IT will forever be a point of pride for me and the city I live in that I stood shoulder-to-shoulder (well, not quite that close, given social distancing) with my friends and neighbours on Kenmure Street in Glasgow’s Pollokshields last week, halting the deportation of two Indian nationals.

Victories for the left have been few and far between of late, so it would be an understatement to say such a powerful and definitive outcome has left me buzzing these past few days.

More than 1000 protesters stopped Sumit Sehdev and Lakhvir Singh from being deported at a time when even our bumbling Prime Minister, content to wander into any number of Covid hotspots in his Sisyphean quests to save the Union, would cancel plans to visit as cases and deaths spiral into incomprehensible numbers. This was an irrefutable win – but now we must recognise the task ahead of us.

This was not a victory for the politicians, but the people of Glasgow’s southside. What happened on Kenmure Street was the result of decades of grassroots resistance that has built the networks and knowledge needed to take on the Home Office’s racist agenda.

This kind of resistance takes real work and attributing this victory as some have to a vague but uniquely Scottish sense of justice in action only undermines what really happened. Had the groundwork not been in place already, that van would have quietly slipped away with its captors long before anyone had a chance to react.

It would equally be naive to think that resistance to the Home Office alone is enough to protect vulnerable migrants. Any critique of the British state must also be extended to the various institutions and organisations that have enabled it.

On Kenmure Street, Police Scotland were prepared to smash their way through the protesters to assist immigration enforcement officers in their dirty work.

From someone who was there, let me tell you that photographs of the disproportionate number of police officers surrounding the immigration van barely begins to describe the sheer, unsettling police presence on the day.

Lines of officers snaked around the corner out of view of the neighbourhood, and the constant arrival of more and more police vans throughout the day were a source of growing tension among the crowd.

When Mohammad Asif, director of the Afghan Human Rights Foundation, informed the crowd that mounted police had arrived and were on standby around the corner, activists resigned themselves to the possibility that arrests were coming. Photocopies of legal information were passed around the crowd.

When police officers finally did charge from one side, and were met by a wall of protesters who threw themselves to the ground to stop the oncoming officers, it was only through sheer numbers that they had no option but to retreat after a tense few minutes.

Police Scotland is fully devolved and fully under the control of the Scottish Government. There was no need for this action to have been drawn out into an eight-hour fight to save two vulnerable men from Britain’s hostile immigration system.

While Police Scotland released a statement claiming it “does not assist in the removal of asylum seekers”, I was left wondering how else you could describe the force’s intervention last Thursday – and that in itself should prompt some questions.

The National:

YET while Scottish police officers were putting themselves on the line to “not assist” the Home Office’s work, the UK department itself was conspicuously silent throughout the stand-off.

When it did finally address its defeat, it was by slipping into the well-worn grooves of the Conservative Party, which without fail paints any resistance to its violent agenda as the result of extremists.

Its condemnation of the Kenmure Street “mob” is exactly what we’ve come to expect from an institution that also branded immigration lawyers as activists and do-gooders for the crime of ensuring immigration law was being followed correctly; a series of rhetorical attacks from Priti Patel that it was claimed led to a far-right knife-wielding man threatening to kill an immigration solicitor last year after barging into a London law firm Resistance does not exist in a vacuum. Throughout the day, the crowd in Pollokshields heard from speakers talking about other issues that were affecting the global community and Britain’s involvement in various conflicts.

At one point, the protest became an impromptu independence rally when one speaker pointed out that an exit from the British imperialist state would swiftly end the Home Office’s cruel interventions in Scotland – an argument that no proponent of federalism could deny.

A moment later, the crowd shared a moment of solidarity with Palestinians suffering under Israel’s murderous, apartheid regime. A Palestinian flag flew over the protest for most of the day.

Kenmure Street was not the end of the fight, nor was it the beginning. While one immigration van in Pollokshields was caught early, held in place by activists who took immediate and direct action, another Indian national in the process of submitting a fresh asylum claim, and who had been living in Scotland for 16 years, was already on his way to Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre having been snatched from his bed earlier that morning.

This fight started decades ago, and for as long as Scotland remains tethered to Westminster’s institutionally malign Home Office it will go on.

Looking around the faces in the crowd on Thursday, I recognised journalists, migrants, fellow queers and friends and neighbours of mine who had come together to oppose the racist behaviour of the Home Office and to stand up for the refugees and asylum seekers who have become useful pawns in the Tories’ pitiful culture war.

Kenmure Street was a historic victory maybe, but only one of many more to come if we stand together and remain ready to take action when needed.