The Inbetween Times

The inspirational peaceful protest of Kenmure Street shows not just a model for resisting the racist British Home Office, but a template for self-determination. For a Scotland stuck in perpetual limbo between the democracy it aspires to be and the Scotland stuck in the British State run by Priti Patel and Boris Johnson, the massive victory by direct action from the communities of the Southside & Pollokshields shows a way forward. The victory after an eight hour stand off anti-racist protestors forced the racist UK Home Office & UK Border Agency to backtrack on their deportation of two men and release them has lessons for us all.

The idea of spontaneous peaceful direct action as an example of radical self-organisation as a model for a new second-phase of the independence movement is now being raised. The Kenmure Street resistance was a brilliant example of leaderless grassroots action that directly struck against the British State by expressing humanity and solidarity. There’s no better example for a renewed radical independence movement, characterised by community action as the very essence of self-determination.

In contrast the politicians seemed leaden and unresponsive. Reversing the understood power dynamic the elected Scottish government looked powerless while the community looked powerful and emboldened. As Voices for Scotland put it: “People make Glasgow. People make Scotland, but Westminster makes Scotland’s Immigration policy.”

The power relationships at play here are complex: the relationship between the Scottish Government and their (our?) police force; the relationship between the Home Office & UK Border Agency and the Scottish Police, the relationship between the devolved administration and the British state, and finally the relationship between the people being threatened and the wider community they are members of. When people say that “immigration should be devolved” this seems tempting,  but devolved administrations could just become inadvertent conduits of British foreign policy and immigration policy. The solution is not to devolve the same policies but to create new ones, new ones that could only be carried out by a new democratic state. This was not just a flex of power and intimidation by the Home Office but an insult and a return to dawn raids.

The role of the Scottish Police in all of this is ambiguous on multiple levels.

A spokesperson from them said on Thursday: “Police Scotland does not assist in the removal of asylum seekers. Officers are at the scene to police the protest and to ensure public safety.”

This seems disingenuous.

As the protesters escorted the men to the local mosque, Pinar Aksu, of Maryhill Integration Network said:  “This is a revolution of people coming together in solidarity for those who others have turned away from,” she said. Aksu described how hundreds more supporters had arrived at the scene as the afternoon progressed. “This is just the start. When there is another dawn raid in Glasgow, the same thing will happen.”

Aksu added: “For this to happen on Eid, which is meant to be a time of peaceful celebration, is horrifying. It is no coincidence that it is taking place when a new immigration bill is being prepared.

“We also need answers from Police Scotland about their involvement. We have already written to the home secretary asking urgently to clarify whether the decisions to carry out immigration enforcement raids, including dawn raids, represents a change in the policy by the UK government.”

This was, it should be remembered an unsuccessful dawn raid and as much a failure as a victory.

Robina Qureshi, Director of refugee and migrant homelessness charity Positive Action in Housing based in Glasgow said:

“The unsuccessful dawn raid instructed by the U.K. Home Office today happened on the holy day of Eid (like Christmas) in a large Muslim community. Is nothing sacred?

“It cost tens of thousands of pounds for the police operation when the community resisted this barbaric action, never mind the Covid risks which is on the rise in the Southside of Glasgow.

“Scotland stopped dawn raids in 16 years ago and our charity led those campaigns when the (devolved) Scottish police and Scottish government condemned it outright and prepared a protocol and refused to devote resources to facilitating dawn raids or cooperate with Westminster in doing so.

“Be under no illusion that without that cooperation these dawn raids would disappear tomorrow and the Home Secretary would have no chance of reintroducing them here as part of her barbaric “new plan of immigration” which will see refugees left on the streets as soon as they reach our shores, and human rights abuses hidden away from public gaze within asylum reception centres and the prospect of ever more drownings because of a lack of safe and legal routes.”

“I’m in no doubt that this is the Home Secretary simply using Glasgow and the rest of Scotland to grandstand her barbaric “new plan for immigration” by publicly intimidating vulnerable people who we know first hand have already been through so much. This will only inflict more suffering upon already beleaguered refugee communities. Well Scotland has a tradition of not putting up with this sort of nonsense, and let me say this, we are categorically not putting up with it.”

Questions remain about everyone’s role in the chain that makes this possible or impossible.

