An attempt by the fascist British National Party (BNP) to hold a racist rally in Dagenham, east London, ended in humiliation for them on Saturday.
Despite extensive leafleting in the borough, the Nazis only managed to attract around 70 people to their rally – and they were surrounded by over 400 anti-fascist protesters chanting slogans and jeering at them.
The anti-Nazi counter demonstration, called by Unite Against Fascism, drew a large, vibrant and diverse crowd of local residents, trade unionists, students and anti-racist activists.
East London trade unions were particularly visible on the Unite demonstration, with banners from the GMB, T&G, RMT, PCS and Unison unions.
Other groups present included Queen Mary University student union, Respect councillors and activists from across east London, and Labour Party supporters.
Richard Barnbrook, the leader of the BNP’s council group in Barking & Dagenham, struggled to make himself heard to the small crowd of Nazis that gathered in a car park near Dagenham civic centre.
But his words were drowned out by the chorus of anger and derision from the anti-fascists. The BNP supporters eventually filed away, visibly downcast and uncomfortable.
The BNP is trying to exploit the social problems in Barking & Dagenham – especially the lack of affordable housing – to whip up race hatred and build a Nazi organisation in the area.
This rally was its first attempt to move beyond passive electoral support in the borough by holding an open air public meeting. It was a failure.
In contrast the Unite counter demonstration brought together broad sections of the labour movement and the left in Barking & Dagenham in a confident and united protest.