Over a decade ago, in 2009, I was on a protest at Scotland Yard about the death of Sean Rigg, left to die on the floor of Brixton police station. His family was there; Lowkey, best known for his fight for justice for the Palestinians, was there performing in the street one of his brilliant, incisive, truth-telling raps.
No-one there that day, not me, not Lowkey (check out his searing song ‘Long Live Palestine‘) saw any conflict or tension between calling for justice for black victims of state violence and calling for justice for the Palestinians – it was only, in fact, a year later we were all protesting in Whitehall on Israel’s sickening attack on the Mavi Marmara. Again, Lowkey performed; Ken Loach was there. All the people I had seen on the Sean Rigg protest were there. Why wouldn’t we be?? Injustice is injustice.
So now, when I see sneering posts about Black Lives Matter being just a ‘woke’ issue framed as if it somehow diminishes the Palestinian cause – or any other injustice – I wonder what the hell is going on. I wonder this when I see 21st Century Wire publish stories from The Sun Newspaper and Fox News, rabid right wing corporate media sources used by a news website known for exposing corporate media propaganda. What a good look that is!
And neither, it’s worth saying, is there tension for me in fighting for the working class as well as against racism – another trope I’ve seen doing the rounds using the same ‘but what about?’ fallacy.
No-one is denying that movements are infiltrated and manipulated – look at Lebanon. I attended those protests in Beirut last November and there was no doubt from speaking to people there that the grass roots uprising was genuine, and no doubt that other forces and actors came in to warp that cause.
But I’m telling you plain, I will celebrate any and all moves towards long-awaited justice for black people. Too late for Sean Rigg and the many other people killed in police custody for which not one police officer has been convicted to my knowledge.
Anyone who listens to Martin Luther King’s seminal speech, Beyond Vietnam, in which he rails against foreign interventions and economic injustice impacting the poor in the US would ever dare to suggest that he had to choose between civil rights and those issues. The moves to discredit BLM smells bad to me. I’m going to celebrate any victory by any cause I support. I don’t have to choose. And neither do you.