For a society that’s been immersed in it’s own serious conflicts, it can be incredibly difficult to lift the gaze and look at new and emerging issues. The Anti Racism Network is trying to do just that, with a rally this Saturday 2pm, Art College Gardens, Belfast. According to PSNI statistics, between April 2002 and 2003 there were 226 racial incidents, resulting in just five prosecutions – and it is not known yet if any of these have been or even will result in any convictions.According to ARN, the event is not a protest so much as a celebration:
“We want to try and capture the flavour of a carnival, and make everyone feel welcome. We want people to bring drums as well as banners. Costumes, whistles, instruments – anything that adds to the
The event has been endorsed by community groups, trade unions, minority ethnic organisations, political parties and many others.
Speaking today, ARN spokesperson Davy Carlin said:
“It is encouraging that so many people have come forward and backed the event. Racist attacks have appalled people right across Northern Ireland, and their support for the rally will clearly demonstrate that racism is something we don’t want here.
“The theme for the rally is ‘No excuses’, because people are fed up hearing lame justifications for racist behaviour. Myths about ‘immigrants taking our jobs’ or being ‘a threat to local culture’ are exactly that – stories with no basis in reality.
“Sadly, it is not uncommon for some people to unfairly blame ethnic
minorities for deprivation in their area. It is wrong to scapegoat ethnic minorities for the failures in our society that existed long before their arrival.
“Instead we are asking people to come out on the 30th and celebrate the fact that Belfast is changing – for the better. We now have a more diverse society than ever before, and hopefully the Hallowe’en carnival will show how people from different backgrounds can come together as a united community against racism.”
The ARN’s event is supported (so far!) by the Chinese Welfare Association, The Belfast Jewish community, The Indian Community Centre, the Belfast Islamic Centre, the Multi Cultural Resource Centre, The Latin American Support Group, Travellers Movement of NI, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Unison, T&GWU, NIPSA and the Belfast Trades Union Council.
Support and endorsement has also come from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, the NI Law Centre, The NI Children’s Commissioner, the Lord Mayor of Belfast, political parties, local community activists, writers, solidarity and women’s groups and organisations.
Other supporters include: Slugger, The Irish Football Association’s community relations office, The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, The Blanket online magazine, Sai Pak Chinese community group, Amnesty International, STEP, International Voluntary Service NI, the Inland Revenue (Northern Ireland) Branch of the Public and Commercial Services Union, Tools for Solidarity, NUS/USI, the Duncrun Cultural Initiative, the Fountain Men’s Group, L/Derry, the Fountain Youth Club, L/Derry, and the Rasharkin Women’s Group, North Antrim, wish to support the rally against racism on the 30th October.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty