7 Ways to Combat the Hostile Post-Brexit Atmosphere in Your Community

~ by aga


Only two days after Brexit I was greeted by a flood of outraged friends in my facebook feed, sharing horrible examples of xenophobia, racism and islamophobia happening in their communities. Of course these events aren’t new but it really seems like Brexit gave racists the validation they needed to become more active in their hateful ways.

Outrage is good but solidarity is better

The overwhelming amount of personal stories being shared on social networks in which people describe the hateful things happening to them and their friends since the British people decided to leave Europe is only contributing to my worries and fears. What will happen when I return to the UK after the summer, should I even bother coming back or would I be better off leaving my friends and my life behind and starting over elsewhere?

Of course  I am happy that the people on my facebook feed despise the hate and bigotry popping up across the country, yet their posts make me feel shit inside because they give a platform to – and thereby amplify – what a minority of British people have to say. Despite the Brexit result, I still believe that most people in Britain are not all horrible racists. I know that all my friends miss me and would love for me to come back. Yet seeing all these examples of hate makes me as an immigrant, feel unwelcome and sad.

So I started wondering what people, not just in the UK, can do to make refugees, immigrants, muslims and people of colour feel welcome and safe(r).

Here are five suggestions that anybody can go for right now.

1. Spread messages of solidarity

Write a message to a person who could be affected by anti-immigrant hate speech, ask them how they feel and let them know that despite what they are hearing in the media and on the streets, they are indeed welcome, valued and important.

Get some chalk and leave messages on the side walk and the street:

‘Refugees Welcome’, ‘I love my Eastern European friends’, ‘People of Colour are loved’, ‘Racists fuck off’, ‘My muslim friends rock’ etc.

Or write your messages on paper and stick them to trees, bus stops, lamp posts, leave them on public transport, around your school or university, etc. Here is an example of some signs our very own Casey made:

casey picture solidarity

 

You can also head over to the Active Distribution Shop and get some solidarity stickers to leave anywhere and everywhere you go.

2. Show your solidarity with tokens

Get some cookies, sweets, sandwiches or any other vegan snacks and put them on a stool or little table on the side walk near your house. Next to it, on a piece of cardboard, let people know who this is for and why:

‘For my Polish (or Rumanian, muslim, Asian, etc.) neighbours. We say no to Brexit (or racism, xenophobia, etc). Solidarity and Love to all of you. Enjoy’.

You can do this with anything, a thermos with tea/coffee and a few mugs, a bunch of books you won’t read ever again, board games, plush toys, or roses, such as a vendor in Bristol did (image shared by Best of Bristol):

bristol flowers for immigrants

A bucket of roses with a note that reads: If you are an immigrant to the UK please take a rose! And remember 62% of Bristolians voted to stay in the EU!

3. Organise a demo

This act of solidarity with the victims of a hate crime against a Polish community center in London is an amazing example of people coming together in protest agains xenophobic attacks bringing gifts and messages of solidarity. It probably didn’t need much organising and came about rather spontaneously as a direct response to hateful graffiti sprayed onto the community center’s walls.

Organising a protest or demo for the first time might sound like a huge endeavour and might be quite intimidating. It also is a very empowering experience that actually doesn’t need much prep work and can often work very well if it’s even just a spontaneous stunt. In England you don’t even need to register a static demonstration with the council or the police. If you are planning a moving march or parade you will have to get a permit first.

There is nothing stopping you from grabbing a few friends and/or creating a facebook event page for a static demo in a well visited public place. You can meet beforehand and paint some banners (recycle old cardboard, sheets or the back of advertising banners from shops) with messages of solidarity on them. You can stand there with your banners and chant (with or without a megaphone). Some of you could give out tokens of solidarity, such as flowers or fruit from vendors who would throw these items away at the end of the day. You can ‘leaflet’ by giving little notes of solidarity to member of the public. One of you could bring a guitar/a drum/ a tambourine for some noise. You can sing songs and celebrate your international friends. Anything goes and it will bring a smile to people passing by.

