Showing solidarity with people from other cultures was the aim of a ‘No to racism, No to austerity’ demonstration held in Chester as similar gatherings took place around the country.
There were speeches, music and poetry at the Saturday lunchtime event (July 16) next to The Cross with the impact of the Brexit vote a prominent theme.
At the same time, thousands of people joined a similar demo in London while hundreds went along to a rally in Glasgow.
Thomas Freeman, one of the organisers, told the crowd: “It starts off in the pub as idle conversation over a couple of pints and it ends up developing into organised, fascist racism, in people getting stabbed in Tesco. It manifests itself in people now being chased down the canal in Chester. We have never had serious racial attacks in Chester in my memory and now it’s starting.”
The event was supported by Unite the Union and the Hope not Hate organisation.
Thomas continued: “It’s time we stopped blaming immigrants for the crimes of bankers, for the crimes of government officials, we shouldn’t be blaming people who have had nothing to do with any decision-making in this country or across the world. It’s wrong.
“They are a scapegoat and while our fingers are pointed at the homeless, at the disabled, at the unemployed, at the immigrants, the people who are actually doing these things to us and draining our economy are getting away with it.”
Later Thomas told The Chronicle racism was ‘far less’ in Chester than in many other communities such as over the border in Wrexham and Flintshire. He feels the Brexit vote is linked to a rise in racial incidents and is being used by far right groups, but he stressed: “We are not saying everyone who voted to leave is a racist at all.”
Iolanda Banu Viegas, of Race Council Cymru, who grew up in Portugal, highlighted the impact of the Brexit vote on how she felt about her place in the UK.
She told those gathered: “It’s really wonderful to know that you are here today and there are still good people around and even though this Brexit vote makes us feel we are not welcome here any more, I know that we are not alone.
“We are not here to do what they are telling you we are doing. We are proud to be part of this community and we are very proud to be here and working with you.”
Moises Moya, who is from Majorca in Spain, personally thanked demonstrators mum and daughter Jackie and Katie Roberts, 17, from Halkyn, for backing people living here from overseas.
Moises, a software engineer, told The Chronicle: “I was working in Spain and my boss told me about an opportunity in the UK and I decided to do it and that’s the reason why I’m here.”
Moises said he had not experienced racism but it was on his mind.
He explained: “Since Brexit I have been reading that a lot of people have been receiving insults and racism. That’s not good because what makes the world better is the diversity and the different cultures. Thankfully I have not received any insults but I really appreciate the people doing this and showing support for people who are not from the UK.”