21 Jun 2008

UNISON withdraws support from RISE festival

Angry delegates today agreed to withdraw UNISON's financial support from the GLA-organised RISE festival, in protest at Boris Johnson's decision to drop the festival's anti-racist message. RISE was originally established by the TUC, as a dedication to the memory of Stephen Lawrence and other black citizens who have suffered from racism. It has since become the largest anti-racist festival in Europe. Regardless of this, the London mayor has declared that the festival would no longer have an anti-racist political purpose, and was instead "a celebration of music and culture."He has also banned the National Assembly Against Racism and the Cuba Solidarity Campaign from taking part. The BNP's newly-elected GLA member Richard Barnbrook has congratulated Mrt Johnson on the move. Annette Mansell-Green of the NEC told conference that the festival, which was supported in its original purpose by former mayor Ken Livingstone, "has become an important response to the rise of the right, especially the BNP. "The whole point of the festival is to support an anti-racist message and bring together thousands of people in the fight to keep the BNP out of London. This is political censorship, and UNISON will not stand for it." Ms Mansell-Green, joint chair of the general political fund which pays for the union's anti-racism campaigning, added: "No GPF money will go to RISE this year or any other year as long as it's not an anti-racist festival". Gloria Hanson of Greater London region, which has also decided to withhold financial support of the festival, called Mr Johnson "a disgrace", and his decision "an insult to London, an insult to trade unions and most importantly an insult to the memory of Stephen Lawrence." Delegates backed the move by the GPF and the region, urging the NEC to widely publicise their condemnation.

UNITE has also pulled funeding because Johnson refused a platform for the Cuba Solidarity Campaign saying that it was a political campaign group and therefore unacceptable.

Read more: Guardian News. NAAR's Reaction. BNP support Johnson's decision.

Also see Johnson aide quits over race row

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