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Norwich protests Donald Trump selective Muslim Ban, welcomes Refugees

Donald Trump Muslim Ban Protest in Norwich

Hundreds of people in Norwich turned out to protest President Donald Trump‘s temporary immoral executive order banning Muslims from 7 countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) entering the USA. One arrest was made, and the demonstration was otherwise peaceful with a diverse range of speakers and banners from the humorous to the very serious.

Judge me by what's in my head not on my head
Judge me by what’s in my head not on my head

Perhaps, the best said it simplest, a woman in a headscarf whose placard read “judge me by what is in my head not what is on my head”.

Nobody is saying that ISIL’s dangerous ideology shouldn’t be countered, or that terrorists should be denied entry, but to blanket ban seven nations, marking them guilty before a trial, particularly when they are not in the top 25 nationalities that have threatened or attacked US citizens is disproportionate and against the founding charters of America that welcome immigrants, and don’t discriminate based upon religion and race.

Nobody is saying that ISIL’s dangerous ideology shouldn’t be countered, or that terrorists should be denied entry, but to blanket ban seven nations, marking them guilty before a trial, based upon nationality and religion alone, particularly when they are not in the top 25 nationalities that have threatened or attacked US citizens is disproportionate and against the founding charters of America that welcome immigrants, and don’t discriminate based upon religion.

Norwich Donald Trump anti-racist Muslim ban protest
Norwich Donald Trump anti-racist Muslim ban protest

Two protests came together for this event, one organised by UEA student Lotty Clare of Movement for Justice, and the other by Julie Bremner of Stand Up To Racism. Other groups including Norwich Stop The War Coalition joined in and over 1,100 people signed to attend on a dark drizzly night in February.

The mood was far from damp, with resounding cries of:

“Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here”

If anything, it was the hundreds of comments on the EDP online and Mustard TV posts that made me realise why we do this. The spewing of hate and Britain first, echoing Donald Trump’s election manifesto of America first. I talked afterwards to two Donald Trump and Brexit supporters, teenage girls from City College, they had no problem with elitist, nationalist, selfish, protectionist policies, though our debate soon turned to mental health and we had a good conversation. 

Norfolk Welcomes All Folk
Norfolk Welcomes All Folk

I was interviewed by Robbie West of BBC Look East, Emma Knights of the EDP, and ended up on a Mustard TV live stream. ITV Anglia also reported on the event. Good coverage and continuing to remind me of how great Norwich is, in the main, and after so many political protests and pro-migrant rallies over the last year it shows the strength of feeling in communities, both pro and anti. 

Katy Jon Went speech text

The 7 nation Muslim visa and refugee ban was signed on Holocaust Memorial Day, a day when the Whitehouse chose to #alllivesmatter the victim list by not mentioning Jews and homosexuals at all.

The fear that LGBT people may have their Obama-won state protections removed has also been concerning people, even if that comes to nothing, people are living in fear and anxious times. America’s biggest terror massacre since 9/11 was by an American, albeit the son of an Afghan immigrant – but not on Trump’s ban list, who traveled back and forth to Saudi Arabia – also not on the list, before killing 49 people, mainly Latinos, in the Orlando Pulse club shooting. No connection to the seven nation ban list.

Despite the so-called British exemption, Iranian-born but raised in Italy and doing post-grad veterinary studies at the University of Glasgow, Dr Hamaseh Tayari was denied US-leg travel by the presidential executive order, the extra flights avoiding America cost £2600 however, public response raised more than double that via crowdfunding with the excess going to the Scottish Refugee Council. That is one way we can help. Similar to the folk providing food and funds, and many lawyers offering pro-bono free advice at airports across America. Lawyers are saying that “It’s not lawful to ban immigrants on the basis of nationality” but judges and others unwilling to enforce it are being replaced.

Speaking about the ‘Muslim’ travel block and its effect on the vet student, the University of Glasgow’s principal said:

“The free movement of people, of ideas, of intellect is surely the very hallmark of civilized society.– Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal of the University of Glasgow

Introvert's Love greater than Hate, Truck Fump!
Introvert’s Love greater than Hate, Truck Fump!

Indeed, America and its innovations and inventions are built on immigrants, not just the last century or so, but even those that first came to America, those pilgrim fathers and conquering Catholic explorers of different faiths to the established indigenous inhabitants. Indeed 7 nations of foreign religious immigrants from the early Norse to the British, Dutch, French, Spanish, German, Irish and even Russians (Kodiak Island) came to America and populated it, and far from peacefully. 

Blocking immigrants now is hypocrisy and against its founding principles. Take the inscription on the Statue of Liberty:

“Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; … Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me…”

The Quebec mosque attack last weekend that left 6 dead and 8 injured was not by Muslims, but of Muslims. First reports drew attention to the fact that one of those arrested was from Morocco, another fake news story from a pro-Trump reddit said they were Syrian refugees, but not the truth that the sole perpetrator, killer, terrorist, turned out to be a far right, anti-feminist, anti-immigrant and Trump supporting white supremacist inspired by Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen of Front Nacionale of France:

“Friends and those who knew him online said he had extreme political beliefs, but was not known to be violent. Eric Debroise said he called police after the shooting and told them Alexandre Bissonnette is “very right and (an) ultra nationalist white supremacist,” the French-language newspaper Le Journal de Quebec reports. “He really liked Trump and had a permanent discontent with the left.”” 

Will Donald Trump now block Canadians visiting the US, or won’t it matter if the victims are other Muslims and the aggressors other American continent citizens?

11,000 are killed on US soil each year at the hands of US citizens, black and white, Christian and Muslim. More toddlers than terrorists kill Americans. Ban guns not Muslims.

