By Tom McCann
Saturday’s dual Stand Up To Racism and Kill The Bill protest in Alexandra Park was a peaceful event during which songs from What a Wonderful World to Stand By Me were sung and speeches made regarding a variety of topics, from the conditions refugees have to live in at Napier Barracks near Folkestone; the killing of Sarah Everard and Manchester nurse Karen Reissmann’s £10,000 fine for protesting the proposed one per cent pay rise for NHS workers.
The protest was another in a series of national so-called ‘Kill The Bill’ rallies ignited by the recent Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which if passed could give police in England and Wales powers to break up and impose fines of up to £2,500 on ostensibly peaceful protests and protesters deemed too noisy or too disruptive.
Organised by local resident Jack Kennedy of the Facebook group ‘Hastings Stands Up To Racism’ which campaigns to ‘defend migrant rights’ and aims to combat Islamaphobia and anti-semitism while bringing an end to racist attacks.
A cold wind and rain meant only around 50 people attended; organiser Jack Kennedy considered the event a success however: “Considering the weather, the turnout was really good; people stayed the whole way through. I think we managed to touch on each of the different elements of the bill.”
Chants of “we will not be silenced” could be heard as protesters carried posts and placards with ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Refugees Welcome’ signs on them, with some carrying umbrellas with designs of the Palestine flag; chants also rang out in support of refugees, the protesters chanting “refugees are welcome here.”
Speeches were made by a number of protesters. One of the opening speeches mentioning the death of Prince Phillip, saying: “Let’s be honest, he was a racist and a sexist… we live in a racist, sexist society, and he represented the worst of that.”
The same speaker then talking of Covid, told the crowd: “Disproportionately, black and working class people have been killed by this pandemic,” he added, “it’s in that context we have to see this police bill and the behaviour of Boris Johnson and Priti Patel, who are launching a serious attack on the right to democratic protest in this country.
“I don’t think this is a time for national unity, we should be ready for a summer of protest!” he told his audience.