CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Former mayor says his children were told they would be ‘sent back to their country’

Cross-party rally resolves to fight no deal Brexit amid calls for direct action

04 September, 2019 — By Richard Osley

THE former mayor of Camden told a rally that the Home Office had written to his two young sons and told them they would be “sent back to their country” amid the chaos over Brexit.

Lazzaro Pietragnoli, a Labour councillor who was born in Italy, told a crowd in Russell Square on Saturday: “My two kids here: they were born in this country, they go to school in this country, they speak English as a first language and they do even support England in the football World Cup.”

But he added: “Because of a bureaucratic problem, a small difference, between their British birth certificates and their Italian passports, they got a letter from the Home Office saying they will be sent back to their country. This is their country. This is our country.”

He was speaking from the stage of the Camden Defends Democracy rally, organised by Labour council leader Georgia Gould but featuring a cross-party line-up of speakers opposed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament and the prospect of a no deal Brexit. MPs Keir Starmer and Tulip Siddiq, joined Liberal Democrats Luisa Porritt and Keith Moffitt and Green co-leader Sian Berry on the platform.

Up to 500 people were there to listen. Camden Unison, Dame Joan Bakewell and two students also made speeches. Cllr Pietragnoli drew comparisons with the beginning of Nazi Germany.

“I have to tell you: I grew up in a country that saw fascism, and when fascism started, Mussolini was hiding behind ‘the will of the people’.” he said. “Hitler was hiding behind the will of the people. Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, the worst dictators in history were hiding behind ‘the will of the people’.”

He added: “The real test of democracy is not the ‘will of the people’. It’s respect for the minorities. If you deprive citizens of their rights, if you shut down parliament, if you silence the opposition, this is a very, very dangerous moment for democracy.”

Mr Moffitt, the former leader of the council, added: “We are hearing day in, day out, of people like my partner who have lived and worked and paid taxes in this country for many, many years being told they don’t qualify for EU settled status. This is Windrush waiting to happen all over again.”

Ms Siddiq said: “The EU nationals living in my constituency actually can’t vote for me, but they are part of my community and they make up the fabric of the community that I live in.”

She added: “I am sick to my back teeth of seeing the prime minister disregard the contribution that they make to our community. Councillors are concerned for the future of 24.000 EU nationals, with Camden set to launch a campaign urging those who have not done so far to apply for settled status.

Cllr Berry said she supported “direct action” – her London Assembly colleague Caroline Russell was arrested while demonstrating in Whitehall on Saturday – and called for “solidarity” between oppsition parties against Mr Johnson and a no deal Brexit to be “extended to a general election”.

She said: “Protest and direct action when needed, that’s what’s won us all our rights. No one ever hands them to us. We have to use them to defend our rights now.”

MPs, with the help of more than 20 rebels on the Tory side, passed a motion blocking no Brexit on Tuesday evening; it was brought to Commons before a shutdown as requested by Mr Johnson.

The wounded Prime Minister called for a general election tonight (Wednesday), but opposition parties say they will not support one until ‘no deal’ is ruled out.

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