Pollokshields: Community in Action

The standout Scottish story to come from the previous few days’ newscycle was the amazing display of community from the Southside of Glasgow. Images of an immigration van boxed in by peaceful members of the community have stuck in my head and restored some faith in the power of people. At a time when it can feel like divisions in society are only deepening, such a powerful display of togetherness and unity has no doubt struck a chord with many. The events that took place on Kenmure Street are a reminder to all of us; we do have power, but we must unite and stand together. The incredible scenes are proof that direct action works and can be utilised to stand up against corrupt and immoral institutions.

For those unfamiliar with the story, on Thursday morning an immigration van arrived at an address in the Southside of Glasgow with the intention of forcedly evicting two residents on alleged ‘immigration offences’. What followed was an outpouring of support from the Pollokshields community, kickstarted by a question from a Twitter user (@YesWithDex) who had spotted the van and decided to take action.

Within no time at all crowds were gathering around the immigration van, preventing the forced eviction with the hopes of stopping the deportation altogether. The whole timeline of events could be seen on Twitter, starting off with calls to join the protestors and ending in the release of the two detainees at around 5pm.

Incredible stories then transpired, not least of which was the valiant effort of the unidentified “van man” who lay underneath the Home Office’s van for eight hours. The mysterious figure was apparently a member of Glasgow’s No Evictions Network and was a key player in preventing the eviction. He was likely alerted through social media, which highlights the positive capabilities that we have at our fingertips. The solidarity on display in Pollokshields was thoroughly inspiring and shows the power that we can all draw on to make a change. Standing as equals on the streets rather than bickering online amongst ourselves is infinitely more productive, as can be seen by Police Scotland standing down.

As the above video shows, it almost didn’t end peacefully with a de-escalation from the Police, it is clear that they were on standby to disperse the crowd if they deemed it necessary. This shows another benefit of social media that it can be easy to forget, we can put the actions of authorities on display which can help to make them reconsider their action. Forcing the Home Office to, at the very least, delay this forced deportation is a massive win for the Southside community and a lesson in solidarity for other cities. A seemingly positive atmosphere and a diverse crowd from all walks of life managed to outmanoeuvre the Home Office and their cheap tactics. Now they have a lot to answer for, with a clearly cynical decision to forcedly evict two men living in the heart of a Muslim community on Eid-al-Fitr.

Ultimately, the display from the people of Pollokshields should be inspiring to those all over the country. The incredible scenes on Kenmure Street show the power of collective direct action in the modern age and the response from the people of Scotland will surely call in to question whether immigration should be a devolved matter. The solidarity of the peaceful protestors that stood against this dawn raid does not need to be an isolated incident, standing against such immoral actions is an essential tool in rejecting some of the sinister policies against immigrants and minorities.

Words by Ewan Blacklaw

Header image from PA Wire/PA Images

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