, slightly in the road, with the police taking a mostly hands-off approach. It wasn't really going to last.

To one side of the main entrance, the police had gone to the effort of establishing a 'pig-pen' for everyone, and most of those who had already arrived had entered it. When the Leeds/Bradford contingent turned the corner into the entrance of the site, they headed straight past the pen, with several asylum seekers carrying their banners ahead. The effect was the establishment of a blockade on the driveway, though this was hardly a problem, with almost no travel on or off site throughout. A single expensive black car was allowed off site and then back on again by the police, who resorted to shoving tactics to make way for it. This required some manhandling of Samba players, on of them being given no less than 5 'final warnings' that they'd be arrested if they didn't move (a vicar also received one such warning).

After the band died down, various people took the megaphone and gave speeches, some of them former residents of Harmondsworth or Colnbrook, some are running current campaigns to remain (either for themselves or others). Someone talked about an upcoming Trade Union conference, and the local MP spoke about his work with asylum seekers. This would have been better had it not been John McDonnell MP, the old-leftist contender for the Labour leadership, who's footsoldiers dutifully moved through the crowd handing out the now-familiar "John 4 Leader" materials.

At around 1:30, allowing a clear hour before visiting time would begin (apparently we can't have protesters being visitors, as they're a security threat) the band began playing again. They began to make their way out onto the dual carriageway (not a motorway as stated by some) in the direction of their coaches. Most of the crowd followed, some on the road and others on the pavement. The police made a few small attempts to clear the road but this failed.

Once the march had proceeded a few hundred meters, a couple of police officers decided to take things into their hands, and started forcing people out of the road. At this point a couple of people carriers, minimally marked as belonging to the met, tried to drive through the protest, and a handful of cops took to wrestling protesters out of the way. Several protesters managed to get 'cleared' several times. A male protester on a bike was thrown off onto the verge, and one of the band's conductors was particularly assaulted by the police.

At this point 4 van loads of police arrived from the other direction and a large group of police got out and began lining up. When the marchers reached the junction where they needed to turn, the police acted as though they expected the march to continue on. While marching onto the M4 would have been a wonderful way to get killed, this wasn't on the minds of the protesters, who were far more concerned with finding their coaches. The police proceeded to march either side of the crowd along the final road towards their buses. No arrests, but some fairly close calls.

There was widespread concern that asylum seekers were being put at risk during the march, but in practice, most of these seemed to be thankful to the protesters who had stuck it out in the middle of the road.



Lost photos

11.02.2007 16:04

Due to technical problems, these wouldn't upload the first time!



Hide the following 6 comments


13.02.2007 02:07

I have just read the report of Saturday's demo at Harmondsworth. I know you need a thick skin in politics but sometimes you just despair at people's nastiness and lack of any concept of solidarity.

I attended Saturday's demonstration outside Harmondsworth because the centre is in my constituency and for over 20 years I have been visiting it and taking up cases and campaigning on asylum isues as a result. I attended because the organisers approached me and asked me to. I attended because I have tried to get to every demonstration there over the last decade.

When I spoke I simply referred to the history of the place and the barbarity of the treament of pwople who come to this country seeking asylum. I did not refer to my candidacy for the Labour leadership. I saw people with leaflets from my campaign but actually they were there in their own right from the Campsfield campaign and elsewhere.

I just found the reference to me in the report as plain nasty.

I have always tried to practice a form of politcs which is based upon solidarity and non sectarianiism. I never personalise my political interventions and have a record of working hard to support progressive campaigns and take up individual cases from the Guildford campaign which I chaired to the many, many deportation cases I deal with on almost a daily basis at the request of many of the campaigning organisations present on Saturday. In fact on Saturday people and groups approached me to ask for assistance on their cases and naturally I offered to assist.

By the way, just as an example, when Indymedia were raided last year by US state forces, yes it was me who took up its case in Parliament. And yes it has been me who has consistently raised Brian Haw's case in Parliament and stood character witnesss for him.

So I don't mind criticism of my politics and proper debate but can't we rid ourselves of this destructive cynicism which feeds the type of personally abusive reporting set out in this report.

I believe another world is possible but it must come from another type of politics being possible based upon treating each other with humanity surely.