ISIS kills more Muslims than Christians and more people from the seven barred nations than American citizens. How many Americans you ask?

The number of Americans killed by terrorists who’ve entered the US as Refugees? ZERO. No person accepted to the United States as a refugee, Syrian or otherwise, has been implicated in a major fatal terrorist attack since the Refugee Act of 1980. Prior to that only Cuban non-Muslims had.

Even if we include attacks and plots with no fatalities, then just 20 refugees out of 3 and a quarter million have been convicted over 40 years, that’s just 0.0006%, which is statistically zero anyway. An American is 250 times more likely to be killed or murdered by other means than by a foreign-born terrorist.

In a study of country origins of terroristsSaudia Arabia, UAE and Egypt topped the list. Trump’s nations only enter the list at places 25 and lower! 

Pennsylvania Republican representative Charlie Dent said,

“the order appears to have been rushed through without full consideration. You know, there are many, many nuances of immigration policy that can be life or death for many innocent, vulnerable people around the world.”

Even Donald Trump admitted it was a “ban”, announced in his best official and professional sounding statesman-like way on Twitter:

Another US Republican senator and former Presidential candidate, John McCain said:

“Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.” 

Even Mike Pence the Republican VP denounced it in 2015 when Obama was advised to do something similar but less extreme:

Yes we need to be careful calling this an “all Muslim” ban or saying it came only from Donald Trump, as Obama’s advisors first drew up the list but as amendmends to the pre-existing Visa Waiver Program. The new ban cancels the visa themselves, rather than requiring them.

Theresa the Appeaser
Theresa the Appeaser

Wherever it started, it’s where it ends that worries me. “Theresa The Appeaser” came back from America and Foreign Secretary Boris ‘the joke’ Johnson announced British exceptions to the rules – just like Chamberlain’s futile appeasement attempts in 1938.

“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” – Winston Churchill

We won't let history repeat itself
We won’t let history repeat itself

I can appreciate the irony of standing under Hitler’s favourite balcony, Norwich City Hall, protesting. We do need to attack the policies not the person, appreciate the complexities of their origins, and not demonise the man, reference mental health and little hands, that plays into the insecure dictator psyche and adds fuel to Trump supporters that we don’t hear their concerns.

Just as with Brexit true communal change can only come about with all parties engaged, remainers and leavers, Democrats and Republicans, Labour, Tory and the rest. We underestimated the fears of leavers and Trump supporters that led to them winning society changing votes that will affect the next 4-5 years or more.

I would commend peaceful and polite protest, therefore, but without passive appeasement. The women’s march saw millions gather because it was peaceful. Better to let Trump visit the UK and then have a protest he can witness the size of feeling at. Unrest and civil disobedience are always a later option.

Neutrality helps the oppressor never the victim
Neutrality helps the oppressor never the victim

If anything similar were to ever happen here as some Brexit supporters and Nigel Farage have called for, then I’m with Madeleine Albright (a Czech immigrant to the US and former Secretary of State) and would register as a Muslim to demonstrate solidarity, before they list any other categories of people that need rounding up or banning.

Resist the ban, welcome refugees, and provide practical and legal support where you can, illegal support if it ever comes to it! It’s open mosque day this Sunday – go to one.

I am reminded of another of Churchill’s statements that diplomacy does not mean friendship with another state acting immorally towards its people and demonising groups within it. It reinforces the dangerous moral path Theresa May treads in appearing as Donald Trump’s greatest foreign ally.

“You must have diplomatic and correct relations, but there can never be friendship between the British democracy and the Nazi power, that power which spurns Christian ethics, which cheers its onward course by a barbarous paganism, which vaunts the spirit of aggression and conquest, which derives strength and perverted pleasure from persecution, and uses, as we have seen, with pitiless brutality the threat of murderous force. That power cannot ever be the trusted friend of the British democracy.”

View more photos from the protest here.

Fuck Trump anti-Fascist protestor
Fuck Trump anti-Fascist protestor

 

Saving Syria’s Aleppo from War Crimes & Humanitarian Crisis, Norwich Rally

Save Aleppo, Syria – Norwich Rally

Lotty Clare, Save Aleppo, Norwich demo
Lotty Clare, Save Aleppo, Norwich demo

Movement for Justice and UEA student, Lotty Clare led a rally outside City Hall Norwich for Aleppo Syria with Tim Hughes of Stop the War Coalition, activist and writer Katy Jon Went, Norwich-based Syrian refugee Anas, and John Cowan. Cllrs Alan Waters and James Wright of Norwich City Council were among the gathered crowd to offer support and hear what could be done. Alan Waters said that the city’s MPs, Chloe Smith and Clive Lewis, would be written to.

What can you do?

One of the hardest things is feeling so powerless in the face of the humanitarian disaster, but there are actions that can be taken:

  • Writing to MPs
  • Writing to international embassies about the United Nations Responsibility to Protect to which all member nations signed up in 2005 to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity
  • Writing to Syria’s embassy as responsible for the wellbeing of its own people and to uphold the 16 UN resolutions regarding atrocities and human rights abuses in Syria
  • Supporting Syrian and international aid charities
  • Helping Médecins Sans Frontières as a medic or with money
  • Joining Amnesty International
  • Welcoming Syrian refugees – offering spare rooms. Half of Syria have been forced out of their homes, the biggest refugee and displacement crisis since the Second World War, 11 million people
  • Keeping yourself informed to maintain international pressure on the parties responsible for perpetuating the situation
  • Attending rallies to keep Syria in the public and media eye
Norwich Save Aleppo Rally
Norwich Save Aleppo Rally

My own contribution evolved out of a facebook rant I wrote earlier in the day about the escalation of terror and atrocities in the weeks before Christmas, the supposed season of goodwill and peace to all mankind.

