Racial attack sparks protests on Edinburgh University campus

Asian and South East Asian Edinburgh University students have held a protest to demand greater protection from authorities as they say they feel unsafe in Scotland’s capital and on campus.

Friday, 18th December 2020, 7:00 am

Up to 180 protesters gathered at the demonstration on Tuesday night outside of the University’s library.It is understood that the protest had been organised by ‘Racism Unmasked’ and was in direct relation to a violent racial attack which saw a 22 year old student fear for their life outside the library during the evening of Friday 11.

‘Racism Unmasked’ had been set up by recent graduate Annie Haddlesey, 24, medical student Feiya Hu, 23, and popular music student Vanessa Chong, 23.

Allie, who’s spoken poetry can be listened to above, said: “As a movement we want to create the space for people to share their experiences in solidarity so that they don't feel so isolated. We also want to shine a light on the prevalence and severity of racism in Edinburgh towards the Asian and South East Asian people in particular.

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Racism protesters outside Edinburgh University

“Our aim is to put pressure on authorities like the University, the police, the council and even Holyrood - to fundamentally address existing policies that do not adequately protect people of colour. This is a systemic issue and we need to ensure that we address this on an institutional level.”

It was also said at the event that although students feel Edinburgh is their home - they are not being protected as if it were.

There is also a feeling amongst many that Edinburgh University is happy to take extortionate tuition fees from Asian students without adequately putting in the work to protect them.

Allie added: “A letter of solidarity from the co-founders of Anti-Racism Education Scotland, signed by 86 staff members who vehemently condemn the inaction and lack of response from the University, was handed in at the protest. In terms of the wider issue, we believe that Holyrood and the council need to take more affirmative action in preventing these attacks. There is inadequate anti-racism education for most civil servants, police and within the educational system.

Making their voices heard

“The training for the purposes of reducing racism absolutely needs to be headed and run by people of colour who are financially compensated, at the moment institutions rely on the unpaid labour of people of colour which exploits their mental and emotional strength for very little reward. This is absolutely ridiculous and the safety of people of colour needs to be prioritised over financial gain for these institutions.”

But Edinburgh University have responded by saying that they are treating the situation very seriously..

A University spokesperson said: “The racist attack that took place on Friday was appalling and one which we wholeheartedly condemn.

“All of our University community should feel safe on campus, and we will not tolerate violence, racism or any other form of discrimination.

Protesters gather outside Edinburgh University

“We are working closely with Police Scotland to support their investigations into the incident, and to increase the presence of security and police in the area. We have conducted a swift review into our response on the night and continue to work with the student community to address their concerns.“A range of help has been offered to the victim to support them after their ordeal.However, this will of course be upsetting and concerning for our whole community. We want to reassure our students and staff that we will do everything in our power to ensure that people have a safe and happy experience on campus.”

Those at the demonstration also pointed to the statement by MP Sarah Owen who had in October said that hate crimes against Chinese people had increased three fold since the pandemic began.protesters also point to the fact that one third of images used to depict the Coronavirus by the media included images of East/South East Asian individuals regardless of the fact that they had no relevance to the story.In response to an accusation that Police Scotland do not do enough to protect Asian residents in Edinburgh, Superintendent Mark Rennie, said: “Police Scotland takes all incidents of hate crime extremely seriously and a detailed investigation is ongoing in relation to the recent assault which occurred in George Square. Following this incident, we have also increased high visibility patrols in the area.

“In this particular case, we have ensured necessary support for the victim and engaged with students and the university to provide crime prevention and safety advice.

“Any form of hate crime is completely unacceptable and I would urge anyone with information or concerns regarding this issue to contact Police Scotland through 101.”

Labour Party MSP, Sarah Boyack, asked the First Minister on Thursday whether or not everything was being done to ensure that Asian residents of the capital could feel safe.Sturgeon replied: “I condemn in the strongest possible terms any racist abuse or racist attack including the one in Edinburgh. I know how seriously the police take crimes of a racist nature, obviously how they deal with individual incidents is an operational matter for the police. We have a responsibility that we discharge to make sure that the police are properly resourced and of course there are more police officers on our streets now as a result of the actions that this government has taken. But I think it is really important that all of us stand firm, shoulder to shoulder, in complete solidarity and against any racist abuse or racist crimes or attacks. That is not who we are and we should never ever show any tolerance whatsoever to it.”Depute Leader Cammy Day said: “We do not tolerate racism of any kind and work closely with partners, including the university, Police Scotland and the Scottish Government, to tackle this and hate crime in all forms. We are proud to be a diverse, tolerant and multi-cultural Capital and there is no place for discrimination or prejudice here.”

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