Common Goals and Differences of Opinion: The Bibby Stockholm

“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” – Assata Shakur

Bibby Stockholm, the name of the UK Government’s controversial “floating prison”, as some have called it, shows us an example of differing opinions, yet common goals, in the race to prevent what has largely been seen as a controversial plan to house illegal immigrants. The Bibby Stockholm is an engineless barge used for accommodation since 1992, previously being utilised to house asylum seekers in Germany and the Netherlands, the homeless and construction teams, working off the Scottish coast. Whilst the government has stood steadfast with pursuing this course of action, the arrival of the barge on the 17th of July of this year, has and continues to face steep opposition from Dorset Council and from the locals of the Isle of Portland themselves, the town where the barge is to be docked in. On the day that the barge was set to arrive, we saw protestors waving their placards and shouting against its arrival. Whilst there was a unanimous view in opposition to the government on why the barge should not be there, the reasons underpinning them were split amongst rival protestors.

The first camp of protestors were campaigning against the barge residing at Portland, for the adverse effects it would have on the services in the community, with placards saying “Portland Port Betrays Portland” and “Dorset Council ‘Barged Up’ with Portland Port”. In this camp, were voices, from locals who were highlighting their safety, by questioning why 500 men were only to be kept onboard. In the other camp, you had protestors who were against the barge, due to the immoral principles of housing illegal immigrants on it, with even the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) raising concerns with its health and safety. It was not so much then, that the immigrants should not come to Portland, but rather it was the means in which they were doing so, taking offence with the barge itself being used. Placards from the anti-racist campaign group Stand up to Racism, stating “Refugees and Migrants Welcome Here. No to Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism. Black Lives Matter” and “Refugees Welcome: Stop The Far Right”. Perhaps the one placard that traversed both camps and viewpoints, was one held by a protestor, declaring “Care for Refugees and care for Portland too.” (1)

This article in some ways leads on from last month’s story, Protest: When the Dust Has Settled, where we discussed the theme of protest, and its nature, from marches on the street, to seeing how it can be utilised in the workplace. Our aim here is not so much to look at the protests in themselves, but rather to look at what can be learnt from the differing opinions on the Bibby Stockholm from the perspective of the protestors who were in unity with each other, whilst being in opposition to the Government. Further, how then do you close the gulf in differences in opinions, and how do you convey your message of protest, with those in positions of power, like the Government, who you are trying to convince to change their views.

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