Activist community

How our community stopped an immigration raid

On a Saturday morning in early June, our community in South East London showed up and demonstrated what solidarity looks like. Together we withstood an immigration raid in Peckham, and our neighbor was released.

At 11 a.m. on the 11 In June I saw two immigration vans parked outside my building on Queens Road Peckham, London. Eight immigration officers entered armed with tasers and a battering ram to open the gates. The inmate’s crime? Not having a UK passport.

I made a call on Twitter which was picked up by anti-raid networks and locals. Lewisham anti-raids is a group of South Londoners building community resistance against immigration raids. We let each other know when immigration officials are on our side and spread information about what we can all do to prevent these raids from happening.

On Saturday, there were initially only two of us. As we waited by our neighbor’s door, we heard the officers hurry him inside, telling him that if he couldn’t find shoes to put on, they would take him barefoot. We heard the officers say they were taking him “to chat.” But as they handcuffed him, it became increasingly apparent that he was being detained. We have attempted to pass on details of numbers to call once inside a migrant detention center (such as the Support for prisoners in Soas line), but the officers turned us down and we were unable to disclose his rights or give him an attorney number.

“Eight immigration officers entered armed with tasers and a battering ram to open the gates. The detainee’s crime? Not having a British passport”

As my pleas for help were shared on Twitter, with neighbors, local anti-raid groups and CopWatch, people lay down in front of the immigration van and surrounded it with their arms tied, blocking its exit. and preventing him from leaving. In the first hour 10 people had gathered, and by the fourth our local community had come out in their hundreds singing “Let him go” to the tune of DJ Otzi’s’Hi baby‘.

We weren’t all activists. We were strangers – just neighbors with babies and children to unite against the racist policy of this government which heard the din and wanted to support it. As we danced in the sun sharing water, popsicles and sunscreen, jokes were made about having a barbecue in the parking lot. We knew that none of us would leave until our neighbor was freed; we’d be here all night if it came to that.

As the hours passed, we insisted to the officers on the scene that our neighbor who had been locked in the van in the heat for more than three hours without food or access to a bathroom should be given a comfort break. They refused. As our chants got louder, the police aggression also increased. Although we outnumbered the police by the hundreds, they underestimated us. They pushed the crowd, stepping on us, pulling our hair, punching and kicking us while we were on the ground. The disproportionate violence enacted by the police is a tangible and stark mirror of the violence built into the UK’s immigration system.

After five hours, the the police announced that we had won. Our neighbor was to be released at home and we were then able to provide him with access to legal advice guaranteeing his longer-term safety.

“The disproportionate violence committed by the police is a tangible and brutal mirror of the violence embedded in the UK’s immigration system”

This is what mutual aid looks like: normal people coming together to keep our communities safe. We know the police don’t always protect us – we protect ourselves.

Later, I remembered the outrage of the officers demanding to know why we were defending a person who had committed a crime. Migration is not a crime. The people who live here belong here.

What is a crime, however, is the Home Office’s refusal to hear people’s asylum claims and rush them into offshore detention centers without guaranteed access to legal representation – one of reasons why the flight to Rwanda was finally arrested by the European Court of Human Rights. What a crime provides £17 billion worth of arms to countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel who force Yemenis and Palestinians in exile. A crime is that UK mining operations in the global South contribute to climate disasters and displace people, like UK-linked mining. Glencore and BHP companies in Colombia. It’s the UK’s racist border policies and this government’s impunity over thousands of deaths in the English Channel as people try to seek safety.

Peckham’s victory may seem small, but it saved someone from detention. This is a huge victory in the fight against the bully that our government is proving to be. It’s the result of months of community building – we saw it in Glasgow a year ago, where hundreds showed up to stop two men being taken away by the immigration authorities. We just saw it last month in Edinburgh and again in Dalston, east londonwhere people came out in force and managed to support the workers being harassed by the police.

“Whether it’s resisting raids, showing up in the thousands at protests, contributing to legal costs to bring this government to justice, we are fighting back and we are winning”

We must remember our strength as a community: the plane to Rwanda did not take off precisely because of our grassroots collective action across the UK. Whether it’s resisting raids, showing up in the thousands at protests, contributing to legal costs to bring this government to justice, we are fighting back and we are winning. Every part of the resistance is crucial and everyone needs to get involved, whether by donating to organizations such as Care4Calais Where Detention measureor informing traders of their rights when immigration officials inevitably come knocking.

The fight is not over. The immigration officers will be back but Saturday showed us that when we come together we outnumber them and we are stronger than them. Together we have the power to make their job impossible.

Kaz from Lewisham Anti-Raids contributed to this article.

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