One Day Without Us: National Day of Protest Asks Us to Imagine a World Without Migrants

Many Political stories of the past year have contained a common, uncomfortable motif. The political stage, whether that be in the local constituencies of Great Britain or across Europe, has welcomed discrimination as a valid tool for discourse.

With polarising campaigns at home around the EU referendum, and overseas, as the US president forcibly exiles migrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. This had inevitably led to a wide range of protests from all demographics, leading demonstrations in the tens of thousands around the world.

One Day Without Us is a planned national protest on Monday 20th February, which will see protesters across the country, especially from the UK’s migrant population, take to the streets to voice their frustration at the discrimination seen in our society, and in our politics, over the past year.

We talked to Matt Carr, a writer and journalist who is part of the One Day Without Us group, to ask him about the event.

What inspired you to begin One Day Without Us?

One Day Without Us began as a Facebook discussion in October, following the
Tory Party conference in September.  Many of us who took part in this
discussion were alarmed and disturbed by the openly xenophobic rhetoric
emanating from the conference.  It seemed to us that there was a dangerous
overlap between the rise in post-Brexit racism and xenophobia on our streets
and the way that migrants were being depicted by politicians and by sections
of the media.

The discussion quickly went viral, and out of it the nucleus of an
organising committee was formed, which then set about establishing local
groups across the country.

Is there an expected turnout for this year?

It’s impossible to calculate numbers at this stage, but given the publicity
that the campaign has received, the organisations that are supporting it –
including the Stop Trump Coalition – we expect it to be big.  We have some
37 groups on the ground, and nearly 70 events are being planned – that we
know of.  Others are being announced on an almost daily basis.

How do you think migrants are being affected by the recent actions of world
leaders?

Many governments – including our own – have chose to present migrants and
migration as a burden and a problem.   Here in the UK, a combination of
economic crisis, austerity, stagnating or worsening living conditions and
crumbling public services have created a climate in which it is all too easy
to stigmatise and blame migrants for a range of social and political
problems of which they are as much the victims as anyone else.

Do you think there is a risk that the strike will be used as a symbol of
further cultural division?

It’s true that the initial discussion about One Day Without Us revolved
around the notion of a strike/boycott before it evolved into a national day
of action.  We know that many people are taking the day off work or closing
their businesses for some or part of the day.  But there is a wide spectrum
of actions on Feb 20 which do not involve striking or taking time off work.
We see Feb 20 as a day of celebration, unity and solidarity and an explicit
rejection of the politics of hatred and division.

What would be the ideal reaction from the general public, and world leaders
watching the One Day Without Us protest?

We would like the public to see that migrants are a positive presence in
their communities and part of UK society.   We know that not everyone can be
won over to this idea, but we believe that there are millions of people in
this country who are as alarmed as we by the disturbing xenophobic drift in
recent years, and we hope that Feb 20 will inspire them to respond
positively to migrants and migration.  We would like politicians and world
leaders to recognize publicly what too many of them are reluctant to say out
loud – that migration is an essential and unavoidable fact of the modern
world that should be welcomed and celebrated and not feared.

Visit 1daywithoutus.org to find out more and support the day of action.

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