Text of my speech

We hear you Aleppo
“We hear you Aleppo”, placard by Laure Ollivier-Minns

A year ago, as the UK Parliament was considering joining the by then year long US & 13 nation coalition of bombing Syria, I attended a Don’t Bomb Syria rally. A year later and the situation is worse, not only in Syria but also in surrounding nations. 15 years of invasions, interference, and increased radicalisation by bombing the bombers, has not stopped or solved a single middle eastern crisis.

Christmas sees no let up in world chaos and terror, no salam, shalom, peace toward all men…an Advent calendar of death mostly meted out on non-combatants, mother and child, drone strike “collateral damage”, innocent victims of men’s rush to conquer and dominate, or to solve problems with swords rather than ploughshares, bombs rather than words.

Use your power for peace, Save AleppoOn Sunday, IS killed 25, mainly women, in Cairo’s Coptic Cathedral, the same day Boko Haram forced two 7-year-old girls to act as suicide bombers in a Nigerian market. In the first 2 weeks of December alone, IS have executed 100 people, so have Syrian pro-government forces, and suicide bombs have gone off in Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, Turkey, Yemen.

Meantime the humanitarian disaster that is Syria and Aleppo continues to escalate with over 450,000 killed, and some 4.8 million refugees (along with 6.6m internally displaced, that’s half of Syria’s 22m population forced out of their homes), cities flattened, hospitals destroyed, children killed (up to 50,000). The current raids on Aleppo have been called by the UN this afternoon, in all probability a war crime. If the battle for Aleppo is over, then for Assad the victory is Pyrrhic as the city is demolished and its people dead and devastated.

Great progress world, congratulations on continuing to be a right royal fuck up 2016 years after baby Jesus/Yeshua/Isa was apparently born. Extremist and fundamentalist religious interpretations, repressive political regimes, and “proxy wars” are not on my Xmas card list, Syrian refugees are – an airdrop of aid, peaceful passage out of conflict zones, a welcome in the West, but better still – stop the bombing so they can stay, live and rebuild their land.

Save Aleppo not inactionInstead, we continue the bombing, and breaking of ceasefires 2 hours after they are put into effect – even bombing the very roads the evacuations were due to take place on. Bombing escalates terror, and is a failed strategy, that even Donald Trump now admits! Indeed, Boris Johnson, against political and Tory party advice, has called a spade a spade, and for an end to proxy wars of geopolitical games carried out by Saudi Arabia, but perhaps also: Iran, Russia, Turkey and the US.

Each religion or political cause can be twisted to apparently justify slaughter, but that comes from man’s inhumanity to man, not faith or ideology per se. Equally, most faiths can be quoted from to encourage love, mercy and kindness. At this time of year, and every day, we need to be encouraging community, compromise and communication, not escalating conflicts creating mass casualties as the collateral toll of other people’s battles.

Save Aleppo

Save Aleppo

“Save us, people. Save us, people, world, anyone who has even a bit of humanity,” said one doctor in a voice message from a besieged district. “We beg you, we beg you, the dead and wounded are in the streets and people’s homes have collapsed on top of them. Save us. Save us.”

Postscript

Shortly after the rally, it was announced that the ceasefire had been restored, but for how long? By Friday morning it was off again. A UN official says the evacuation is “redolent of the Nazi evacuation of the Warsaw ghetto” as thousands are bussed out down the 21km corridor, 6km of which is controlled by Government forces. 

"We hear you Aleppo", placard by Laure Ollivier-Minns
Supporters at the #SaveAleppo rally in Norwich. More photos here and also pics by Emma Pamplin here.

 

We are all migrants – Norwich Solidarity Rally with International Immigrants

Norwich Migrants Solidarity Rally

Rebecca Tamás organised a rally of over 400 people on 12 July outside Norwich City Hall, with a dozen speakers across cultures and continents, writers, politicians, faiths, artists, academics and activists, as well as the daughter of the Eastern European village shop on Magdalen St that was arson attacked on 8 July. The purpose of the gathering was to affirm the city’s welcome of migrants, refugees and all its international communities. Norwich is a city of refuge and literature to everyone with a story, a safe place for future chapters to unfold, even if there are isolated incidents of hate or racism, Norwich remains a fine city where the community responds to hate with love, to darkness with light.

Rebecca Tamás organiser and speaker at Migrants Rally, 12 July 2016
Rebecca Tamás organiser and speaker at Migrants Rally, 12 July 2016 – more event photos here

Hungarian-British UEA PhD student and organiser of the rally
Rebecca Tamás described the event as:

“a testament to the power of love and inclusion” – UEA Concrete, interview

In the same post-rally interview I said that:

“Nobody can say there’s even such a thing as ‘English’, let alone ‘British’ or anything else: we are already a melting pot of different cultures and backgrounds, bloodlines and everything. But it’s about, even more than ever, despite that background, recognising that we are part of a global village. And it is this bigger picture we often miss: the fact that we are all human beings whose duty it is to always watch out for our fellow humans… at the end of the day, it is about stories, we have personal stories and people have community and country stories, but it’s having the freedom to have your own story, the freedom to then tell that story to others, to be heard and to be recognised.” – UEA Concrete, interview

We are all migrants. We are all story-tellers. We are all humans. We deserve the same opportunities, the same love, and the same respect. And, at the end of the day, it really is as simple as that.

Hate is taught and caught, not born with, children begin life accepting everyone until we teach them otherwise, it is good for, particularly young people, to be out demonstrating a positive response to diversity and difference, rather than the rise in xenophobia and hate crime witnessed post-Brexit vote.

