In one of the largest demonstrations the city has seen for years, over a thousand people marched the streets yesterday, calling for refugees to be made welcome in York.
Starting in torrential rain at St. Helen’s Square and finishing with blue skies at the Minster, the weather on the day was perhaps symbolic of the way attitudes have changed in Britain towards the humanitarian crisis. In the past weeks, some of the world’s most desperate people have faced an onslaught of abuse and degradation from our media and government. Yesterday marked the beginning of a compassionate approach to the issue from ordinary people, coinciding with events across the country.
Outside the Minster, we heard several powerful and moving speeches from refugees, faith groups, campaigning groups, charities and others, including York MP Rachael Maskell. The pervading message was that the government’s current response doesn’t even come close to what is necessary and that refugees ought to be treated with humanity, dignity and as equals.
The large and diverse turnout, ranging from young children to pensioners and consisting of trade unions, political parties, activists and schools, demonstrated York’s willingness in seeking to become the UK’s first Human Rights City, as well as a City of Sanctuary. Following a popular petition urging York City Council to “Give a home to asylum seekers in York”, this event represents another very important step in building local support for human rights and refugees.