How can the independence hard-wire into its prospectus for the future and its operating mentality for the everday-now an anti-racist, decolonial outlook? How can we build the case for a radically different approach to immigration, free movement and asylum seeking?

Are Scottish authorities cooperating with dawn raids?

What is the level of collusion and potential resistance that the Scottish authorities can hold? How can we empower our representatives to demand better policing and to enable obstruction to the hostile environment?

Can Scottish democracy movement re-imagine itself as a far more radical entity that puts solidarity at the very heart of its thinking and actions?

Reactionary elements within the Scottish independence movement – the “populists” who it turns out weren’t very popular at all were recently heavily defeated. Now it’s the turn of wider forces to come together, move beyond factionalism and learn the lessons from Kenmure Street. They would seem to be: resist the British State; direct action is vital; radical solidarity is essential; spontaneity is powerful. Beyond this the lessons are I think, to stop looking upwards for leadership from those who are already fatally compromised, and second that leadership comes from below and can have spectacular success.

It’s worth remembering that this is not about Scottish exceptionalism it is about humanity in the face of inhumanity and it is confronting the British state, as the people demanded (and won): “These are our neighbours let them go”.




Comments (32)

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  1. Tom Ultuous says:

    Inspirational though it was my big worry is Patel will use it to her advantage. Let’s say this leads to ever increasing crowds foiling dawn raids. Much as that would be desirable suppose Patel starts advising immigrants to go to Scotland where they’ll be protected. The EU have already told Patel they cannot be sent back to the EU so why not flood Scotland with immigrants to give the far right fuel ahead of an independence referendum? As far as I’m concerned they’re welcome but, as a British colony, we won’t have the resources to accommodate them. How would we combat this? It angers me greatly that the two countries most at fault for the refugee crisis (US & “UK”) have the most inhumane immigration policies.

    1. Tom Ultuous says:

      I suppose we could send Patel the message “Send more YES voters”.

    2. John Learmonth says:

      Surely the countries most at fault for the refugee crisis are the countries from where the refugees come from?
      How are the UK/US as the 2 countries most refugees want to live in responsible?
      Should we be less successfull/free societies so the refugees would go somewhere else?

      1. Drew Anderson says:

        So if the US & UK bomb the shit out of somewhere, generating the refugee crisis in the first place; then subsequently pulling out, or scaling back their presence (creating a vacuum for the likes of ISIS to fill) it’s somehow the fault of the countries the refugees come from?

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          Right enough! Had the US & UK not bombed the sh*t out of the Land of Five Rivers, neither Sumit Sehdev and Lakhvir Singh would have remained in the UK without leave to do so.

        2. John Learmonth says:

          The top 2 countries for asylum seekers wishing to live in the UK are Iran and Albania.
          I can’t remember us bombing the shit out of either country.
          Perhaps people are fleeing Iran because they don’t want to live in an Islamic theoracy and from Albania because its poor and its easy to get here.
          Obviously if Jeremy Corbyn had been elected PM (if only those gammons hadn’t been brainwashed by the Murdoch empire unlike you who)then the world would be at peace just like it has throughout human history.

          1. Tom Ultuous says:

            John, most of the refugees from the countries bombed by the US & “UK” claim asylum in the EU and, prior to Brexit, if they reached here could be sent back to the first EU country they passed through. My geography isn’t great but I’m guessing that it’s near on impossible to get to the “UK” from the likes of Iraq & Afghanistan without passing through another EU country. As we’re no longer in the EU that’s all about to change. Patel has been unable to get any EU country to agree to take refugees back and channel crossings have doubled this year.

            Had Jeremy Corbyn been PM we would not have been involved in either Iraq or Afghanistan but I doubt he would’ve brought world peace. Germany has taken in around 800,000 Syrian refugees (~3.6% of the pre-civil war population). When they started taking them in David Cameron described this extraordinary humanitarian gesture as “guilt about the holocaust”. Dave should watch ‘Exterminate All The Brutes’ (Sky) and maybe then he’ll feel guilty about the miserable offer he made at the time to take in 20,000 Syrians over 5 years but he’s too busy building up his wealth. I’m guessing though that Dave would be more your kind of man.

