The National Assembly Against Racism condemns the decision by Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, to shut down the “Rise: London United Against Racism” Festival.
An annual anti-racist festival has been an important event in London. The first festival in 1996 took place following the murder of Stephen Lawrence and other black teenagers in South East London, and the election of a British National Party (BNP) councillor in Millwall in the mid 1990s. The festival was revived by the previous Mayor in 2001 and an anti-racist festival took place every year since then until 2007.
The Rise festival was Europe’s biggest free anti-racist festival and brought together the broadest possible anti-racist coalition and positively stated the case for the alternative to a society blighted by racism: a multicultural society where every one can live freely, regardless of their background, so long as they do not infringe the rights of others.
In London, the record of challenging racism, tackling inequality and reflecting diversity in London, was critical to advancing its social, economic and cultural success and contributed to making London a world-class city capable of winning the Olympics. Communities were brought together in unity behind this agenda, which is borne out by the statistics in the annual London survey which shows that 82% of Londoners now enjoy its diversity. In 2005 the festival played an important role in bringing together communities in London after the 7 July bombings.
The Rise festival was an important part of an anti-racist strategy in London that helped to reduce racist attacks by almost two-thirds during 2000 and 2008, in the context of a rise in racist attacks nationally.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and the nail bombings in London, where London’s African & Caribbean, Bangladeshi and lesbian and gay communities were targeted. Instead of abolishing the “Rise: London United Against Racism” festival the Mayor should be taking the lead in campaigning against racism.