People assemble outside Leeds Art Gallery
Zims dance and sing for freedom
Sakile addresses the crowd
Zimbabwean sends message to Home Office
Zims united against deportation threat
Demonstrators take over the city centre
Mafungasei Maikokera makes impassioned plea for solidarity
Outside the shops
Local news crews cover the demo
The demonstration was called in response to a legal ruling in August that 'refused' asylum seekers no longer automatically face persecution if returned to Zimbabwe - despite the UK government's own very public condemnation of human rights abuses by the Mugagbe regime. These Zimbabweans now face the possibility of imminent deportation.
After an hour of singing, dancing and drumming, with Zimbabwean musicians and the Bradford Samba Band united at last, the assembled masses were addressed by
Sakile Mtombeni of the Zimbabwe Refugee Community Organisation. He told the crowd: "I want to address you, not as an asylum seeker, not as a refugee, not as a migrant, but as a human being. I am a human being and I want to be treated like one."
He was followed by local trade unionist, John McDermott, one of those who walked out of the TUC conference in Brighton during Tony Blair's speech. Mr McDermott reminded people of Article 33 of the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, which made it illegal for the UK government to "expel or return a refugee to the frontiers of territories where his/her life would be in danger". "Everyone knows that the Mugagbe dictatorship is not safe; the government knows, it tells us all the time. But it says that it is safe to deport opponents of the regime back to Zimbabwe - you can't make this stuff up".
Richard Byrne of the Refugee Council demanded that "Zimbabweans be given a temporary status allowing them to remain in the UK and have the right to work until such time as it is safe to return to Zimbabwe."
Hundreds of people then spontaneously marched into the main shopping precinct to the sound of samba and song, where they distributed leaflets and petitions, and generally danced in solidarity with each other.
At the closing rally, Mafungasei Maikokera, one of the famous Yarls Wood hunger strikers who resisted deportation on a plane bound for Harare, spoke about the reality of arbitrary detention and forced deportation: "They come for you in the middle of the night; the escort guards then beat you up, call you the worst possible names; once in detention, they deny you the right to make phone calls, then they try to put you on a plane - when you say no, then they gag your mouth to stop your screams. But you have to resist, you can resist." She had a message for the Zimbabwean asylum seekers gathered at the rally: "We cannot afford to be invisible, to hide away and hope the problem will go away. If you stay quiet, you will die - WE will die. We must organise collectively and fight collectively".