4. Use social media to spread the love

Use your social media accounts to share pictures of acts of kindness like the above. Write a status update reminding your friends that they are welcome in Britain and that they are important to you. Take a profile picture with yourself holding a sign with a solidarity message on it. These little things might seem like a cheap excuse for activism but they actually go a long way. I had my facebook account deactivated for a couple of months until the day of Brexit. I received so many emails from my concerned friends in the UK that day and yet I felt a bit alone, sitting in my room in far away in Sweden, staring at my inbox. I felt the need to log into facebook to be closer to my friends and to experience this shock together. This was vital for my well being as it reminded me that not everyone in the UK felt hateful towards immigrants. So, if reflecting your solidarity online is something you can do, go for it!

5. Volunteer for refugees

If you live near Calais, consider travelling there for a day or two over the weekend. Friendly faces and a lot of help are always needed down there. You can find many local action groups on facebook by searching facebook for these (or similar) key words: ‘calais refugee cambridge’ for example. There is also a map on google showing where refugee aid is needed the most (but it’s only updated during winter).

No matter how you decide to help, always listen to the refugees and be there to empower them not to patronise or decide for them. Show your support and don’t act without consent.

6. Wear a safety pin

You’ve probably seen this campaign on social media: To show your solidarity and to make yourself approachable by people who are suffering from the horrendous hate crimes you can simply wear a safety pin on your top. You can get a pack of 50 very cheap in Boots or Superdrug or any stationary shop. This way you will have enough pins to give out to your friends or to pin to every item of clothing you have.

Additionally, pin a little rainbow flag to your DIY brooch (you can even just draw one on a piece of paper and pin it to your clothes). This way MOGAI/ LGBTQAI+ refugees, muslims, European immgrants and people of colour who suffer from multiple hateful attacks will know they can turn to you.

7. Don’t be a bystander

If you bear witness to a hate crime, be it the smallest act of hate, do something. Make sure you are safe, but don’t be afraid to be the first one to speak out. It is very easy to succumb to the so called bystander effect. So when we find ourselves in a large group of people and someone needs our help, it is very easy for us to not feel responsible for providing help. This is because psychologically we tend to justify to ourselves that in the mass of people, there must at least one person who is faster or more qualified to help than we are. On the other hand, if we then see somebody providing help, it is easier for us to join in and take action ourselves. So chances are high if you’re in a mass of people, everybody will wait for someone else to take action and at the same time if they see you take action they might find it easier to join in.

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to speak out against a xenophobic slur for example, a simple: ‘Shut your mouth!’ or ‘You’re not speaking for anybody else here’ could do the job. You don’t necessarily need to turn to the attacker. To disrupt the violence, you could simply engage the victim in a conversation. Take their attention away from the bigot. Smile at them. Ask them to talk to you. Ask them where they are headed, talk about the weather or what they had for lunch yesterday.

________________________________________________

Send us pics and videos of the examples of solidarity you have seen (we have a brand new instagram and twitter account). We want to spread the love to balance the few but dominant messages of hate out.

Music Monday with Casey

by aga

 

We are launching Music Monday today!

Every Monday we will try to give a platform to a vegan non-binary or female musician. If you know anybody who falls under that category let us know!

We will start off with our very own Casey who sings and plays guitar about everything to do with liberation. They are an acoustic folky singer with a powerful voice and even more powerful messages. Their songs deal with animal exploitation and other kinds of oppression. They are fierce and speak their mind, so their songs might not always be safe for work but they will always give you that energy you need to face another day in world full of shitty people. In the end, Casey does always remind us that solidarity wins over hate, though!

Casey is about to record their first album, so stay tuned for more. If you want to hear what they have released so far or find out about gig dates and locations, keep in touch with Casey here:

Casey on Soundcloud          Casey on Bandcamp          Casey on Instagram

They are playing at Ely Festival and the totally vegan Kaos Skola Festival in Sweden (all Kaos Skola proceeds are going to two animal charities and a refugee organisation to buy tickets go to the festival website).

For much needed solidarity and love after Brexit we chose to share with you Casey’s brand new acoustic improv song about Xenophobia in the UK.

We hope you enjoy it and we are looking forward to your suggestions for future Music Monday features!

 

London Pride 2016

by aga

We hope you had a marvellous Pride weekend and took the time to celebrate your beautiful selves! We wish you a happy and safe year with nothing but love and happiness!

