London’s Protest Stickers: Immigration and Race 2

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Immigration and racism have been a key issue for activists in London in recent years (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16, Whitechapel High Street).

In recent years, events such as the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean and Brexit have made immigration and race particularly contentious issues in Britain. As I have discussed before, London is no stranger to immigration; the city would be a very different place without it. Unfortunately, it is also no stranger to xenophobia, racism, and anti-migrant sentiments, as some of the stickers below demonstrate. However, there are groups, social movements, and activists who are willing to defend the rights of migrants and ethnic minorities in Britain, as most of the stickers below will show.

To see where the protest stickers in this post were located, check out the Turbulent London Map.

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Most protest stickers represent left-wing points of view, but there are some that promote particularly nasty politics. These next few stickers are all of this type. When I went back the next day, this one had been removed, suggesting that I’m not the only one that found it unpleasant (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 02/06/16, Euston Road).

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The text of this sticker has been obscured by water damage, but the first half says “When Tibet is full of Chinese it’s genocide.” I’m not sure what the second half says, but it implies that there is a similar situation in North America and Europe, but it’s called diversity (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 02/06/16, Euston Road).

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I suspect that the last three stickers were all made by the same people/person, given they have the same message, similar design, and were all located in close proximity (Photo: 03/06/15, Great Portland Street).

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This sticker was made by an anti-fascist group, and the slogan is quite common amongst anti-fascist stickers, although the image varies (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16, Cable Street).

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United Glasgow FC is a football team that aims to make the sport accessible and bring communities together to all by keeping costs down and combating discrimination. At some point one of them, or their supporters, came to London and put up a sticker (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16, Cable Street).

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This sticker has a very simple design, but I think it’s effective. It also doesn’t provide any clues as to who produced it, suggesting that the message was more important to whoever produced it than promoting a particular group or campaign (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 23/03/17, Charing Cross Road).

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Stand Up to Racism is a fairly self-explanatory organisation. This sticker is promoting their national day of action in 2017. They also organise national conferences, and smaller protests and campaigns on specific issues. Recently, they have been campaigning against the popular neo-fascist leader, Tommy Robinson, and the Democratic Football Lads Alliance, which they accuse of being racist (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 20/03/16, New Cross Road).

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This sticker on Euston Road is another example of a simple, effective message (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 23/03/17, Euston Road).

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This slogan has become a common refrain amongst those campaigning against the handling of the European migrant crisis. If there were no borders, then there would be no illegal immigrants, and there would be no need for fences to keep them out (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16, Whitechapel High Street).

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The UK Border Agency has come under fire in recent years for the immigration raids it conducts across London. A movement has grown up that seeks to counter the raids in a variety of ways, including publicising the movements  of the UKBA on social media, so it is harder for them to make surprise raids (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16, St. George’s Gardens).

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Sisters Uncut is an organisation that campaigns against cuts to services related to domestic violence (see London’s Protest Stickers: Gender). Here, they are expressing solidarity for another vulnerable group. Migrant women are also particularly susceptible to domestic violence (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 12/10/17, Regent’s Canal).

 

Book Review: This is London- Life and Death in the World City

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This is London by Ben Judah.

Ben Judah. This is London: Life and Death in the World City London: Picador, 2016. £18.99 

This is London: Life and Death in the World City is the latest in a long line of books that try to say something new about one of the most written about cities in the world. Ben Judah does this by trying to get to know London’s immigrants, the people who make up almost half of the city’s population, but who only ever get talked about with scaremongering statistics and dehumanising metaphors. It takes all sorts to make a city, and Judah talks to all kinds of people in this book; the wife of a Russian oligarch, a Nigerian policeman, a Polish builder, Filipina maids, a Polish registrar, Afghani shopkeepers, a Nigerian teacher.

I was born in London but I no longer recognize this city. I don’t know if I love the new London or if it frightens me: a city where at least 55 per cent of people are not ethnically British, nearly 40 per cent were born abroad, and 5 per cent are living illegally in the shadows. I have no idea who these Londoners are. Or even what their London really is.

(Judah, 2016; p.3)

This is London starts in the same place that many European migrants arrive in London; Victoria Coach Station- “our miserable Ellis Island” (Judah, 2016; p.1). It ends where some of the city’s one million Muslim inhabitants (according to the 2011 census) end their lives; the mortuary of a mosque in Leyton. It covers a large number of major life events and experiences in between; marriage, birth, employment, illness, faith, and recreation. The book has no introduction or conclusion, which I think is fitting. This is not a story with a nice neat beginning and ending, it is not even a single story. When I review books about London, I try to find a quote in which the author summarises London. I couldn’t find one in This is London. London is complex, multiple, and heterogeneous, it is almost impossible to sum it up. Ben Judah doesn’t offer any solutions or grand plans, he tells stories, and allows the reader to interpret them.

Unfortunately, I have some serious issues with This is London. The biggest is Judah’s ethics and attitudes towards his interviewees. On several occasions he lied to the people he was talking to about who he was, covering up the fact he is a journalist. When he visits Harlesdon Road to try and talk to some of the customers of London’s 1773 betting shops, he has little success until he pretends to be conducting a survey for William Hill (Judah, 2016; p.294). As an academic, I am horrified by the prospect that some people were trusting Judah with their stories, some of them highly personal and traumatic, without knowing what he was going to do with them. Maybe journalists don’t care about informed consent, but I do.

There are other points where Judah seems to relish his power over his interviewees in a way that made me feel very uncomfortable. In the first chapter he follows three recently arrived Roma women from Victoria Coach Station all the way to Hyde Park because he wanted to talk to them. He continued to follow them even once they realised they were being followed. Judah eventually forces a Romanian busker to talk to him, saying “I know he wants to leave but I won’t let him. I have power over him for a few seconds. And I want him to speak” (Judah, 2016; p.8). Later on, he talks to some prostitutes in Ilford Lane, paying them to talk to him. They sit in his car, as one woman, Diana, talks about another woman who was murdered there. He seems to enjoy forcing the second woman to talk; “I know she does not want to talk about this. That she would rather I just fucked them both- or hit them, the way some of the men enjoy doing- than ask about what happened to Mariana. But I don’t care. And I gesture. I want you to talk now” (Judah, 2016; p.370). He exploited the women’s vulnerability in a way that I find completely unacceptable.

I have conflicted feelings about This is London.I really enjoyed the stories the book tells, and reading about parts of London that are completely unfamiliar to me. However, I cannot condone Judah’s methods in obtaining some of these stories; he was unethical, insensitive, and exploitative. Because of this, I think there are other books out there that do similar things to This is London, better. For example, Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now by Craig Taylor (London: Granta, 2012), provides snapshots of what it’s like to live and work in London without making me feel deeply uncomfortable. I would recommend it much more highly than This is London.