Residents leaned out of their windows to applaud and clap along as more than 100 members of Extinction Rebellion (XR) and Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) marched along busy roads.
South London members of the two groups chanted as they walked from Tooting Broadway to Tooting Common on Saturday 24 October in protest against Priti Patel’s proposals for detention camps.
The central messages were “Refugees Welcome Here” and “Another World Is Possible”.
One protestor said: “It was very moving to see the reception from the local community.
“Families came to their doors and windows, clapping, fists raised, and some joined us to march.”
The march ended with a rally on Tooting Common. First speaker was Leonie Cooper, leader of the Labour group on Wandsworth council and GLA member.
“We are going to see millions more on the move escaping climate catastrophe,” she said. “No one can live when the temperature is 50 degrees,” referring to northern Nigeria earlier this year.
She encouraged Wandsworth council to step up. “Churches have been leading the welcome here. How many refugees has Wandsworth welcomed?”
Labour councillor Maurice Mcleod added: “It’s great to see XR and SUTR working together. Greed and capitalism stoke racism and the climate emergency alike. Coming together to support refugees makes so much sense.”
Daisy Pearson of XR Wandsworth stressed that the climate crisis disproportionately hits people of colour, largely in the global South, yet it is driven largely by white people. “In a couple of weeks, a typical Briton emits as much carbon as an African over a whole year. This isn’t someone else’s problem. This is our problem.”
Elizabeth Adolfo of SUTR quoted Martin Luther King: “Any injustice anywhere is a threat to justice anywhere.
“We are black, white, young, old and we have a shared goal to make a better world for everyone. This action is an example of people coming together and it should give us hope.”
Rahul Patel of Lambeth SUTR said when he was recently in St Thomas’s Hospital with Covid-19, 90 per cent of the staff, from consultants to cleaners, were from BAME communities.
Finally, Marwan Ahmadzai, an Afghan refugee, thanked everyone for showing up and for standing in solidarity with refugees.
The background to the protest was the increasingly harsh environment for refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. The UK has one of the lowest rates of taking in refugees in Europe.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced her intention to use privately-run detention centres to house people seeking asylum.
A joint statement from XR and SUTR said: “These places have long-standing and well-documented records of violence and abuse and are not fit to accommodate people who are vulnerable and in need of protection. The Home Office has also been considering using nets and water cannon to stop those trying to cross the channel and is threatening to lock up refugees on prison ships, disused oil rigs and offshore processing islands – some 5,000 miles away out in the South Atlantic.
“As Covid once again surges through our community, it is the migrant workers on the front line who are ensuring that the NHS is not overwhelmed. Migrants and refugees can make vital contributions to our society if they are given a chance. Instead, this government is cynically scapegoating them. Each one of us has a responsibility to stand together to stop this abuse.”