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London traffic stopped by Windrush justice protest

PROTEST: Campaigners demonstrating in London on the first annual Windrush Day, June 22

DOZENS OF demonstrators stopped traffic on Westminster Bridge to protest against the impact of the government’s hostile environment on the Windrush Generation.

The protest, held on the first annual Windrush Day, was one of seven held across the country on Saturday, June 22.

As part of Windrush Day of Action, organised by BAME Lawyers 4 Justice, campaigners took to the streets in London, Leeds, Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham, Manchester and Derby.

Activist Lee Jasper, who led protesters in London, admitted he was expecting a higher turnout but said he believed the spirit of the demonstration would be replicated at all types of gatherings taking place on the day.

“At the end of the day, lots of people will be going to celebrations throughout the day so I’m sure that the anger you saw here will be reflected in some of those events rather than people coming here,” he told The Voice.

DEMANDS: Protesters dropped a banner over the Thames

The day of action was purposefully planned to coincide with the first Windrush Day and Jasper repeatedly chanted that the group were marching to demonstrate, not celebrate.

Among the campaigners' demands are for the Windrush scheme to be widened to cover children and descendants of Caribbean migrants who came to the UK as adults after 1973, for Windrush victims to have automatic access to legal aid and an end to deportations.

Jasper said: “We thought it was important to make a national statement.

“We’re delighted that though we’re small in number in each individual city, collectively we’ve made a very significant and profound statement. And we intend to hold further Windrush Days of Action in the autumn and in the spring of next year until we mount enough people to get the kind of justice we deserve.”

He added: "We can celebrate our music, we can celebrate our civic contributions but we also must celebrate our resistance to racism. Surely that’s the defining thing of our whole existence in this country."

Passersby, many of whom were tourists, paused to observe the protest, taking pictures and listening to the chants and music. The campaigners set off from Downing Street, where various speakers delivered calls to actions and explanations of the importance of the demonstration. The route finished on Westminster Bridge where protesters stopped traffic as they gathered in the road showcasing their banners and vocalising their demands for justice. Several large banners with statements such as “Justice for the Windrush Generation, end all racist immigration laws now” were hung over Thames.

CAMPAIGN: From left to right, Sir Simon Woolley, Lee Jasper, Jacqueline McKenzie and Donna Guthrie

Immigration lawyer Jacqueline McKenzie, who represents a number of people affected by the Windrush immigration scandal, and Sir Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote were among the prominent Windrush justice campaigners who attended the march.

In the middle of Westminster Bridge, Donna Guthrie, BARAC National Womens' Officer, gave an emotive speech about her uncle who had been a victim of the government’s hostile environment policies.

“My uncle’s very frail and can’t make it all the way down from Seven Kings in Ilford to Westminster otherwise he would be here,” she said.

Guthrie said she believed the government were doing a good job of quelling people’s anger about the scandal by launching the compensation scheme, which she criticised, and creating Windrush Day.

CALL TO ACTION: Movement for Justice's Antonia Bright

“We recognise people might want to celebrate...we think people should come out and protest first to make sure that the voice of the voiceless, the voice of people that have suffered injustice and are still suffering injustice, who are still in detention centres, still have their status being questioned, those people are heard,” Guthrie told The Voice.

Antonia Bright, chair Movement for Justice, told The Voice that so far 16 MPs had signed up to their campaign calling for an amendment to the Windrush scheme that would see it cover victims' descendants.

Bright said she wanted people know that a fight was going on for their rights and that they could come forward.

"We’re also looking for more people who have cases because there will be people that were turned away from the scheme or were given the idea that they wouldn’t be included. Now that might be people that have a Windrush connected case like our type of cases, people that came later as adults but are connected to the Windrush Generation through their family," she said.

She added: “There’s a whole lot of people out there who probably are living partially in shadows, who might not have ever applied or come forward and who don’t know that there’s anyone making this fight and we want to tell them there is a fight being made. There’s a campaign to fight for these rights that you can join,” Bright said.

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