Event Speakers

  • Katy Jon Went, writer & diversity activist (full transcript below)
  • Marcia X, UEA
  • George Szirtes
  • Samantha Rajasingham
  • Dr Becky Taylor, UEA
  • Pa Musa Jobarteh of BridgePlus
  • Fern Richards, UEA
  • Mohammed Ameen from Chapelfield Mosque
  • Annie Henrique from Norwich Liberal Synagogue
  • Tim Hughes from Stand up to Racism.
  • Rebecca Tamás, UEA
  • Cllr Alan Waters, Leader of Norwich City Council
  • Clive Lewis MP for Norwich South – by message

An excellent summary of each speaker’s main points can be found on Tony Allen’s blog.

Text of my opening speech

Speech download as PDF

Katy Jon Went speaking at Norwich Solidarity With Migrants Rally, 12 July 2016
Katy Jon Went speaking at Norwich Solidarity With Migrants Rally, 12 July 2016 – more event photos here

The UK and, indeed, East Anglia have long traditions of immigration. We currently have some 8 million foreign-born people in the UK, about 1-in-8 of us. But, more than that, many of us, if not recent migrants, have Roman, Viking, Norman, Saxon, Dutch, African, Caribbean or Indian ancestors.

Ironically, Brexit Boris Johnson has Turkish and Franco-German ancestry and was born in the USA so is included in that 8 million figure! Unless you want to class bombastic British Boris as foreign, the actual number is nearer to 5 million, or about 1-in-12 people.

Whatever the figures, though, the important thing to recognise is that we live in a global community, locally expressed.

It is community cohesion and communication we need to build to counter fear, hate, and prejudice.

My partner is Dutch and my family name has Dutch emigrant roots. In the 16th century Norwich welcomed Dutch and Flemish ‘Strangers’ till they made up a third of our population, bringing new skills that enhanced our then status as England’s second most prosperous and prestigious city.

Before that, back in the 12th century, Norwich was 7% Jewish but after the killing of a teenager, posthumously to become St William, that was falsely blamed on the local Jews, and so began the Blood Libel. A persecution and killing of Jews that spread across East Anglia and to Europe, from our fine city of Norwich. By the end of the 13th century all remaining Jews had been expelled from Britain.

In addition, slavery, empire, and commonwealth’s, often coerced, contributions to wars, trade, and labour, mean that Britain’s success owes a moral debt to people from around the world. Economically we have, and continue to thrive on, migrant people’s hardworking and entrepreneurial spirit. Economic studies show that immigration is a net benefit, that immigrant people are more likely to be in work or starting their own trades, paying tax, and not claiming benefits, than people of longstanding British heritage.

Whether people come to Britain fleeing war, terrorism, homophobia, transphobia, or poverty, they are all fleeing a threat to life, liberty, or livelihood. Even poverty is a slow death and until #Brexit we were the 5th most wealthy economy in the world after Germany which has twice the percentage of migrant background population. We are fully able to sponsor and support asylum seekers, refugees and even so-called economic migrants.

What we have to do is engage with British communities that bear the greatest new influxes so that integration is successful. London with over a third foreign national origin people is a successful example after more than 60 years of immigration, Boston and Great Yarmouth, among others, need time to adapt.

That means that grants and benefits need to fall upon domestic as well as international communities in those areas. It means increased spending on schools, the NHS, and community services, not austerity which falls hardest upon the poor. Doing this will reduce societal division, fear, hatred, jealousy and suspicion.

Solidarity With Migrants, Norwich, 12 July 2016 #SafetyPin
Solidarity With Migrants, Norwich, 12 July 2016 #SafetyPin – more photos here

Hate crimes have surged by 42% in England and Wales since the Brexit result, over 200 a day, the worst rise on record. Three race hate crimes an hour is three too many, especially when nine more per hour go unreported.

The UK needs to be at the forefront of offering opportunity and safety to all. Freedom of belief, expression, identity and speech, alongside freedom from poverty, persecution, FGM, homophobia, forced marriage, racism, and torture, these are the very foundations of a truly forward thinking country and culture.

Our Home Secretary will become our Prime Minister tomorrow, unopposed. She herself, though, has opposed immigration and despite after much petitioning reviewing asylum seeker processes continues to preside over conditions and interrogations of refugees that demand they prove their sexuality and threats at home in invasive ways.

Theresa May may have Tory ‘Maymentum’, and Momentum may have a meeting tonight amidst Labour’s leadership woes, but we here in Norwich have migrant momentum, maintaining Norwich’s place as a growing city of cultural and international diversity, safety, and welcome. Here’s what the City Council have to say:

Solidarity With Migrants, Norwich, City Hall, 12 July 2016
Solidarity With Migrants, Norwich, City Hall, 12 July 2016 – more photos here

“we, as people of Norwich, should be reminded and encouraged to take pride in our ethnic and cultural diversity and rejoice in what we can share with and learn from others. Above all, we should be on our guard against anything or anyone who sets out to destroy it. As an institution (Norwich City Council), which is an integral part of city life, we once more declare our abhorrence and utter rejection of any form of injustice and pledge ourselves anew to celebrating cultural diversity and to ensuring that all members of our city feel nurtured and embraced.” – NCC statement

Democracy, Diversity & anti-Hate Speech, Norwich Stays pro-EU Brexit rally

Speeches delivered at #NorwichStays pro-EU Remain Rally

I was one of 8 great speakers at a peaceful anti-Brexit demo, attended by 1500 people, organised by UEA students Emily Cutler and Tom Johnston on the steps of Norwich City Hall, Thursday 7 July. It followed the result of the EU Referendum on 23 June which saw 48% vote Remain but lose in a campaign that was punctuated by fear and fraud, rather than reasoned evidenced debate. It was a democratic process that has highlighted and polarised division in the country over the UK’s relationship with the European Union. But democracy also means that we can keep pressing for change and reconsideration of Brexit, which is a once-in-a-lifetime retrograde decision.

