ON May 13, 2021, Kenmure Street – an unassuming avenue of tenements in the Pollokshields district of Glasgow – became global news. Two residents of the street, Sumit Sehdev and Lakhvir Singh – Sikh men of Indian origin – were snatched in one of the UK Home Office’s notorious early-morning raids.

Accused of immigration offences, they were bundled into one of the marked “Immigration Enforcement” vans that are synonymous with the process of incarceration at immigration removal centres such as Dungavel. However, before the men could be whisked away to detention at the South Lanarkshire facility, or further afield, concerned Pollokshields residents – joined by increasing numbers of people from across the Southside of Glasgow and, indeed, throughout the city – surrounded the van, preventing its departure.

The protest swelled from dozens to hundreds, leading to an eight-hour stand-off that was finally concluded with the two men being released from the van and returned to their community. The images of the men emerging from their day-long ordeal, waving to the celebrating protestors, have become iconic.

READ MORE: Alison Phipps: Extraordinary community action led to Kenmure Street victory

Now, as the anniversary of that remarkable act of civil disobedience approaches, local activists are planning a two-day event – the Kenmure Street Festival of Resistance – to mark the occasion. The Festival has the backing of many community groups and campaigning organisations, including: Pollokshields Trust, Govanhill Baths Community Trust, Refugees for Justice, Stand Up to Racism and the Scottish Refugee Council.

One of the organisers is Fatima Uygun, a long-standing Southside resident, who is well known for her leading role in the famous movement to save the Govanhill Baths from closure. The Festival of Resistance, Uygun explains, will seek to bring together the humanitarianism and the politics that underpinned the events of May 13, 2021 with the cultural diversity that makes the Southside the place it is.

The area between the River Clyde and Queen’s Park has long been home to refugee and migrant communities. Those communities range from Jewish people fleeing the Czarist regime in the old Russian Empire in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, to people from the Indian subcontinent in the mid to late-20th century, and more recent, diverse populations including Somalis, Kurds and Roma from eastern and central Europe.

Taking the experiences of these communities into account, Uygun explains, the Festival will begin with a “sombre” contemplation, both of the asylum seekers who died in Glasgow during their isolation in hotel accommodation in the city last year and those who have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the English Channel. To that end, at 5.25pm on Friday, May 13 (the very minute when the two detained men were freed from the Home Office van one year before) there will be a moment’s silence to remember both the tremendous victory of local activists in 2021, but also those asylum seekers who have passed away, often in heart-breaking circumstances.

On Saturday, May 14 the Festival becomes a celebration of the community’s defiance of UK Home Secretary Priti Patel’s attempts to create a “hostile environment” for those seeking sanctuary. Most of Kenmure Street will be closed to traffic between 12 noon and 4pm, in order that a series of political and cultural events can take place.

There will be speeches by refugees living in Glasgow, who will reflect on the importance to them of the Kenmure Street events of a year ago. They will be joined by asylum rights activists and, it is hoped, supportive politicians.

Invited speakers include First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who, as Uygun points out, “quite stridently expressed her anger about, and opposition to” the snatching of Sehdev and Singh. “Having the head of the Scottish Government come out and argue against what was happening was really important.”

SNP Westminster MP Alison Thewliss (below) is another invited speaker. She is, Uygun comments, “doing a sterling job of opposing the Nationality and Borders Bill in parliament”, as well as being a consistent supporter of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

The National:

Other invited speakers include Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar – who, as Uygun says, “knows firsthand what it’s like to be treated as a second-class citizen” – and Scottish Greens’ co-leader Patrick Harvie.

The speeches will just be part of a packed programme of events, including live music, storytelling, banner making and food provided by numerous community organisations, including the local Sikh temple, Gurdwara Guru Granth Sahib, on Albert Drive. “We’re celebrating the contribution that immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers have made to our communities,” says Uygun.

There are few places in Scotland better placed to celebrate the country’s cultural diversity than Kenmure Street. “Pollokshields has the largest Muslim community in the whole of Scotland,” Uygun observes, “and it’s the second most diverse community in Scotland, after Govanhill, which is just next door.”

For further information about the Kenmure Street Festival of Resistance, visit: govanhillbaths.com