We want you to know that we are here for you and we are trying our best to fight this horribly violent system until we all feel that we can be ourselves everywhere we go.

At London Pride, our very own Lex marched with the Migrant and Anti-Racist Bloc organised by the Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessary & Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants. They got interviewed by Paolo Zeriali, explaining why it is important to fight all oppression. Watch the video below to hear Lex speak or read the transcript below the youtube video.

TW: Lex briefly mentions hateful violence towards them.

 

[Interview Transcript:

Interviewer: We are in London pride with Lex right here with “destroy transphobia, fight kyriarchy and smash borders”. Let’s try to explain what do all these slogans mean.

Lex: So, as a trans individual I feel that there is so much transphobia and people, like, always misgender me, I was physically attacked last year just for being trans. So I want to destroy transphobia, so every person would be able to live as they are despite whatever gender they are or lack of gender. Kyriarchy is kinda like patriarchy just connecting all oppressions. So it is a fight against racism, transphobia, homophobia, patriarchy and all those. They go into kind of oppression kyriarchy all connected. And I’d like to smash borders so we would live in a place where people can move freely and that wouldn’t depend on if you have papers, what kind of country you are from, because no one choose where to be born, but you should be free to choose where to live.

Interviewer: So your struggle is dealing with multiple oppressions?

Lex: yeah as we don’t live in single issue world, meaning as a queer person I can face oppression as a queer person, but also I am an immigrant, so I face xenophobia and as trans individual I face transphobia. And I cannot separate which issue is affecting me the same like another person cannot say which oppression and how you… So you cannot fight just one oppression, you should realise that they all are connected. Also a disabled person I face ableism. So I think it is important to fight all oppressions and realise how they all are connected.]

~aga

Cameron During Resignation as Full of Shit as Always

by aga


During his resignation speech Cameron played the perfect Tory and the perfect politician. I took note of some of the most preposterous things that came out his mouth. If listening to him doesn’t make you throw up, you can watch the full speech in the video below or read the transcript in the Telegraph.

 

Calling out the Prime Minister

CW: mention of gaslighting (only in the first paragraph)

It seems like in his speech, Cameron is gaslighting the whole world, as he is recreating our present reality by reshaping our memories of the past and denying his own violence. Gaslighting is a serious form of abuse, where the abuser tries to convince the victim of a version of reality that suits the abuser by manipulating the victim through denying reality and convincing them of a different version of the past. The purpose is to make the victim fond of the abuser so as to still be able to benefit from the uneven power relationship.

Blaming the people for Brexit

Throughout the speech Cameron makes sure to allocate the blame to the people for the horror that’s to come (If you want to know why we are devastated by Brexit read yesterday’s post). The first four sentences he utters all stress the people’s role in this decision.

By throwing a big number at us (33,000, 000 people) and making sure to mention every single one of the many countries that had a vote (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar) he makes sure to make it sound like everybody and their mom decided for this to happen. After all, as he says, they ‘all had their say’. He conveniently leaves out that the population of 16 and 17 year-olds was not allowed to vote, as the costs would have been too high, apparently. Two people I know  who aren’t in the UK at the moment registered a proxy to vote for them but neither of them ever got a polling cart. Obviously this is not some sort of conspiracy, it’s just a testament to bureaucratic democracy failing the people.

Taking credit for people’s achievements

cw: mention of suicide in the following paragraph.

‘I believe we’ve made great steps, with more people in work than ever before in our history, with reforms to welfare and education, increasing people’s life chances, building a bigger and stronger society, keeping our promises to the poorest people in the world and enabling those who love each other to get married whatever their sexuality, but above all restoring Britain’s economic strength’ – this is probably the part that angered me the most. More people are working, and what he doesn’t tell us is that most of them are working more hours for less money finding it increasingly hard to survive. Budget cuts to the NHS, which he is responsible for, are affecting already marginalised people to such an extent that suicide rates are rising so he is decreasing people’s life chances across the board.

Then the dirty Tory dares to take credit for ‘enabling those who love each other to get married, whatever their sexuality’, shitting all over the hard work the people put into this great achievement over decades (plus it is still hard for trans people to even get recognised by institutions, not to mention actually getting married).