Pro-Europe banners at Norwich Stays anti-Brexit rally
Pro-Europe banners at Norwich Stays anti-Brexit rally (more pics here)

Speaker List

Councillor Alan Waters, “this is our moment to shape the future of this city”, Leader of Norwich City Council with a background in education and the arts

Emily Cutler, UEA Economics student and co-organiser

“I can’t believe how many people are standing in front of me. When I was organising this I was expecting a couple of hundred people. I can’t believe how many people have come out to support our future.” – Emily Cutler

Cllr James Wright, Norwich Liberal Democrats and Deputy Lord Mayor

“I’m proud to belong to a city that looks forward and not back to some golden days in the 1950s that perhaps never existed”

Andri Innes, UEA International Relations lecturer

Cllr David Raby, “Another Europe Is Possible”, City Councillor and member of the Green Party’s international committee

Katy Jon Went, writer & diversity activist (full transcript below)

Jon Clemo, chief executive of Community Action Norfolk and campaigning member of Britain Stronger In Europe

Claudina Richards, Europe “part of my identity… part of our identity”, senior law lecturer at the University of East Anglia

For a thoughtful reflection about the event and more on each speaker see Tony Allen’s blog. Check out some photos of the event and consider joining the Norwich and Norfolk Stays Facebook group.

Katy Jon Went pro-EU Speech Transcript

Katy Jon Went speaking at pro-EU anti-Brexit rally in Norwich
Katy Jon Went speaking at pro-EU anti-Brexit rally in Norwich

As the number of speakers grew so inevitably our speeches had to be reduced, so I’ve put below my full-length text, actual text, deletions and ad libs in different colours, so you can compare the planned and final version speech (annoying for many of you, no doubt, but interesting for speech writers!) – if you want a clean actual speech only version click here.

Speech download as PDF

I’m a democrat, a liberal, a socialist, and an economist and statistician, and have previously run a business that enjoyed the freedom to trade across the EU. Fifteen years ago I would have voted Leave. A fortnight ago I voted Remain with all my heart, having spent the month before it writing and debating daily for a reformed EU, not a disUnited Kingdom.

Let me say from the outset that I believe in hope not hate, unity not division, and am totally opposed to all forms of xenophobia and racism, but and this is where you might not like me so much I’m also against tarnishing all Leavers with the same brush. Whilst the majority of racists it has been said voted Leave, the majority of Leavers are not racists. Nor are they all elderly, nor are they all uneducated, nor are they all unemployed, nor of a different class to some people who may be gathered here. Yes, there are demographics that voted more one way than another, but descending into generalisations and personal attacks without factual qualification is part of the very issue that brought such disrepute to the campaigns of both Leave and Remain.

That said, the result of the vote which falls on everybody as much it falls on all voters, as it falls on non-voters, it falls on the media and politicians and everyone who got us where we got two weeks ago which is not the end we can still change that but there have been alike, has been that a majority of people of colour, folk from different countries and cultures, even legally British but ethnically diverse people who have been here for years, my partner is Dutch and has been here 17 years but couldn’t vote. Some of these people now feel less welcome, less safe, and along with a majority of young people under 35, are now worrying about a more insecure future with fewer educational, scientific, cultural and employment opportunities.

At the same time though we have to accept that a majority of unemployed or low-paid working class people also lacked hope and voted ‘Out’ because of their own fears about the future, exacerbated by unfounded beliefs that immigration was a threat to them personally or that the alleged benefits of the EU had passed them by and had not been felt or recognised by them. Our failure was in not getting across that message. We need an inclusive internationalism that leaves no communities and no or classes behind. Being part of the 48 per cent, if we shift that to 52 or 54, or 55% we still end up in a divided country if we can’t make that 65, 75 or 95% in favour of staying in Europe, and that means engaging with the 52 per cent, rationally, fairly and humanely.

We need to unite against prejudice, against discrimination, xenophobia and hate. I believe that the EU has actually helped that over the years with its motto of “Unity in diversity”, not just of nations and disparate peoples, but also of workers and employers, of women and women, LGBT and other minority communities. The Friday just before the Referendum, it was a Herculean task but they got all 28 nations of the EU to agreed common cause on promoting LGBTI rights across Europe, being part of the EU has helped people like me as a trans person because the EU actually trumped the UK in various courts so that laws were actually, yes, imposed upon the UK by Europe, but they were laws to do with human rights that needed imposing on us! But the EU having these kind of rights to do with human rights and LGBT rights and all the other things, they will actually mean that they can demanded improvement from countries that want to join the EU, from accession countries, countries like Turkey, with its poorer that has an abysmal human rights record. If they want to join the EU then they’re going to have to join the unanimity of the countries that have already promoted human rights in Europe.

The very worst thing that has come out of Brekfist (oops tongue tied and hungry!) Brexit, to me, has been the rise in hate crime – already we saw last year in the UK a rise in on the up, particularly Islamophobia in 2015. But even here in Norwich on a single day just days after the Referendum I heard of 3 local hate incidents, by the end of the weekend nearly a dozen I’d heard of, and those were just those I was connected to via social media here in Norwich. There were a hundred more elsewhere over Brexit weekend, and over 500 since, over a week it was 500% up according to the police, 66/day in London, 200+/day across the country, according to Tell Mama, over 800 per cent rise in Islamic phobic hate crime. Most go still unreported, so the situation is probably worse, many are now living in fear. Now, I don’t mean to shock you with this but one of the worst statements of what was actually casual racism as it’s called, as if there’s such a thing I saw was online, and it was locally was, and someone said: “don’t worry about the rise in racism, it will be offset by the fall in murders and rapes murderers and rapists“.

