Amongst the music and performances, visitors to the Harbour Festival on Saturday were treated to choruses of We Shall Overcome thanks to a rally in support of refugees and asylum seekers.
Organised by Bristol Defend Asylum Seekers Campaign and Bristol Amnesty International, the rally specifically targeted the government’s ongoing efforts to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.
The rally was held at the former Colston plinth, which was decorated with a banner reading “Refugees are Welcome Here”.
Speakers included councillors Marley Bennett, Mohamed Makawi and Amirah Cole, who led the crowd in singing the Civil Rights era anthem We Shall Overcome.
Saturday’s rally coincided with actions in Cambridge, Cardiff, Coventry, Leeds, Manchester, Oxford and Sheffield in protest against the Rwanda deportations.
The UK-wide protests come as part of the StopRwanda campaign, launched by the Trades Union Congress, Care4Calais and Stand Up To Racism and supported by 11 trade unions, including the PCS, which represents Border Force staff.
Intended as the jewel in the crown of Priti Patel’s anti-immigrant policy, the Rwanda deportations have been beset with difficulties. Civil disobedience protests have resulted in immigration officials being unable to take deportees to the airport.
The first scheduled flight was stopped at the last minute by orders from the European High Court and future flights are postponed pending a judicial review brought by Care4Calais and Detention Action.
Last week it was announced that the navy is threatening to leave its partnership with the home office to patrol the channel for small boats carrying refugees.
Controlling the channel to deter crossings and apprehend those who do cross was the jewel in the crown of Priti Patel’s reputation as someone tough on immigration. The withdrawal of the navy would leave that plan, and Patel’s reputation, in tatters.
Feature image: Kamui Oshino.