The name is a deliberate reference to Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners [the group set up during the 1984-85 miners’ strike and which features in the film Pride]. All of the people who were involved in setting up our group had watched Pride the year before and been really inspired by the story. The idea of queer communities coming together to stand in solidarity with other marginalised communities, of seeing the connections between the oppressions of traditionally separate communities and building bridges across these divides, we found really powerful.
We decided to use the name Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants to build on the history of radical queer politics and solidarity. We see our activism today as picking up the mantle from those who campaigned during the miners’ strike.
In the 1980s, members of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners saw the way miners were being demonised by the press and violently attacked by the police as a clear parallel to how the queer community had been treated. There’s a moment in the film where Mark Ashton points out that the police have stopped targeting gay clubs quite so much recently, because they are busy bullying and attacking mining communities instead.
As queer people, we know what it is like to be labelled illegal. We have experience of being targets for the police and media, and we know what it’s like to be scapegoated and turned into objects of hate based on who we are. We think it’s crucial to use the experiences of our community to find commonality with those targeted most harshly through state oppression now. We want to use the strength of our queer community to stand in solidarity with groups who are being attacked.
Our actions have tended to be quite theatrical and a bit camp. We try to use the colourful creativity associated with queer performances and drag shows. We have been able to do some very eye‑catching and fun actions.
Recently we protested outside of the Danish embassy against the policy they passed which allows authorities to confiscate cash and valuables from refugees entering Denmark, including jewellery. We left large amounts of jewellery outside the embassy. The idea was that if they want jewellery so badly they can have ours – as long as they stop stealing from refugees.
We also burned £35,000 of ‘Theresa May’ money in an action that was covered by Newsweek and the Independent, which we were really pleased with. It drew attention to an unfair and dangerous new policy, which will mean non-EU workers in Britain can be deported after five years unless they are earning more than £35,000.
Several members of Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants have been to Calais to volunteer through their trade unions and other groups. We also work closely with self-organised migrant groups in the UK, most notably through Movement for Justice, who do incredible work with people inside detention centres. We co-organised Peckham Community Pride with Movement for Justice, which brought together lots of different groups of people and celebrated diversity. The communities in Peckham have been targeted for anti-immigration raids, racist ‘go-home’ vans and immigration detention, and it was great to be part of a Pride march that celebrated their resistance and power.
It’s important for us to provide a direct challenge to the rhetoric and attitude that pits LGBT+ people against migrants, and to challenge the use of LGBT+ people’s rights to justify racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia. We want to inspire others to take action and to continue to build on the links between our community and migrant communities in the UK and beyond.
We aim to raise more money for the refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk through bucket-shaking in Soho and other ‘gay areas’ and hosting events. It’s important for us to provide direct, practical solidarity, so the fundraising activities are really important for us.
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
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