Denying his own role

Cameron makes sure to distinguish the decision of the people very clearly from his own campaign for a Britain that’s better off in the EU. He tries to make us forget the horrendous Tory propaganda he has been responsible for, for at least the past six years. He makes us forget that it was him and his government that riled up everyone, from working class people to rich-as-fuck ‘liberals’, against immigration, against muslims, against Eastern Europeans and against the EU.

He tries to make us forget that it was his racist, ableist, classist and misogynist politics that sent the population into despair and made many feel powerless and hopeless. It is his politics that made people like Farage acceptable and even popular. And it is Cameron who is to blame for Brexit.

Playing the martyr

Cameron said: ‘The British people have voted to leave the European Union and their will must be respected’ and ‘The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered’ – all of a sudden he is playing the civil servant. A fine civil servant who is blaming the people for his resignation as their decision is so different from his ideology which is why ‘the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction’. Nice one, first he messes everything up and then he leaves it to even more conservative and right wing politicians to take it from here. And he is trying to sell this screw up as in the best interest for the people?

Some casual nationalism

‘Britain is a special country’ and ‘I love this country’ reproduce the imperialist narratives of Britain’s greatness and ability to conquer all no matter how hard times are. It feeds right into the ‘we can do it on our own if we stick together as a nation’ storyline that has recently been made popular again through romantic adaptations of the ‘Keep Calm and Carry on’ War time slogan, versions of which are decorating everything from pillows, to mugs and pet food bowls.

Cameron knows however, that the world has changed and Britain has changed so he scrupulously appropriates British diversity to advance a sense of nationalism by pretending that he too, like most of the British people, thinks the melting pot culture to be a good thing: ‘And while we are not perfect I do believe we can be a model for the multi-racial, multi-faith democracy’, he says, trying to make us forget that it was his government who put islamophobic and xenophobic anti-immigration laws into place and that under his government police brutality against people of colour has risen.

 

4 Reasons To Be Devastated about Brexit

~ by aga


Solidarity with everyone affected by this horrific result

Britain voted to leave the EU in a people’s referendum yesterday.

We, at the Anti-Speciesist Collective, are devastated and spent half the day in disbelief over this result. None of us can imagine the consequences this political decision will have but we know that none of them will be beneficial to the people in or outside the UK, the animals and the planet.

First, let me say, I am not an EU-sympathiser. Under ordinary circumstances I always criticise the neoliberal imperialist politics and classist austerity measures that are results of EU politics. And I will, of course, continue to do so. However, I am devastated at Britain’s decision to leave, as the -by far- lesser evil would have been to stay.

We, as a collective, want to express our solidarity with everyone who will feel immediate (or indirect) repercussions of this dramatic shift in global politics.

In the rage, despair and anxiety I experienced receiving the bad news, it was hard to actually picture some of the consequences that are awaiting us now. In this blog post I tried to articulate 4 of my fears.

1 – The Rise of the far right

This referendum decision is a victory for nationalism and far right leaders (and followers) across Europe and beyond. The leave-campaign rhetoric was fuelled by nationalist, xenophobic and islamophobic propaganda from start to finish. There was no access to critical information engaging with horrific EU policies affecting women and non-binary people, people of colour and the working class in Britain or elsewhere and most information was based on polarising polemic fear mongering. So any supposed comrade who tells you they voted ‘leave’ out of some sort of leftist solidarity and in protest of EU austerity measures in Greece or elsewhere unfortunately sold their vote to Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, Vladimir Putin etc. who will all gain even more momentum now. Even Donald Trump is already touring the UK in his quest for fascist unity on this side of the Atlantic. The ultra conservatives are celebrating and Nigel Farage went as far as to claim today as ‘Independence Day’. Centuries of colonial violence perpetrated by Britain and gruesome struggles for actual independence by the colonised are disrespectfully stomped upon, invalidated and forgotten about in one day. I don’t want to imagine where else this will lead.

2 – Geopolitics is a human concept of division that animals suffer from

I do denounce the concepts of borders, nation states and private property as violent for the economic and physical conflicts and devastation they cause. There are ideas about diminishing and even abolishing the sovereignty and power that nation states have so as to establish one unified, global government (this is worked on in theories about Cosmopolitanism, for example). The EU is precisely such an experiment on a continental level.