That is something we need to oppose vehemently, and that’s root and branch, and that doesn’t just mean “Oh I condemn it ” and politicians saying “I condemn it, and we’ll do more about it”, it means getting to the grassroots of culture in our country to change people’s attitude. London was a place that voted predominantly to Remain and yet has the highest immigration and has had it for the longest it is more integrated. I lived there in the 80s when it was less integrated. Places like Boston, yes they have high immigration now but it isn’t fully integrated yet and they haven’t got used to it. Some of these things take time but leaving Europe means we haven’t don’t have that time. There are things that we need to do now.

The UK was actually part of a liberal bloc in the EU, and that is actually weakened by our leaving, we’re abandoning the liberal and reforming movements within Europe by leaving them without what would become a 35 per cent blocking minority on less-liberal proposals from further far right groups factions within Europe the EU.

Absolute sovereignty and security – sovereignty was the biggest issue, even above immigration, in the EU campaign but absolute sovereignty and security in a global world is a myth. Geography continues to be redrawn on maps, and online daily – it doesn’t really exist at all. Instead, according to a leading British professor of EU law it’s about control and power, and they’re not even true. After Brexit we will have more apparent control but less actually less power and less influence in the world, and none at the EU table, and losing a market and community of states, that’s twice the size of America, and nearly half of our global trade. And even if we leave we will remain in the European Courts of Human Rights, we will remain in the Council of Europe, we remain in NATO, WTO, G7, G20, various international laws, human rights, maritime, and environment agreements. This is the 21st century not the 19th! We cannot peddle backwards.

Democracy though is imperfect and not always right – especially, when I don’t get my own way. Ha, no! Yes, the Referendum was democracy in action, but democracy in a factless vacuum and a fatuous vacuum does not work – Hitler rose to power on democracy and then abused and crushed it in the name of national unity and self-interest.

Democracy also fails when there’s evident electoral bias. My South Norfolk Polling Station had two Brexit tabloids on display next to the voting slips, if you ask me that invalidates that vote and that wasn’t Norwich I live just South – still under investigation by the Electoral Commission and local counting officer, despite reporting it halfway through voting day.

Democracy doesn’t work when we are lied to by, both sides, leading to a situation where 22 per cent of people admitted they didn’t understand the facts well and yet still voted, some of those same people googled after the polls closed, “what is the EU?” 47 per cent believed the Leave campaign’s openly acknowledged “mistake” and withdrawn promise, the that of the false £350m a week EU contributions blatantly false and proven to be so. That was and electoral bribe that was withdrawn immediately. That invalidates their entire campaign it would now be spent on the NHS. The Health Service will not be getting £350m more. Furthermore, the vote will make little difference to immigration. Net budget payments to the EU will probably cost us almost the same to get some kind of Norway or Swiss deal. If the Pound remains low, inflation will already add 5-10% to food and petrol prices, affecting everyone and especially the working classes, especially the poor, especially the people who voted ‘Out’. If we ever want to rejoin, you can be assured we will never get the rebates, reforms and exemptions we got before. We actually have one of the best deals in Europe at the moment and we’re about to trash it.

One of my biggest issues, is that people were not informed of the economic, social and legal facts and consequences, without falsehood or media and party bias, in order for the Vote to fairly consent to the Referendum choices, how can they consent when what they heard was not fair or true. In the most more blatant cases they were lied to by again both campaigns. Exaggeration that was what the Chilcot Report criticised Blair’s campaign to go to war over, blatant exaggeration. Fear won. It was a campaign of fear. Democracy based upon lies and fear is not democracy but deception and manipulation. That is how the National Socialists rose to power in the 1930s.

My first degree was in Economics and Statistics so I know very well how to lie! The UK was 5th in the world economic tables, and was about to overtake Germany, because of the Pound’s since Brexit’s 12% currency devaluation the last two weeks, (18% off its 12 month peak) we’ve already dropped a place slipped to 6th instead, behind below France. And we will keep slipping if we do not reform Europe and the UK’s position in it. The FTSE 250 remains 8% down.

But our rights of representation include the right to protest the results of any electoral or parliamentary decision, that’s what democracy is, it doesn’t mean just once every 5 years or once every 50 years which is what the EU Referendum was about. The rights to representation means we can keep complaining, it’s not sour grapes, it’s not just get on with it and accept it, or e-x-c-e-p-t it as a lot of people have been spelling over Facebook! I do agree with ‘excepting’ that decision the other spelling! But as millions have done since austerity under the Tories, or even under the war that Tony Blair took us into. People took to the streets and called for general elections, called for referenda, called to bring down governments, that is our democratic right, not to accept the decision and to keep campaigning, but to keep persuading as well, to keep proving that a majority are moving in favour of staying. 

Agitation to peacefully bring down a government, petition for change, is a very British revolutionary right way of doing revolution in these days. The parties are already stabbing themselves in the back. Brexit It has already brought down several seen two party leaders go and most of the Brexit pretenders. Nigel Farage himself, as you’ve already heard, says admitted that he too would have called for a second referendum had the margin 52-48% been the same in Remain’s favour. So it’s schadenfreude and hypocrisy to say that we shouldn’t be calling for it too.

In the 5 days since the Referendum, Parliament received over 5,000 petitions, nearly 50 times their normal democratic load. The most famous is the call for a second Referendum if there was a narrow margin of victory. It was actually a Leaver’s petition hijacked by Remainers! It has over 4 million signatures even after removing the fraudulent ones, the fastest and largest ever in the UK.