John McDonnell MP
mail e-mail: mcdonnellj@parliamentuk

Focusing on the struggle

13.02.2007 10:08

Like John McDonnell, I and others from Leeds No Borders are also a bit annoyed at both the pathetic criticism of John and the 'samba-centricity' of the Leeds-Bradford reportage. Leeds No Borders is a coalition of people opposed to the immigration and asylum system. Some are anarchists; some are socialists; some refuse to be pigeon-holed; and some are even members of the Labour Party. We are fighting the system; we are showing unconditional solidarity with all oppressed people; and we are all doing this with uncertainty and constant reflection on the best way to organise and win. It was excellent to see John McDonnell there on Saturday as he is an important ally in this struggle. To have a contender for the leadership of the neo-fascist New Labour Party - which is currently responsible for the inhumane and brutalised asylum system - speaking at demo whose aim is to shut down these prisons, organised by a network of activists from across the world whose aim is to abolish all immigration controls and with it capitalism, was fantastic and a sign of hope.

There are no votes in being 'pro-immigration and asylum'. This was not a cynical attempt to get votes. Of all MPs, John McDonnell along with Jeremy Corbyn and a few others, are more a part of the 'other globalisation' movement than anything else. Let's just be glad that there are those with access to media and resources and supporters within the mainstream system on our side.

But Saturday was not about John or about the 'heroic' antics of the samba band in refusing to march on the pavement but to grab a few more metres on the road. It was about building a movement against capitalist borders and liberating our sisters and brothers from these racist prisons. We can only admire those who have suffered the WORST forms of exploitation, persecution and psycho-physical taking the lead in organising and speaking out. This movement is growing all the time and our aim is to abolish the detention centres as a first step to abolishing all borders.

It is always great that activists in the Samba band come along and provide the rhythm and beat that gets us all going. However, you are not the centre of attention nor do have some kind of political veto over the rest of us. Many of us asked you politely not to seek a ruck with the cops or go on the road because that was the expressed desire of the demo organisers and those whose status in this country, and thus whose very lives are at risk, is very very precarious. You ignored that to fulfil your own twisted ego trips. If you get arrested, that's fine. You'll have your rich parents to help and access to solicitors at will. If an asylum seeker is arrested simply for being there - and that happens to everyone and anyone - then it will almost certainly mean detention and deportation, and possible death. They have no access to legal representation as you well know, and any bad strike on their record will end their asylum claim.

This is not about being weak or reformist or trying to control people. It is about using your brain and showing genuine solidarity with those whose are genuinely precarious. No doubt there will be the usual nonsense posts in response to this whose own purity is a form of authoritarianism in itself. Let's get serious and stop pissing about like kids.



13.02.2007 16:34

Totally agree with the above. And on a lighter note well done Leeds No Borders for filling a coach with people from around the world to go down to the demo.

Another Leeds No Borders person

thank you for the turnout

13.02.2007 19:51

I would like to say thank you to every single person who came to the demo and to show solidarity with those stuck in this awful system. I hope that we did something positive perhaps by boosting moral of those inside and motivating people to become more involved [if they are not already and I know so so many people are already] in helping people in hte immigration and asylum system as much as they can.

After attending the event i found it to have been generally postive and I felt motivated to do more.


Why such lacklustre support of the sambistas from NoBorders?

14.02.2007 22:40

As we headed back after the demo we were warmly thanked for our actions by a dozen or so asylum seekers and refugees who had been on the demonstration. Quibbling from two British NoBorders activists on behalf of refugees (many of whom are experienced in politics and all of who are capable of making their own decisions) seems petty and a little patronising. We were not the only people marching back along the road, in fact we joined a few asylum seekers and other activists who had already gone that way.

Sambistas, like many other groups of activists are a heterogeneous bunch. Some are anarchists; some are socialists; some refuse to be pigeon-holed; and some are even members of the Labour Party. Some were pleased to see a potential leader of the Labour Party speaking in support of refugees whilst others have no interest in party politics. None of us went to Harmondsworth with the aim of "starting a ruck" with the cops but when people are assaulted by police we tend to show each other solidarity. (If anyone has video footage, photos or legal support notes of what happened as we were heading back to the coaches then please email them to bradfordsamba(at)



14.06.2007 13:21

Rhythms of Resistance is non-hierarchical and into horizontal power so we spit on the politicians and their speeches telling us what to do,, so read the above comment as to do with the Bradford band specifically and not ROR.