I like to imagine state and border abolition, along more anarchist lines. The former merely moves the power holder from one institution to another, where potentially differences would be erased and many parts of our lives could be assimilated to whoever will be in power (in a eurocentric capitalist world, implementing such a government would most likely not better the experience of most people in this world). An anarchist imagination on the other hand, removes the idea of a government, a patronising centralised institution that exerts its power over a variety of people and could never possibly accommodate their differences. Instead we think about localised, destratified and bottom-up decision making.

We need to remember that borders are a human construct. They were put into place to determine private property, to separate and protect possessions so as to ensure sustenance and even abundance for one party at the expense of another. In a world dominated by white cis human men, it is clear who is on the losing end of this deal.

Ideas such as private property, economics and geopolitics are alien to animals, yet they are affected by human divisions of the world just as much as we are. The help animals in certain countries get depends on the economic and geopolitical status of that state. Rumanian street dogs for example are at the mercy of Rumanian domestic and foreign politics just as much as Swedish law decides which animals can be shot for sport when and where in the country. With a reduced international influence upon the UK, it is questionable whether the welfare of cows on British farms, foxes and badgers in British forests, and dogs, rats and monkeys in testing laboratories will improve. Britain has a long history of opposition to vivisection and animal activists have celebrated many successes. The EU has also played a big part in influencing vivisection practices across the globe. Now it brings chills down my spine to even think about these poor souls imprisoned in British universities, breeding facilities and animal testing companies.

So Britain’s decision to leave the EU will have horrendous consequences upon animals inside and outside the monarchy. Additionally, international influence and restrictions upon environmental hazards (fracking, GMO, pesticide use) will be reduced, affecting the climate and all life far beyond the island.

3 -Austerity in Britain

cw: mention of suicide

Britain is already suffering from budget cuts to much needed services whilst at the same time private companies are sweeping them up. Recipients of disability benefits were already seeing drastic cuts to their finances and a experienced a reduction in their well being when Britain was still part of the EU.

Women’s shelters are being shut, doctors are overworked and underpaid like all staff in the care sector is, and Brexit has reduced Britain’s chances of outside support of these already suffering services.

Tuition fees skyrocketed during EU membership and universities are being privatised like nowhere else in Europe. Now that the education system will be even less influenced by Europe, British universities are likely to be more deregulated and education will become even less accessible.

Those who will suffer the most are of course young people of colour, the MOGAI/ LGBTQAI+ youth and girls as well as disabled kids and those growing up in a working class home.

Suicide rates amongst these marginalised identity groups are on the rise in the UK as it is.

4 – The EU brings social unity not just political and economic (in)depence

The press speaks of economic and political consequences but nobody ever mentions the social impacts Brexit has. Simply put, Brexit sends one very clear signal to Europeans living on the island: ‘We don’t need you. You’re not welcome here’.

The anti-immigration propaganda is very dominant in England. Islamophobia and xenophobia especially towards the many Eastern Europeans in the UK has been highly dangerous in recent years.

In his resigning speech, David Cameron made very clear that the referendum’s result will not have any initial effect upon the Europeans living inside the UK, nor on British citizens. In reality he knows, as do we, that families and friendships will suffer from Brexit making travel and migration in and out of the country harder than it already is. Access to services for non-citizens will be reduced (as it is already being reduced for citizens) and possibilities to form private connections to people through travel (without economic or political purposes) will become increasingly harder. This is not just due to upcoming policies but more so due to the interpersonal climate of fear and hate created by Brexit propaganda.

Solidarity, Not Charity! Of Refugees in Europe

The following is a blog post by Milda Bandzaite from AIWS. They are active in the vegan movement and against vivisection, animals in circuses as well as in many other animal-causes. They also organise for human liberation. You might remember our interview with Milda about their exciting neurodiversity project which is coming out soon. Milda is also active in the MOGaI movement and with the Antifa/Anarchist crowd. This post specifically, is a report about their experience at the Croatian-Serbian border where Milda was organising in solidarity with the refugees arriving there. They describe their impressions of the situation and also offer a critique of charity, which is very much needed in all our movements.