That is a demonstration of democracy, that is a demonstration of people power and a demonstration of political engagement but it is still not enough. If 80% of young people wanted to stay in and yet 80% didn’t vote, then there’s still a lack of political engagement, that’s what we’ve got to change. 

People power can bring down governments and/or prevent Article 50 if we can prove the electorate has changed its mind or was lied to as with the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War.

We can continue to call for compromise and delay, and a fresh democratic mandate to ratify or reject any Exit deal, once the facts are known. This has been suggested by Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, despite being ruled out by all the Tory leadership candidates. There are legal reasons why a referendum based upon lies can be disregarded, indeed Parliament is only morally obliged to follow a referendum’s verdict, not legally.

The regret vote, according to polls, is now already shifting 7-14% away from Leave, (oddly enough 3% of Remainers have shifted to Leave!). But the point is the gap has shifted in our favour. Wales is now polling as majority Remain – probably because of the football! People on Guido Fawkes website are already planning street demos and riots should there be a second referendum or non-Brexit. But it is the extremes of traditional Left-Right politics behind Brexit, nationalistic and anti-establishment views, not the centre ground of engagement with Europe. Politics is changing and it’s calling. It calls for a new politics, a the rainbow coalition and progressive alliances to defeat an insular nationalism. A majority of those under 45 voted Remain, but a majority of those under 35 didn’t vote. We need to re-engage with not only politics but voting and that engagement and education so that people’s futures are enfranchised. I think it was one of the Swiss guys this week who said that where we have failed is by abandoning investment in education over the last 2 decades. I mean with people like Gove at the helm – that is why!

If Article 50 is delayed and a Referendum or General Election called before any final EU withdrawal attempt, by then hundreds of thousands more younger people will have gained the vote and those that didn’t vote can be mobilised.

The UK and its universities receive more funding from the European Research Council than any other country and 50% more than Germany, allowing UK universities to fund more than 10% of project-based research from EU contributions.

The EU has contributed to 50 years of peace and harmony in Europe, prosperity has been dented not because of the EU but because of austerity and the world economic crash of 2008, because of the banks, because of bailing them out and not bailing the poor out.

Being in Europe but not a part of the Euro, has actually served British interests very well. 

The EU does not want us to leave, nor do Scotland, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar, London, Norwich and elsewhere, not to mention Wales and Cornwall beginning to shift. I want to remain and if we have to leave, to revote once the facts of the deal are knows, or to petition to rejoin, as soon as possible.

It is not a loser’s tantrum, it’s my democratic right and yours to keep saying that I want to stay in the EU, even in opposition, but significantly it is and my moral responsibility to stand up for those in the UK who don’t have no electoral rights, no voice, like the millions of EU and other immigrant peoples who cannot vote, and the people under 18 whose futures we are gambling deciding now but the reality of which will not kick in until a time when they would have had their own a say.

With 7-14% of Leavers regretting their votes and 100s of thousands being enfranchised by the time an EU deal is negotiated, we would almost certainly vote Remain at another more honest fact-driven Referendum prior to debating deals or launching any Article 50, next year – according to Theresa May.

We are entirely within our rights to keep making those voices heard, as we are today. Thank you.

 

Norfolk People’s Assembly Anti Austerity Protest Rally, 30 May, Norwich UK

NPA Anti-Austerity Protest Rally

Julie Bremner protesting Get The Tories Out at Norwich NPA Rally
Julie Bremner with Socialist Worker protesting Get The Tories Out – Strike, Protest, Occupy at Norwich NPA Rally

Saturday 30 May at midday saw several hundred people “depressed and angry about the election results” gather at the Norwich Haymarket who wanted “a more equal, fairer, kinder system…” standing together to find “a better way”. The growing local Norfolk People’s Assembly saw hundreds of local activists heed the call for a National day of Action from the UK People’s Assembly as a pre-cursor to a larger anti-government rally on 20 June in London. Some 475 joined the Facebook event and around 200-250 showed up at the Norwich Haymarket, nestled between McDonald’s, Top Shop, Next, Starbucks, and Primark. The statue of a pensive  Sir Thomas Browne – the medic and author of “Vulgar Errors”, looked down upon the modern crowd, probably wondering why we hadn’t yet solved 17th century problems of inequality and poverty, more than 3 centuries later.

Norfolk Peoples Assembly Anti Austerity Demo, Norwich Haymarket 30 May 2015
Norfolk Peoples Assembly Anti Austerity Demo, Norwich Haymarket 30 May 2015

Different interest groups but a common message

Banners for Saving Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk (currently in special measures), the Norfolk People’s Assembly and DPAC Norfolk (Disabled People Against Cuts) were unfurled along with dozens of printed and home made anti-austerity signs held aloft by arms weary after 5 years of Coalition cuts and now faced with another 5 years of threatened welfare budget reductions under the recently elected Conservative Party.

Stop the war against the poor
Stop the war against the poor

Diverse people representing numerous special interest bodies such as Save the NHS or the Hewett School, students, unemployed, disabled groups, political parties, affiliations and none, all called in unison for an end to the cuts and austerity.

A lone young female heckler raised a sober voice saying that “you people on benefits already get too much”. Perhaps, influenced by the hardline Right wing and Ukip rhetoric in the East of England during the recent election campaign.

Passionate Political Speeches

If the personal is political then that rang true of speakers from across the board, less because it was about them, more because of the passion with which they spoke for and on behalf of others but from the depths of personal experience of austerity and cuts to their sectors or own lives.

Green Party spokesperson at Norfolk Peoples Assembly Anti Austerity Rally, Norwich Haymarket
Political speeches at Norfolk Peoples Assembly Anti Austerity Rally, Norwich Haymarket

Speakers from the rally organisers, included Jan McLachlan, representatives of the Green Party, and Mark Harrison of the disability charity Equal Lives who drew attention to the ongoing access issues at the Duke Street work capability assessments centre.

