Conter Spoke to The Glasgow No Evictions Campaign about the attack on their protest on Wednesday 17 June, and what comes next for their campaign.
On Wednesday 17 June the far right attacked a demonstration for refugee rights in Glasgow. The incidentally was widely misreported as a clash between demonstrators over statues in George Square.
Conter spoke to the Glasgow No Evictions Campaign who organised the demonstration, about what they were protesting and how people can support them.
1: Why did you hold the protest on Wednesday, who was involved?
The demonstration was organised in solidarity with people forcibly moved to unsafe hotel accommodation by the Mears group who have been refusing the undercooked, mouldy and culturally inappropriate food they have been provided with. The decision to hold a demonstration given the public health situation was a last resort: Mears have continually tried to silence complaints about their dehumanising treatment of asylum seekers.
Those detained in the hotels and their allies who have been raising these concerns for months have been met with repeated dismissal and statements we know to be untrue. Mears receive public money to provide these people with safe accommodation but deny responsibility for the abysmal conditions in these hotels, which are now essentially functioning as detention centres. These conditions, in particular the failure to provide adequate welfare support or healthcare, need to be scrutinised in light of the death of Adnan Olbeh in May 2020. These issues are ongoing: we have received reports and witnessed incidents in which Mears staff failed to provide residents with access to emergency healthcare only last weekend.
The No Evictions Network fully supports the three key demands of those detained in hotels:
* An immediate change to food and access to healthcare in the hotels
* Reinstatement of weekly financial support
* End hotel detention – provide safe own-door accommodation
2: The protest was disrupted by the far right – what were they trying to achieve?
We made clear from the outset that our demonstration had nothing to do with statues. It is clear that the far right are simply intent on inciting racism and hatred. They became violent thugs out for a fight; the statues were irrelevant. They sought to dominate our message which demanded change in the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers. We were determined to deliver that message by peaceful protest and we did.
In the last week in the UK, we have seen society subjected to gatherings of neo-fascists while the elite classes attempt to rationalise this in a vile way. This has created the classic conditions for extreme right wing groups such as the ‘National Defence League’ to claim public space. And so of course they jumped at the chance to try and intimidate asylum-seekers and their allies. 30 seconds into our arrival their comments hurled as they marched our way, made clear to us they were prioritising attacks on non–whites in our ranks, while some did so with smiles on their faces.
3: What does it say about Mears group and its practices that they are being militantly defended by the far right?
It was Mears’ wilful negligence that forced a protest under such dangerous conditions: both in terms of the public health situation and an emboldened far-right presence. They were so unwilling to sit down to negotiate basic concerns such as the provision of edible food and access to healthcare that instead people for whom they receive public money to provide safe accommodation felt they had no other choice but to expose themselves to extreme risk to make their voices heard. Mears admitted this to residents of the hotel but have shamefully still not declared a return to safe, own-door accommodation.
Outsourcing state responsibilities such as housing to profit-driven private corporations results in mass oppression and harmful neglect, while those struggling against the racist asylum system are intimidated against complaining publicly. And you can see why.
Mears and the Home Office are complicit in the fascist thuggery we saw on the evening of the 17 June. Mears falsely present their services as ‘supporting’ those that live in their accommodation. This deceit keeps the reality hidden, while emboldening extreme groups in society who feel compelled to ‘police’ the borders at home.
4: What are the next steps in the campaign, how can people get involved?
We are preparing to take the next actions necessary to ensure Mears and the Home Office accept our demands. We won’t stop resisting until they do. We ask everyone who stands against fascism to:
Address Priti Patel, Home Office and Mears Group about the evictions of asylum seekers from their accommodation into unsafe hotels. Write to them via email and social media to hold them accountable and reiterate the demands of those they oppress.
Write to your local MSP and MPs reiterating the demands.
* An immediate change to food in all hotels
* Access to health care when needed
* Reinstatement of weekly financial support
* End hotel detention – provide safe accommodation
If you own or manage a business dealing with Mears, consider taking away your contract with them. But first contact them and tell them they ought to be ashamed of their disgraceful treatment of vulnerable people.
If you can, please consider donating some money via https://www.gofundme.com/f/no-evictions-emergency-fundraising?utm_medium=email&utm_source=product&utm_campaign=p_email%2B4803-donation-alert-v5 . The funds will be redistributed to directly support those detained in hotels access appropriate food, clothing, medication, phone top ups and other essential items.
Image: Simon Whittle