Freedom Rides Again


Freedom Rides Again

Written by: Harmit Athwal


Once again people are riding in buses across America to protest against a lack of civil rights. This time it is migrant workers drawing attention to their lack of security and freedom in the US.

The Immigrant Workers Freedom Rides are the first ‘freedom rides’ the country has seen since the 1960s. The original freedom rides started in 1961 to challenge segregation on interstate buses and bus terminals. Those rides, along with other actions such as sit-ins and boycotts, were part of the wider struggle for civil rights for Black Americans.

The Immigrant Workers Freedom Rides began on 20 September and will continue visiting over one hundred cities until 4 October, when they will converge on New York for a rally.

The idea for the Freedom Rides grew out of the struggles faced by immigrant workers in the aftermath of September 11. All of the forty-three workers at the Windows on the World restaurant in the Twin Towers were killed that day. Many relatives of those who died were unable to come forward to ask for help because they were ‘illegals’. Their stories were told in the documentary – ‘Windows’, which was directed by David Koff, the film-maker who made the seminal film ‘Blacks Britannica’ (1978) on the resistance to racism in black Britain. The film, ‘Windows’ has been used as a fundraiser for the Freedom Rides.

The Freedom Rides are an attempt to expose the injustice of current US policies towards immigrants. The workers taking part have called on the US government to:

  • Legalise immigrant workers already established in the United States.
  • Allow workers to participate in the electoral system by enabling the 7.5 million currently eligible immigrants the right to vote without the bureaucracy that makes it difficult for them to participate.
  • Aid family reunification by streamlining outdated immigration policies.
  • Respect the civil rights and civil liberties of immigrants who should be treated equally under the law.

Donations can be made to the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride on their website where you can also read statements from the Freedom Riders. A typical comment: ‘I learned the beautiful idealistic American words of the pledge of allegiance, ‘with liberty and justice for all’ while I was a prisoner in America’s concentration camp. The stories of recent immigrants are particularly touching for me. If there was one legacy from our experience we were hoping that the legacy is that it would never happen again. Now it’s happening again,’ writes Mako, a Japanese woman recalling her family’s internment.

Related links

Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride


The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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