          2. Tom Ultuous says:

            I should have added, Dave “if not now, then when?” Cameron led the successful vote to bomb Syria (both sides at different times). Jeremy Corbyn voted against. Also, while he giving his “guilt about the holocaust” speech Dave said he was committed to the rebuilding of Syria and had set aside £2 billion (£90 per head of Syrian population) for that purpose. Dave might blow up your home and family but he’ll gift you a carton of cigarettes afterwards by way of an apology. What a guy.

      2. Tom Ultuous says:

        Drew has answered for me John.

        Jeremy Corbyn would be the type of PM who would’ve avoided the kind of egotistical shit that brought us here but the little Englanders like nothing more than a bit of bullying so elect a clown instead. “UK” zero points.

  2. Anne Daniels says:

    The Home Office van was clearly marked so the anti dawn raids network was quickly alerted and able to mobilise its activists. My worry is that they will start to use unmarked vans. Is this even a possibility?

    1. milgram says:

      The vans used to be unmarked navy blue things. One advantage of the ostentatious hostile environment building of the home office is they’re easier to spot. Even when they’re parked up doing nothing…

    2. Angus McKay says:

      They may use, should use, unmarked vans in an effort to protect their immigration officers who were held captive for eight hours by the baying anti-immigration, anti-immigration officers mob.

      1. Rich says:

        Yeah – these poor guys are just doing their job – why can’t we just let them get home in time for their tea ?
        Or did I get this wrong ?
        Imagine what happens to the other guys in the van – could you without having nightmares ?
        Sleep easy///

        1. Tom Ultuous says:

          Well said Rich.

        2. Angus McKay says:

          Yeah – these poor guys are just doing their job – why can’t we just let them get home in time for their tea ?
          Or did I get this wrong ?
          Imagine what happens to the other guys in the van – could you without having nightmares ?
          Sleep easy///

          If the mob had managed to get to the immigration officers, they may never have managed to get home. The other guys in the van?- had they gone home they would have been OK – they weren’t fleeing anything, they were over in the UK with study visas, which they overstayed.

      2. Colin Robinson says:

        There was no ‘baying’, Angus; just a lot of hyperbole.

        1. Angus McKay says:

          The baying mob; “open the door” / “leave our neighbours, let them go” / “Racist Police, off our streets.”

          1. Colin Robinson says:

            Sorry, Angus! I still think ‘baying’ is an inappropriate metaphor to use in characterising the manner in which the formulae and responses of the congregation there gathered were uttered.

            ‘Chanting’ would be more appropriate, I’d suggest.

            But each to her or his own perception, as they say.

        2. Angus McKay says:

          To Colin Robinson,

          This has been used against immigration officers carrying out their legally appointed task of collecting illegal immigrants for legal removal …
          ‘’brutal, dawn raids / immigration snatch squads / in riot gear in their people-carriers with built in cages to carry out dawn raids / thugs with warrant cards / doors being booted in by metal battering rams and children being dragged out screaming’’.

          What would you suggest to be more appropriate language?

          1. Colin Robinson says:

            Aye, Angus; I’ve already called out the ridiculous hyperbole employed by the romancers of the event.

            Basically, without exaggeration, bracketing out all the hyperbole, what happened was that officers from the UK Borders Agency arrived in Pollockshields at the back of half-nine in the morning and detained two men who didn’t have leave to be in the country, whereupon a crowd stopped them from departing with their detainees, and by five in the afternoon the two men were released. Officers from Police Scotland were in attendance, three members of the public were arrested, and complaints were later made to the Scottish government about the conduct of its police officers.

        3. Angus McKay says:

          Aye, Colin, basically that’s what happened, I know all that, and more. Your attempt to reduce mob rule into a simple little stand off ending up with complaints being made later to the Scottish government about the conduct of its police officers doesn’t take into account that immigration officers could have been seriously injured, or worse.

          1. Colin Robinson says:

            Aye, but they weren’t and ‘could have’ covers an infinity of possibilities. The two detainees could have sprouted wings and flown away.

            Of course, if you employ hyperbolic metaphors you will exaggerate certain possibilities and produce narratives in which, for example, a thin blue line of police officers prevented a baying mob from tearing Home Office officials limb from limb, when in reality there was very little likelihood of this actually happening.

        4. Angus McKay says:

          No, neither the detained immigration officers nor the two illegal Indian Nationals could have sprouted wings and flown away.

