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This week saw police attack migrants in Paris while the Met police say their institutional racism is over

15 Jul 2019

As the sun sets on International Non-Binary People’s Day, we are sending love to all of our gender non-conforming readers!

This week was crammed with cultural appropriation. Rihanna received criticism for dressing in traditional Chinese clothing, Ariana Grande was slammed for her recent Vogue cover for her “noticeably darker” skin. Outrageously, Scarlett Johansson maintained her position as a space invader. The actress, who was criticised for playing a transgender character in Rub & Tug and an East Asian character in Ghost In The Shell, couldn’t hear her own words over her blaring privilege and said, “art should be free of restrictions”, essentially saying she can play absolutely anyone she wants.

Meanwhile the Native American Rights Fund branded new Love Islander Chris Taylor’s chest tattoo of a woman in a native headdress as “inappropriate and offensive”.

Here’s what else went down this week.

Immigrants peacefully protesting in Paris’ Panthéon ‘trapped’ and ‘attacked’ by police

Hundreds of undocumented immigrants and refugees, known as Gilets Noir or the “black vests”, occupied the Panthéon mausoleum in Paris, on 12 July. While reports ranged from there being 300 (Reuters), to 700 (Daily Mail) in attendance – what is clear is that they were fighting for their basic human rights. Among other demands were a meeting with Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, and to challenge the country’s racism.

Speaking to gal-dem, Gilets Noirs activist and original member of collective Chapelle Debout, Houssam, explained how the protest involved men and women, many of whom live on the streets or in squalor in the state housing for asylum seekers. The immigrants shook their immigration papers in the air, chanting “Gilets Noir”, a nod to the yellow vest protest movement that spread throughout much of France earlier this year.

“This was the third strike against the racist system of exploitation of undocumented migrants,” they said, referencing their previous occupation of an airport and the headquarters of Elior, a company they believe exploits migrants.

After a few hours of occupation, the police commissioner negotiated that the group could leave together “without violence and without identity control”, but once the protesters were outside, “he changed his mind and trapped us”, Houssam explained. Some protesters escaped, many were injured, and there are still around 20 in detention centres.

Houssam, who is documented French and of Morrocan heritage, told us that one protester was left in a coma. He said: “The feeling that dominated was anger and determination to continue. One of the guys said you can arrest us and you can deport us all but we will still be fighting.”

Strangely, some French people online have been more concerned about the neoclassical building as opposed to the vulnerable human beings who live without rights or shelter on its doorstep.

You can support Hassoum and his colleagues by donating financially and signing their petition.

The Somalian diaspora mourn death of journalist Hodan Nalayeh

At least 26 people were killed in an attack on a hotel in southern Somalia on 12 July that was claimed by Islamist group al-Shabab. A suicide bomber rammed a car of explosives before the hotel was stormed by gunmen.

Journalist Hodan Nalayeh, 43, founded media platform Integration TV to tell stories about life in Somalia and in the Somali diaspora. She moved to Canada when she was six, becoming a figurehead for the Somali community before she recently returned to Somalia.

gal-dem spoke to a number of young women from the Somali diaspora, all of whom said Hodan gave them a unique sense of hope. “She rekindled hope for the Somali youth as she painted a better picture than what the media portray,” Hayatii said. Sagaley described her as a “powerhouse of hope and growth” who committed her life to investing in Somalia.

Many Somalis fled their country as a result of the civil war, and many are inspired by Hodan’s return to Somalia. Hani Garabyare, 32, is “devastated” by her death, but is inspired by her continued work for Somali women in particular. “She was silently protesting at every turn. She sat at meetings full of men who did not want her there. She wanted other Somali women and especially young girls to know that their opinions mattered and that they too had a stake in the future of Somalia.” Hani added.


Undocumented immigrants are bracing for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids orchestrated by Donald Trump. Officials in multiple US cities are speaking out, and people are taking to the streets in #Lights4Liberty vigils as ICE prepares to terrorise immigrant communities and immediately detain and deport them.

• The founder of the Museum of African American History in Louisiana, 75-year-old Sadie Roberts-Joseph, was found dead in the boot of a car on 12 July.

• Sandra Bland, a black woman who died in police custody after being arrested for refusing to put out a cigarette, is remembered four years after her death as new recordings of her police encounter emerge.

• Primary school children will have better access to nature thanks to sprightly 17-year-old Mya-Rose Craig, aka @BirdGirlUK, who has created weekend camps for BAME primary school children in Chew Valley.

A white woman was chosen over an Asian one to be in charge of a Labour Party forum to represent BAME members in East Ham.

• Workers of Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage earn 20.1% less than their white counterparts. gal-dem wrote about why we shouldn’t conflate or ignore the experiences of different races.

• New York State has banned race discrimination based on natural hair or hairstyles.

• The use of stop and search tactics by the police has increased sharply this year in the UK. This comes as 21-year-old black, male drama student Moses Alexander was tackled to the ground by six police officers during one of these searches due to racial profiling.

• The above finding was a particular kick in the teeth after Cressida Dick, the Met’s Commissioner stated that the police force is no longer institutionally racist. You can’t make this stuff up.

54 African nations met this week to agree on a powerful pan-continental free trade zone, something that could unite 1.3 billion people and create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc to boost trade within the continent.

• In more Donald-Trump-is-definitely-racist news, he told Democrat congresswomen of colour to “go back” to where they came from in a racist tweet

Moment of the week

Serena Williams was not taking any shit when asked by a Wimbledon journalist whether she should “stop being a celebrity” to focus on tennis. “The day I stop fighting for equality and for people that look like you and me will be the day I’m in my grave,” she responded.