17 February 2014
StopWatch Youth networks with activists across Europe
I recently participated in a pan-European anti-racist conference “Wipe Out Hate! UNITED in Solidarity” in Prague, sharing StopWatch’s work with other youth activists. Here is my account of five days of learning, discussion and networking.
I was selected to represent StopWatch at the European conference “Wipe Out Hate! UNITED in Solidarity” in Czech Republic in November 2013. The conference was organised by UNITED for Intercultural Action and it aimed to look at racism across Europe and explore ways of engaging society to get involved in the European Elections. A predominant theme during the conference was also discrimination against the Roma community within Europe. A Roma activist from Czech Republic attended and shared many stories about Roma people and her work.
Throughout the week I had the opportunity to attend workshops about a variety of topics from racist bullying in schools to how music can combat racism. A few of the workshops were really helpful in giving me ideas for Stopwatch; I attended one called ‘Building Alliances’ led by the Deputy Mayor of Toulouse (European Coalition of Cities Against Racism). The main discussion was targeted around building partnerships with unexpected groups; maybe StopWatch could approach Neighbourhood Watch groups to raise awareness of stop and search issues within local areas. This would enable us to reach a new audience who already have trust within the community.
I played an active role in many of the workshops, which improved my public speaking and networking skills. I contributed my ideas and also led some further discussions after the workshops had finished. English was not the first language of many, which meant that I had to ensure that during discussions I had to choose my words and evidence carefully so that many could relate.
Due to the diverse range of delegates I was able to find out about a whole range of projects happening throughout Europe. I had the opportunity to discuss Stopwatch’s work with many of the other participants; people from Russia shared their stories of discrimination, targeted from the police towards the LGBT community. I was shocked to discover that the police in Greece created a group called “Operation Xenios Zeus”, ironically named after the God of hospitality, something this operation surely is not. The police stop and search migrants and asylum seekers, identified purely on the way they look, who they believe do not have appropriate documentation to reside in Greece. This obvious ethnic profiling causes minority groups to be subjected to questioning and frequently detained at police stations.
Many of the delegates were excited that we had actually made progress on stop and search issues within the UK. Their interest shows that there is definitely a need to build partnerships with other countries, to not only develop our work but to share practices and knowledge on how to combat the misuse of stop and search and police powers throughout Europe.