‘This is our area - we have a right to live here’: Southall Black Sisters unite against ‘racial profiling’ with spontaneous protest

In Southall, women take on border agency officers in a show of defiance

Around 30 women armed with signs, megaphones and a handful of shouted slogans took to the streets of Southall, west London on Thursday in a spontaneous grassroots protest against to a UK Border Agency (UKBA) operation at a local shopping centre.

A video posted on YouTube shows two officers wearing Border Agency jackets being bombarded with chants of “UKBA go away”, before taking refuge through the back exit of the shopping centre.

“This is our area, we have a right to live here,” says Meena Patel, 51, into a megaphone during the clip. She is the operations manager of the Southall Black Sisters, a local women’s group who started the protest.

Speaking today, Ms Patel said that the action was framed by recent policies towards migrant communities such as the demands that benefit claimants speak English and the ‘Go Home or Face Arrest’ vans that have been driving around multi-cultural communities.

“The community were quite surprised at first, because we were women. The public were watching and some of the young men joined us,” she told The Independent. “We told them to be aware of what the police were doing; that they’re targeting our communities. We definitely had the community’s support on this.”

The SBS was established in 1979 by an Asian group of women, following the death of activist Blair Peach in the local area. Working from a semi-detached house on a leafy suburban street in Southall, they run a range of campaigns addressing forced marriage, domestic violence and legal aid funding for migrants. While they focus on the needs of minority women, they say their doors are open to any woman in need of emergency help.

Over time, they have increasingly shifted from supporting women in their fight against racism to helping Asian women who are the victims of domestic violence and campaigning against religious fundamentalism. They played a key role in the 1989 case of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, who was accused of burning her abusive husband to death. With the help of the SBS, her conviction was overturned on grounds of insufficient counsel.

Ms Patel said she had been aware of UKBA officers stopping people and asking for identity at train and tube stations for the past week.

“They’re doing it on the pretext of checking Oyster cards. As far as we’re concerned, it’s racial profiling and it’s illegal and they shouldn’t be doing it. It’s happening in Stratford, Kensal Green and Brent.

“They’re basically kettling up black and ethnic minorities and asking ‘where’s your ID’. It’s very much a Nazi Germany way of working – and we’re raising our voices against that

“There is a lot tension: you can see it with the stop and searches, with people’s homes being raided and people getting picked up. Now we’ve raised this, it’s only going to get bigger – we’re not stopping here.”

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border