In the wake of an arson attack on The Village Store, a Romanian-owned shop on Magdalen Street, Norwich came together to show ‘Solidarity with Migrants’ at a protest on Tuesday evening.

Organised by Rebecca Tamás, a Hungarian-British PhD student at UEA said, “I hope these events are encouraging people to look at their city, to look at themselves, and work positively, not just feel depressed and exhausted by it, but actually work together to change it.”

With speakers from Andreea Abraham, daughter of the owner of The Village Shop to Katy-Jon Went, human rights and diversity writer, the organisers were keen to get a diverse range of speakers, especially from leaders of the Eastern European, BAME, and Islamic community.

In the wake of Brexit, there has been a 40 percent increase in hate crime across the country. Norwich voted to remain in the EU Referendum, bucking the trend across Norfolk.

In response to the attack on The Village Store, a crowd funding page has raised more than £30,000 for the owners. It was also subject to a ‘love bombing’, where over 300 people left messages of love and support on heart shaped paper stuck to the shop front.

 

Comment writer Louis Pigeon-Owen was at the Solidarity Protest and discusses the rise in Post-Brexit hate crime.

On Tuesday evening, Norwich took a stand. At City Hall, the very place where Hitler planned to give his victory speech when he invaded Britain, hundreds of people from all walks of life stood in defiance of fascism and in solidarity for their fellow migrants.

Following the arson attack on the Romanian Shop The Village Store on Magdalen Street last Friday, the community support offered by Norwich, including the £30,000 raised for the shop owners Andreea Abraham and her mother, has been a testament to the power of love and inclusion.

When the Brexit referendum was called, Norwich remained yellow in a sea of blue, but it is far from perfect. Seeing a 40% increase in hate crime across the country in the last few weeks isn’t something we should consider yet another depressing statistic, it is something we have to tackle head-on.
“For every act of hatred, there are a thousand acts of kindness, but we are not finished and there is always more to be done.” Rebecca Tamás, Hungarian-British UEA PhD student and organiser of the rally, had a few words to say on how Norwich can take steps to remedy this tragedy.

Rebecca went on to say that we can each get involved in a variety of ways, whether by “coming to an event like this, it could be volunteering for charity, it could be working with some of the communities who are separate from the main white British body of the city and actually take some action in that way.”

Remaining silent whilst the bigots and racists spread their diseased ideas is letting their views go unchallenged and is therefore giving them a platform. What we owe the hard-working migrants and refugees of our country is to not sit silent when we see an act of abuse on a bus or a hate crime on the streets, but to defend our fellow humans and stand proudly by them. Any walls we have built between ourselves and people of other ethnicities and backgrounds are imaginary and unnecessary. Rebecca suggested that such walls can be toppled not through ignoring our differences, but by celebrating them:
‘There is so much of a sense that becoming some kind of a unified city or a unified country is impossible, but it’s actually not that hard, we just have to accept that not everyone comes from a different perspective and that we can actually work together.’

Great Britain is made ‘Great’ by the wealth of cultural diversity we promote and allow to prosper. Without the contributions of migrants, our country doesn’t deserve the prefix of ‘Great’, it is just ‘Britain’ and ‘Sad, Intolerant Britain’ at that. Moreover, human history consists entirely of movement, change, integration and the continual crossing and re-arranging of borders. To even assume that white British identity is a static continuum against which all other nationalities can be measure as ‘other’ is bogus. Britain, historically, has always been a smorgasbord of identities and no one person should ever feel that they are more entitled than others to claim this place as their home.

Katy-Jon Went, human rights and diversity writer and activist, who spoke at the protest, said that ‘Nobody can say there’s even such a thing as ‘English’, let alone ‘British’ or anything else: we are already a melting pot of different cultures and backgrounds, bloodlines and everything. But it’s about, even more than ever, despite that background, recognising that we are part of a global village.’
And it is this bigger picture we often miss: the fact that we are all human beings whose duty it is to always watch out for our fellow humans. Went explained this bigger picture beautifully, stating that ‘at the end of the day, it is about stories, we have personal stories and people have community and country stories, but it’s having the freedom to have your own story, the freedom to then tell that story to others, to be heard and to be recognised.’

We are all migrants. We are all story-tellers. We are all humans. We deserve the same opportunities, the same love and the same respect. And, at the end of the day, it really is as simple as that.

 

Featured Photo: PC Katy-Jon Went

Supporters gathered at City Hall. PC: Katy Jon Went
Supporters gathered at City Hall. PC: Katy Jon Went