We are very grateful, Milda, that you chose to share your experience with us and we thank you for all the hard work and dedication you put into this world.


No Borders, No States! Solidarity, Not Charity!

While European leaders are debating and trying to find a solution to the so called “refugee crises” more and more self organised activists from around the world decide to take action on their own and show solidarity with those who need it the most. One of the places they go is the Serbian/Croatian/Hungarian borders. Every day thousands of refugees are fleeing the horrors of war crossing the borders to their new, and hopefully better, life in Europe.

But how are they greeted here? You’d imagine the Western world that is always so keen to talk about human rights, humanitarian aid and other “progressive” issues, would do  everything in their power to make sure that those who walked miles and miles, sometimes bear-feet without any supplies, those who have been traumatized by their experiences both back home and during this dangerous journey, are warmly welcomed and get all needed help and support. But no – wired fences, an everyday increasing military presence and refugee camps that are bleak, unhygienic and cold, completely inhumane, that’s the reality thousands of refugees have to face every day.

One of the first refugees I got to talk to was an 8-year-old boy, who almost didn’t speak English, but still with his sister’s help was able to tell me about his dream to live in Sweden “where no one kills each other”. Together we drew a picture, and his picture told much more than any words ever could, leaving the horrors of war behind and traveling to the bright future. Their brother and mother died during the bombing back home, they told me. “Everyone in Europe is good, they are here to help us, so why don’t they let us go?”,  they kept asking me, but I didn’t have an answer.

The very same night thousands refugees who waited for hours and hours for buses to take them from Babska to the Opatovac camp had to walk 17 kilometers in the cold with no lighting. There were children, women, people in wheelchairs being pushed by their relatives. The little boy I talked to earlier had to walk too, be brave I told him. “I will”, he smiled. And I was left wondering what the world’s reaction would be if by any chance a little boy from the Western world was forced to walk for days and sleep on the cold concrete without blankets just to reach safety?

Not only me, but many other activists and journalists who had a possibility to witness everyday reality at border crossings and refugee camps, described the conditions in these camps as inhumane. People are not allowed to leave, they have no rights and are treated like they don’t matter at all. The power structures are so linked together, that every time when we tried to challenge them we received backlash, asking to leave our politics behind and just give aid to the refugees, as that’s what is need.

In these situations support is important, it’s so extremely important, but it is even more important to realise that this support and help shouldn’t be charitable. The idea of charity is harmful in itself – it always puts those of us who provide the support in a power position and simply makes us feel good for helping out. It does not challenge the roots of why the issues arose in the first place, charity just tries to ease the symptoms caused by the oppression and system itself. At the same time by showing solidarity we are abolishing the idea of being in power and realising that our struggles are connected. It’s like saying we are here because we feel your struggle, not necessary understand how much you had to go through, but we are here as your allies. Yes, right, we are not here to throw some left overs at you, but to share what we have. There are no leaders, there are no bosses, just all of us – human beings – fighting the system together and demanding to have the world with no borders, where everyone is free to move as they wish.

And to end this post I will get a bit more personal and emotional, this morning I was telling my grandmother (she is a survivor of the Soviet occupation in Lithuania, she and her family were deported to Siberia, where her dad was tortured and killed in the prison) about what I have witnessed at the borders, how the authorities treat refugees like they are not even human beings. I also told her about the situation in Zakany and how people sometimes have to wait in the trains for hours without food and water (it depends on the police if activists are allowed to distribute food through the windows) before it moves.

And then she told me how seeing the situation at borders on TV and listening to me reminds her the time when she was deported and had to spend days in the trains, just  at that time there was no one to show solidarity and everyone who died during the journey was just thrown away on the train tracks.

That is what makes me even more angry. How does it happen that we can’t learn from the history and we repeat almost the same mistakes again and again? How does it happen  that we have enough money and power to fund wars, but can’t find a bit of compassion  to those who have just experienced the horrors of war and are searching for a place where finally they could be safe?

Solidarity – not charity, because together we are strong!


Here are some visual impressions:

Curtesy of Tim Lüddemann:

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Left and top: Taken in Zakany

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Taken in Opatovac

Taken in Opatovac

Impressions from Babska/Opatovac/Jemena, curtesy of Fotomovimiento:

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