Thousands of people took to the streets of London last Saturday to join the national march against the fascist British National Party (BNP).
The demonstration was young and angry, with a large turnout from schools and colleges across the country.
There was also a strong trade union presence, with contingents and banners from the NUT, FBU, UCU, PCS, Unite and several other unions.
Protesters gathered near City Hall, home of the London assembly. The march then set off towards Trafalgar Square accompanied by a float featuring musicians and artists from the Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) campaign.
Addressing the rally, Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism (UAF), pointed to recent violent attacks on Roma Gypsies and immigrants in Italy as a warning of the dangers of letting fascists gain a toehold in the electoral system.
He said the London march would be the opening shot in a long campaign to drive the Nazi BNP out of our council chambers, out of the political mainstream, and into the dustbin of history.
UAF is now calling on its supporters to use the march as a springboard to set up local anti-fascist groups in areas where the Nazis are active.
They are also calling on London campaigners to help stop the BNP in three outer London by-elections to be held on Thursday 3 July.
The Nazis are contesting Chadwell Heath ward in Barking & Dagenham, Christchurch ward in Bexley and South Hornchurch ward in Havering.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU lecturers’ union, warned that the BNP was aiming to relaunch its student wing in universities and colleges later this year.
She pledged that the union would do its utmost to prevent fascists from organising on campus and spreading race hatred among students.
Jon McClure from Reverend and the Makers is organising a series of gigs and carnivals against the BNP in the north of England.
He called on demonstrators to challenge racism wherever they encountered it and to join the struggle against the BNP.
Other artists speaking at the rally included Drew McConnell from Babyshambles and rising British hip-hop star Lowkey.
Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS civil service workers’ union, highlighted how civil service bosses in Hastings had sacked PCS rep Eddie Fleming for his union activity, but turned a blind eye to a Nazi in the workplace standing in elections for the BNP.
Many protesters were angry at the attitude of the police towards the anti-fascist march. The police split the demonstration in two, refusing to let the LMHR floats into Trafalgar Square or allow any amplified music at the final rally.
Police officers were also arresting anti-fascist demonstrators on grounds related to the demonstration a week earlier in Parliament Square against George Bush’s visit to London.
Attacks on anti-fascists
There are signs that the BNP’s thugs are getting restless with the party’s strategy of focusing on winning elections and maintaining a “respectable” image.
Two young anti-fascists on Saturday’s demonstration were attacked by Nazi thugs as they were about to join the march. Two dozen BNP supporters gathered near the route of the march, but did not get past police lines.
Band members involved in LMHR have also been threatened by Nazis. The principal of Barking College – which has hosted LMHR gigs – was “visited” by a BNP councillor recently who told him, “You have been warned.”
While these incidents are minor, they show that the fascists cannot suppress their violent side. At some point they will attempt a show of force – and the anti-fascist movement will have to physically confront them.