Recently elected local Labour MP for Norwich South – Clive Lewis, suggested that even illegal direct action may be necessary to oppose immoral laws and Government inaction. Lewis spoke in an impassioned way that would probably shame the current batch of Labour leadership hopefuls and their copycat “aspirations of hard working families” soundbites.

Clive Lewis Labour MP for Norwich South speaks passionately about opposition and direct action
Clive Lewis Labour MP for Norwich South speaks passionately about opposition and direct action

Media & Press Coverage

Norwich Evening News covers NPA Anti Austerity Rally
Norwich Evening News covers NPA Anti Austerity Rally

Norwich Evening News reported very briefly on the rally but unfortunately made the demonstration sound like it was organised by Clive Lewis, which was not the case. Great publicity for the Labour MP, whose support and speech were appreciated, however poor journalism and social media tweeting by the EDP‘s Evening News arm, neglecting to mention many speakers and making it sound like the excellent Norfolk People’s Assembly organisers joined Mr Lewis, rather than the other way around. Political fairness also dictates that other parties such as the Norwich Green Party were also represented there. After contacting Archant I was assured that they would pass on “corrections you’ve pointed out to the reporter who wrote the story who will amend as appropriate”. Four days later, finally, an amendment to the online news story: “The rally, organised by the Norfolk People’s Assembly, was attended by Unison members, and pupils and parents from the Hewett School.” But still no response to the original and even more inaccurate tweet:

If Monday is a slow news day, then posting about Saturday’s event, also on the EDP site, has led to 44+ comments, the most commented on article today (58 now).

More photographic coverage on Demotix.

Earnest about Education too

Education was well represented by Ian Anderson a spokesperson for the We’re backing Hewett campaign, UEA staff, and Postgraduate Education officer UEA Students Union Liam McCafferty.

Liam, depressingly depicted a dystopian future where people would not be able to afford higher education.

Nick O'Brien speaking at the Norfolk Peoples Assembly Anti-Austerity Rally
Nick O’Brien speaking at the Norfolk Peoples Assembly Anti-Austerity Rally

Local deputy head teacher, NUT Campaigns Coordinator, Norwich Pride Chair and social activist, Nick O’Brien mentioned the reportedly over 27,000 children in Norfolk now living in poverty, at increased risk of poor health and educational achievement, whilst more than half a dozen children of protesting parents were happy, beyond most young kids’ attention spans, to hold up placards drawing attention to the plight of people of all ages and abilities under the current cuts.

NPA Press Release

Family solidarity as kids affected by austerity say "No Cuts"
Family solidarity as kids affected by austerity say “No Cuts”

Norwich Radical writer and NPA Press Secretary, Jack Brindelli, issued this statement for the press:

We at the People’s Assembly are steadfastly opposed to the Tories vicious plans for Britain, and the implications they will have for the people of Norfolk. On David Cameron’s watch as Prime Minister, the country has become bitterly divided along the lines of wealth inequality. His government’s cuts have shamefully targeted society’s most vulnerable – from the disabled, to the unemployed, to the unborn.

Whilst the Conservatives have been selling off the NHS through the backdoor, Britain’s infant mortality rate has risen to become the highest in Western Europe. Since 2010, the Black Triangle campaign estimates more than 80 suicides have been directly linked to cuts to social security – as those who need help most have been driven to desperate decisions by the Tories’ savage austerity measures. Over the duration of the last Parliament, the government have also butchered our legal rights by cutting legal aid – and are currently poised to axe the Human Rights Act, which currently protects ordinary citizens of all races from torture and persecution.

Young emboldened activist stands defiantly for "No Cuts"
Young emboldened activist stands defiantly for “No Cuts”

They have dismantled the comprehensive education system with their failed Free Schools and Academies scheme, turning schools like Hewett into profit-driven production lines, and they have tripled tuition fees – essentially ending the chances of a generation to learn beyond a GCSE level.

Kids who can't vote yet say "Get the Tories Out"
Kids who can’t vote yet say “Get the Tories Out”

We have a clear choice for the next 5 years then. If we want to live in a world without an NHS, without universal education, without opportunity, without hope, then we need only sit back and wait for 2020’s election to at best deliver us cuts from a different party. If however, we are intent on not only protecting the ideas of freedom, opportunity and the right to live with dignity, but also determined to literally save hundreds of lives, and to provide our children with a future worth living, then we must stand together now. Over the coming months, across the country from Glasgow to Newcastle, to Liverpool to London, the People’s Assembly plans to take action to stop David Cameron’s gang of market-extremists in their tracks, and build a better alternative. For us, the fightback starts here, in Norwich.

More photos of the Norfolk People’s Assembly Norwich rally here.

UK Uncut Anti-Austerity Rally in London

Human Rights Act protest
Human Rights Act protest

London saw two rallies on Saturday, one against the proposed replacement of the Human Rights Act by an expected to be watered down British Bill of Rights, and another called for by UK Uncut which saw 4,700 join the Facebook event. Less than that, as is usual with online events, turned up, but the hundreds that did protested peacefully and painted in situ a large 20m banner: “12bn more cuts. £120bn tax dodged – Austerity is a lie“, which they subsequently hung over the side of the bridge opposite Parliament. Although paint bombs were let off and direct action was called for, no arrests were made. Beth Cunningham told reporters:

“Direct action is what works. It sends a loud and clear message that people aren’t happy. And it’s part of acknowledging that our current political resources aren’t enough. People don’t have enough resources in the current political system to make their voices heard and that’s why we resort to direct action.”