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From The Socialist newspaper, 31 July 2014

Southampton: Channel 4's Immigration Street condemned

Phillip Sneider

In a meeting pulsating with anger, about 150 people from Newtown and Northam in Southampton discussed the idea of 'Immigration Street', the sequel to Channel 4's 'Benefit Street'. Within 20 minutes, an organised boycott of the show was agreed.

Benefit Street vilified benefit claimants as 'scroungers' rather than the product of the deepest post-war recession. It amplified the establishment's attempts to divide working class communities between those working and the unemployed and to undermine working class solidarity and resistance to the cuts.

The area has a strong sense of community and solidarity, with a recent campaign against the closure of Graham Road Youth Centre and the Veni playground. It is hardly surprising then that Immigration Street should meet hostility here.

Local people rightly fear attempts to whip up racism and anti-immigrant sentiment and are determined to challenge Channel 4 and defend their community. This community has long established Irish, Afro-Caribbean, Hindu and Sikh communities as well as more recent arrivals from Somalia and Eastern Europe.

Constant calls of 'we need to shut them down!' were applauded throughout. The meeting then agreed to have a poster and window bill campaign. But this would not satisfy the community who clearly wanted a more militant approach to the programme.

The production team had already been filming for 12 weeks without community consent and used this to get the series commissioned. When the 'Love Production' man finally came out, he looked very pale and shaky.

Several community eyewitnesses said the production crew had targeted vulnerable people in the area using services. One irate local person said the team had been filming as a man was sectioned under the mental health act while on the street.

However, the community's esteem for the producer was already so low that this disgusting detail couldn't make it any lower. Many people asked the producer not to come back but he said it wasn't within his power to decide.

The meeting ended with an anti-Immigration Street poster held in front of the producer being photographed by dozens of people.

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In The Socialist 31 July 2014:


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