‘Some drunk people treat us like animals’

Foyle Westminster candidate Mark Durkan speaking at the anti-racism rally in Derry.
Foyle Westminster candidate Mark Durkan speaking at the anti-racism rally in Derry.

Hundreds of people attended a protest in the city centre on Friday.

And, since last Friday’s protest, migrant workers and local anti-racist activists have spoken to the Derry Journal concerning racism in the city .

Ali, who works in a city centre cafe said: “Almost every night at work, some drunk people treat us like animals.

“They say things like, black c.... go back to your own country. They call us names, laugh at us, make fun of us, and make us feel we are not welcome in Derry.

“I treat the customers like they were king’s because I need customers. I want customers to treat me like I do with them.”

Ali, originally from Algeria, has lived and worked in Derry since 2012, also suffered from a vicious racist assault, over a year ago.

This took place in his delivery van outside the cafe. He was repeatedly punched, had part of his nose bitten off and was subjected to racist abuse.

Muhammad, a city centre shop owner, spoke of how every night, some people who are mostly, but not always, drunk and under 30 that are abusive, will always use racist language.

“They will call me a black c... or paki, or tell me to go back to my own country, or you’re over here taking our jobs. This is wrong because I have started my own business and employ three people.”

“I am part of the community and these actions of a few, won’t make me think any different about the people of Derry.

“I came to Derry nine years ago and as well as setting up my own business, I have established a youth football team and have been working with the community for over seven years. My team are ‘Bright Stars’ football club and they have recently won several trophies.

“I have met and made friends with so many people through my football club. I am more than happy in Derry with my job, with my football team, with my family and friends.”

Speaking very warmly about the vast majority of Derry people Ali said: “It’s like in my home country, people are friendly, warm hearted, they respect us.

“The older generation know how the English treated them, and they’re not racist, it’s just some of the younger generation.”

Speaking of his religion and how many people would ask him about this, he said: “In our religion, what I want for me, is what I want for you. My religion is about respect, regardless of colour of skin. In Islam, our greeting, Salaam means peace.

“Some people who come into the cafe want to learn about our religion and culture. Our religion is quite similar. We believe in Jesus and Mary. We believe in Moses and Abraham. We believe in David and Joseph.”

Davy McAuley and Colm Bryce, two local anti-racist campaigners and members of People Before Profit, spoke of why they organised last Fridays event, the importance of holding such demonstrations, and the success of the protest.

Davy said: “Derry is seen as the home of civil rights. People in this city have fought for better jobs and better conditions, and if any person is attacked in Derry, due to their ethnicity or colour of their skin, it’s an affront to our civil rights history.

“It’s particularly galling and outrageous that a lot of people who do these things, go unchallenged.”

“The purpose of these rallies are to galvanise the community into action to challenge these actions.”

Colm Bryce said: “I was very pleased with the turn out for the protest, and at the huge response we got on Facebook. A lot of people were outraged.

“We know what has been successful in Belfast is that people respond quickly in calling for a rally to show support and oppose racism. This very often changes behaviour in those areas.

“I’m very glad that we organised the protest, and if it happens again anywhere in the city, we are prepared to organise the same response.”

In his final comment, Muhammad said: “I would like the racists to remember that Irish people live all around the world for the very same reasons I am living in Derry. Theyseem to forget the signs on English guest houses- No blacks. No dogs. No Irish. How hurtful that was to the Irish. That is how hurtful it is for me too.”