WEAPONS OF PEACE
Martin Gooding || July 22nd
On Sunday 6th September 1942 this city became the pride of the free world, humanity in it's purest form burst out of the Six Towns, in the absolute refusal by the people of Stoke on Trent to let their brothers and sisters be crushed at the hands of a fascist tyrant. Most of you will already know that I'm speaking of the Lidice Shall Live campaign fronted by Barnett Stross, the heads of the Miner's Unions and most importantly the poor, working class population of this city, who donated the little money they had to spit in the face of the Nazi regime.
For those who don't know about the campaign here's a little context...
On the 4th of June 1942 a group of British trained, Czech resistance fighters assassinated Reinhard Heydrich. The man Hitler, christened "the man with the iron heart", the man directly responsible for Einsatzgruppen, the group tasked with implementing the so called "Final Solution", one of the most evil men in the history of modern Europe. In response to the murder of Heydrich the fuhrer uttered some of the most terrifying words even spoken, "Lidice Shall Die". Soon after the village of Lidice was razed to the ground, all men over the age of 16 were shot and the women and children sent to concentration camps.
It was pretty tough getting through that section without shedding a few tears of genuine sorrow, the thought that an entire village can be simply removed from the landscape, deleted from the history books is something so terrifying I can barely comprehend it.
It's not all tears of sorrow, the next part of the story will no doubt leave me a barely comprehensible mess, all red eyes and damp keyboards.
The people of Stoke on Trent were having none of it, there was no chance in hell we were going to let the story end like that, that's not how me roll. Over £30,000 was raised which paid for the building of 150 state of the art homes. Lidice would live, the people of this city would accept nothing less.
This city was responsible for one of the world's biggest "Fuck You"s ever screamed in the face of tyranny, oppression and hate. Through that gesture we built a weapon of peace.
A lot has changed since the end of the war, Stoke on Trent is a very different place. Once again do we have our brothers and sisters knocking at our door in desperate need of help. Often having fled thousands of miles with only the possessions they could carry from an evil that rivals Heydrich himself. Instead of greeting them with open arms, a warm, sugary cup of tea and expression of pure awe, the then Home Secretary Theresa May decided that the best way to greet our brothers and sisters was by hiring vans plastered with the slogan "Go Home or Face Arrest". Theresa May is now the unelected Prime Minister of this country. I think you know how the rest of this is going to go...
An entirely avoidable human rights crisis continues to descend into tragedy as houses sit empty across Stoke on Trent. If Theresa May's previous voting record is anything to go by the next few years are going to be increasingly difficult for those people currently living in the city seeking asylum, stuck in limbo waiting for a bureaucrat to decide whether they will be flown directly back to the country they fear so much, wielding home office papers, just in case it wasn't clear enough that they had attempted to flee their oppressors. We might as well start making "I'm an enemy of the ruling party" T Shirts and fridge magnets and handing them out on the plane. Every year the regulations change, the system has become a Kafkaesque nightmare of never ending corridors, infinite waiting rooms and fear. The fear you will lose your children, the fear you may never see your wife again, the fear that the people in this city, this city that once upon a time screamed that almighty "Fuck You" at fascism, might not want you here.
Under this perilous system we the people of Stoke on Trent have an absolute responsibility to those that came before us, those men and women who chose to donate their hard earned wages to rebuild that little Czech village, those people who refused to turn their backs, to uphold that great spirit of peace built from our clay. As our government turns their backs on displaced people it is more important than ever that we as a community do our bit to help those in need whether they be the homeless ex-serviceman, our elderly neighbour or the 30 year old woman who's carried her three children across two continents and is now suffering PTSD. As an act of defiance of the state sponsored migrant fears we must unite to help each other through this global crisis.
There are some amazing groups of people working in the city such as Sanctus, the Jubilee Project and ASHA as well as many others I'm sure I will encounter soon enough. Any time, money or energy you can give these guys will be hugely appreciated and if anyone has any skills they feel may be of help to people in stressful situations, ASHA in particular are looking for any meditation, mindfulness or yoga teachers who may be able to spare a little time to help relieve some stress amongst the group.
I'm also working on a little bit of a labour of love with ASHA at the moment, I'm really hoping to be able to raise £600 to take a group of asylum seekers on a good old fashioned British holiday to Wales. Something I feel everyone should experience at least once in their life.
So back to you lot, it's no longer good enough to expect our government to help these people, we're going to have to take it into our own hands, let's live up to that reputation we built all those years ago, let's scream in the face of those tyrants one more time whether that be Theresa May or Isaias Afwerki and stand together as one city united against hatred, as a weapon of peace.