Support grows for Aylesbury May Day carnival against racism
Aylesbury May Day Carnival Against Racism Organising Committee press release, 16 April 2010
Support for the Aylesbury Carnival Against Racism to be held on May 1st to challenge the ideas of the English Defence League received a boost in support this week when Cllr Ranjula Takodra, Aylesbury’s Town Mayor, Rt Revd Alan Wilson Bishop of Buckingham and Rabbi Rachel Benjamin joined the growing list of supporters.
The numbers involved in organising the carnival has also grown, with more individuals from Aylesbury’s Muslim and youth communities joining with delegates from the Aylesbury Interfaith Group, Justice4Paps and civil servant (PCS), shop workers (USDAW), teaching (NUT) and postal (CWU) unions who have also brought substantial financial support to the campaign launched by Bucks health branch of UNISON that represents healthworkers.
It was clear at last night’s organising committee that many people in Aylesbury oppose the English Defence League descending on the town to promote their racist views and want to take action against this. The carnival is aimed to focus this opposition in a peaceful celebration of international diversity with a clear message that racism in Aylesbury will not go unchallenged and that the EDL’s ideas are not representative of Bucks people.
Kate Douglas, branch secretary of Oxon and Bucks PCS (DWP) who chaired the meeting said: “We do not believe people should be intimidated off the streets of Aylesbury by the EDL on May Day. We want to see an outpouring of support from the local community with schools, youth groups, campaigns and trade unions making and bring their banners with their messages of solidarity and slogans against racism. Trade unions especially should come out as it is also International Workers Day when unions traditionally stand in solidarity with the oppressed.”
An indication of the growing support in the local community was also seen last Saturday when thousands of leaflets were handed out to a welcoming public with people taking bundles to hand out in their communities. Volunteers at last night’s meeting took on to approach local MPs and councillors and to leaflet youth groups, colleges, community centres and workplaces calling for them to speak out against racism.
Organisers plan the for day to be a colourful contrast to the EDL’s march. Julie Simmons from Love Music Hate Racism said: “We have rap artists, DJs, MCs, bands and solo artists performing for free because they believe passionately that racism must never go unchallenged. We are confident our event will be a vibrant celebration of our many cultures through the fusion of many types of music with speeches from community representatives.”
One area of contention is whether the EDL or the Carnival Against Racism will go ahead in market Square. Carnival organisers have rejected the police suggestion that both events be held in the same place for safety reasons. Yet the carnival organisers do not see why the unrepresentative EDL should be given the keys to the town while Aylesbury people opposed to racism are denied a licence.
Steve Bell from Bucks Health branch of UNISON said: “We think our Carnival should be given first choice of venue because our campaign represents the true face of Aylesbury. Unlike the EDL we have submitted all the proper applications and safety requirements and I hope the council decides to support the campaign against racism rather than hand the Square over to the EDL. If we are denied it will be a shame on the council leader who can grant the licence but we will not be deterred and will hold our event in a peaceful manner away from the EDL in a safe place for which we have also applied for a licence. Stories that we will be confronting the EDL in Market Square are simply not true. The real story is that Asian stall holders in Market square have told us they will stay away out of fear if the EDL are given the square for their protest.”
The campaign is expected to receive a boost at its public rally on the 26th April at the multicultural centre which will give the public the opportunity to hear the arguments for holding the carnival and organising for the future to counter the growth of racism.
Ian Mckendrick from Unite Against Fascism said: “Aylesbury has been targeted by the EDL because it is seen as a soft target for racism. We need to send out a clear message that Aylesbury will not be turned into the racist capital of Buckinghamshire. The EDL supporters have a history of provoking young Muslim men by abusing Muslim women and children to provoke confrontation. We must not allow this to happen.
“We want to see a coordinated and united response from across all sections of the community to prevent any one section being provoked, isolated and demonised. Everyone opposed to racism needs to rally round the Muslim community and support the rally and the carnival against racism. These events should be a brilliant start to the campaign to turn back this tide of hatred.”