Why Gary Lineker is right
Today, football pundits and commentators are making personal decisions to stand up for their beliefs, and so inspiring a nation. Yesterday, a group of ordinary people made their own decision to stand up for their local community, that was in every way just as brave.
Around midday, we heard about a protest outside an asylum seeker hotel in my home town. It’s not a big town. The protest was set for that night . What should we do?
Most people did not want to take action. We had no time to organise, whereas the protest had been well planned. We are not far from Knowlsey where a riot recently took place. This violence, understandably, shocked many locals. Most people thought the best thing was to do nothing as it might ‘inflame’ the situation. There was agreement this sounded reasonable. Who would want to confront the far right?
But the thing is, these protests are designed to spread hate and fear. And you can’t stop the spread of hate with silence. As has famously been said ‘all that is needed for evil to flourish is for good men to stand by and do nothing’. We all know the history of Nazi Germany (yes I did just say that out loud). Silence, in the end, would be complicity.
So a small group of people made a decision that something must be done. And, that they would be ones to do it. From all walks of life and different backgrounds, young and old, a group of ordinary people gathered together after work to say this is not what we want to see in our home town.
It takes real courage to do that – to stand up and be counted. More so when it is real, physical standing up not knowing who you are going to face. And, after Knowsley, with a real fear that anything could happen. But these men and women did that and I believe that they are true heroes one and all.
The group that turned up to intimidate the people in the hotel – because, let’s be clear, that’s what it is – if they wanted to lobby government for change they would be at home writing to MPs and newspapers. The group that turned up were mixed. Some were obvious trouble causers and just nasty. But some had clearly been taken in by the lies. Confused and frightened by rising costs and NHS costs, but not clear sighted enough to see that these issues have nothing to do with refugees, and just manipulated into having somewhere to put their anger. Unutterably sad.
Seeing the hate spew out of them was sickening but, as the night wore on, more people turned up to support us as word of mouth spread. A man walked past with a dog and yelled at the haters that it’s not the refugees’ fault. An old lady came past and told them they should be ashamed. As more people joined our side I felt a great relief and surge of belief in the people of my home town. We will not late hate win.
Our government has divided our society against each other with hateful rhetoric – language that blames the weakest in society for our ‘leaders’ failings. Thinking of how afraid and alone the victims inside the hotel must be I can only call that evil. The only leadership we have is right now is coming from footballers – and the men and women who stood outside the hotel last night in the snow. Because if those first few had not made a stand, others would not have followed. And the story of last night would have different.
In this divided country it’s time for each of us to make a decision. When the time comes, what will you do? Please think of those ordinary-but-not-ordinary men and women last night. Gary Linker has made a stand and others have supported him. But when he made that decision he didn’t know that they would.