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Posted on 16 August 2011 at 15:49 GMT

Birmingham peace rally shows need for jobs and services, not cuts

Clive Walder and Dave Griffiths, West Midlands Socialist Party

About 3,000 people came to Winson Green's Summerfield Park in Birmingham on Sunday to attend an event called to honour the memory of the three young men tragically killed in the riots on 10 August.

Many Asian youth wore t-shirts bearing the names of those who were killed. Tariq Jahan, father of Haroon, one of those killed, addressed the rally.

Tariq is widely admired for the way he has reacted. He said: "I believe that people can stay calm. If you look around here, there are black, brown and white people, they are all my community. We live together and we can stay together".

This is important given that the area experienced violence between some of the black and Asian communities only a few years ago. The sentiment for unity is welcome in the face of the danger of ethnic divisions and fracturing.

But this alone will not be long-lasting unless it is cemented by class unity, bringing all workers together in struggle. People from all backgrounds were at the event and their mood was overwhelmingly one of wanting a united community that works out what it is going to do to put things right; of wanting the kind of society which means that these incidents will never be repeated.

But this will not be done easily.

One man, reading the Socialist Party leaflet, commented to his mate: "They're talking about a future, but there ain't no future."

Most speakers from the platform did not address these issues. They offered prayer or sanctimonious speeches by local politicians.

None of the politicians made any comment about the social conditions faced by many of the city's youth. But over 30% unemployment in Lozells and East Handsworth cannot be ignored.

Younger people feeling excluded cannot be overlooked. Yet the future offers only cuts in services from the council and government - unless we organise and fight back.

A local secondary school pupil was the only one to mention unemployment and it took the speaker from the 'business community' to argue that jobs needed to be created.

He argued that business needs to change; that it has set terrible principles of 'greed is good', 'go and take what you can', of Gordon Gecko and The Apprentice type role models.

After last week's events, council leaders had raged about the 'attacks on property' and declared that 'Birmingham was open for business'. One person asked us if that was the only thing they care about.

Leaflets for Birmingham Socialist Party's 22nd August public meeting - on giving youth a future - were taken by nearly everyone we approached, even some of the police were approving of it!


Birmingham Socialist Party meeting:

Youth demand a future!
7.30pm, Monday 22nd August
The conference room, Briar Rose Hotel, Bennett's Hill, Birmingham city centre.

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 16 August 2011 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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