          Of course if you, as you have, employ a load if nonsense to play down an extremely serious situation, you could add to your nonsense to simplify Lawyer Aamar Anwar’s warning to police; “I told police I thought they had two options,” he said. “Either release the men into my custody with a guarantee they would not be arrested or use force and, if you do the latter, you could have a massive riot on your hands with repercussions which will last for years. As we got closer to 5pm, I told police the stopwatch was counting down and more people would start arriving. I said to police that all it would have needed was one incident and the place explodes.”

          Aye, goodbye, the Kenmure Street situation is way above your mindset.

          1. Colin Robinson says:

            It’s not for me to tone down the hyperbole of Aamar’s grandstanding.

            Nor am I downplaying the potential seriousness of the situation. Two suspects were detained by officers of the UK Borders Agency, presumably to prevent them from absconding while the case against them was being prosecuted. A sizable group of people gathered to protest that detention and secured the release of the two detainees. The protesters succeeded. No one was hurt; only three arrests were made. The case against the two suspects will continue to be prosecuted; only, now they have a lawyer to safeguard their legal rights while that case is being prosecuted.

            Of course, things might not have turned out so happily. That the situation was resolved as peaceably as it was is testament to the manner in which the protesters, the police, and the borders agents all conducted themselves. Just imagine how things might have turned out had the protesters been a baying mob and/or the police officers fascist thugs!

  3. MBC says:

    I wonder about how Scottish Police Scotland is. The news that an off duty Police Scotland officer took part in the Rangers riot isn’t good news. He couldn’t have been the only one. We all saw how PS did diddly squat to halt the mob. Now PS have announced that the footage which emerged of Rangers fans singing sectarian songs was faked. Can we trust this verdict? Especially as a result of this, Rangers are now threatening with legal action those who they think said irresponsible things about the ‘fake’ video and have in their sights Humza Yousaf. My guess is that PS is not neutral but that there are sections of it who are opposed to the current Scottish Government and will try to frustrate it.

  4. Alice says:

    The ‘ diddly squat’ of Police Scotland is very concerning as this was the second time thousands of guys were escorted into the city centre to run riot. The senior officers charged with planning for such eventualities, appear to have seen the second riot as inevitable. We, the hapless Scottish public, were bystanders as this riot played out. No explanations have been forthcoming from PS as to the reasons behind their decisions as to the handling of the situation.

    Was it beyond the rank and file’s pay grade to take on 15,000 young , totally hyped guys? How did it even get to that situation? What else needed to be done by our supposed protectors, including government, to prevent these guys taking over the city centre? Do we need some top class strategic thinkers brought in to lay the ground work for this never to happen again.

    It’s crucial we do not allow such behaviour to be seen as inevitable. Violence is the way ahead for these guys fighting for their Union ….They must be stopped.

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      Yes, and the full force of the state’s monopoly of violence should be brought to bear on stopping them.

    2. Tom Ultuous says:

      Once everything returns to normal and fans are allowed back into grounds – if fans misbehave the SFA should be able to order their team to play their next x home games behind closed doors. Ditto for the teams of fans who try to manufacture such a situation with baiting.

      While we’re at it, selling alcohol was banned from ALL grounds following Rangers and Celtic fans fought running battles after the 1980 Scottish Cup final. Why did all teams have to suffer? Selling alcohol should be reintroduced and that will be another stick to beat the unruly with.

  5. Colin Robinson says:

    As civil disobedience goes, the Rangers supporters’ celebration certainly trumped the Kenmure Street ‘siege’. Pigs’ blood was spilt, horses were frightened, and sh*t was scared out of polite middle Scotland.

    1. James Mills says:

      NOT just ”polite middle Scotland ” but any normal , decent human being , including other non-violent and non-sectarian football fans !

      1. Colin Robinson says:

        ‘Polite middle Scotland’ = any normal, decent human being, including other non-violent and non-sectarian football fans. It’s the civility that transgressors disobey. As I said: as civil disobedience goes, the Rangers supporters’ celebration certainly trumped the Kenmure Street ‘siege’.

  6. Tom Ultuous says:

    Just watched Andrew ‘Tory Boy’ Marr in what looked like a carefully rehearsed interview of Patel. A brief question on immigration right at the death which she barely had time to answer. No mention of the fact that channel crossings have doubled and that no EU country has agreed to take back refugees who have passed through their borders.

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