Around 200 anti-racism campaigners have taken to Leeds city centre to spread a multicultural message of support for migrants and refugees living in the city.
The Leeds Stand Up to Racism group organised Saturday’s Briggate rally in response to an attack on a 28-year-old Polish man by a group of up to 20 youths in Alliance Street, Armley, earlier this month.
The serious assault, for which seven boys aged between 13 and 17 have been arrested, was branded a “hate crime” by police and has been condemned by politicians, Polish authorities and the local community.
Campaigners drew up a statement of support signed by union representatives and politicians, calling on residents to unite against racism, and it attracted scores more signatures on Saturday.
The statement declared Leeds a “proud multicultural city”. Read the full statement here.
Steve Johnston, Leeds Stand Up to Racism treasurer, said: “It was a really positive feeling having so many different people at the rally – we succeeded in spreading our message.
“Leeds has a tradition. There has been a Polish club in the city for as long as I’ve been here and the contribution of poles to Leeds society has been second to none.”
Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton and Marvina Newton, founder of the Angel of Youths charity, were among the speakers at Saturday’s rally.
Campaigners held aloft banners and placards with slogans including ‘I am human like you’ and ‘equality for everyone’ during the event.
September 9’s attack prompted a statement from the Polish Consulate in Manchester earlier this week, saying it was the most serious of more than 10 xenophobic incidents involving Polish people it had dealt with in the North of England.
These are understood to include another in Leeds, three months ago, in which a shopkeeper was verbally abused at his premises in Bramley.
The consulate said a meeting with the city’s Polish community was due to take place tomorrow (Friday) at the Polish Catholic Centre in Newton Hill Road, Potternewton, at 7pm.