“Harrow united – no racists here” read one handmade placard on the 2,000-strong anti-fascist demonstration in north west London on Friday of last week.
It was a message that was repeated again and again by the protesters – predominantly young, mostly local and all very angry that a bunch of far right thugs planned to march on Harrow Central Mosque.
In the event the anti-Muslim English Defence League (EDL) were humiliated.
They were penned in by police “for their own protection”, unable to come anywhere near the mosque, and begging to be escorted out of town behind police lines.
A small group of EDL racists who taunted the protesters were chased from the area by hundreds of young people. The protesters caught some and dealt with them.
The anti-fascist protest began with a lunchtime vigil outside the mosque. By 5pm, the time the EDL had given for its march, numbers had swelled to the thousands.
The protest spilled off the pavements to occupy the streets around the mosque. People were proud that there was such an impressive display of unity.
But the excitement of the protest was also mixed with anger at the fascists.
There was a degree of anxiety too, with rumours occasionally sweeping through the demonstration – the fascists are up the road, or round the corner.
Hundreds of people would suddenly charge off to confront them – only to meet police lines.
Local Muslims made up the bulk of the protest. They were determined to protect their mosque and their area from fascist attack.
But there were also significant groups of young black people, as well as white residents and anti-fascist activists.
There was a good turnout of local trade unionists – black and white – mostly mobilised by the local Unite Against Fascism group, which had worked hard to ensure a good turnout.
A smattering of politicians joined the protest, including Tony McNulty, the Labour MP for the area, alongside a local London Assembly member and the leader of the local council.
Lots of mixed groups of friends arrived together – heading straight to the protest from school, work or college.
Jamie came with friends from one of the local schools. She said that they had heard about the protest when school authorities warned them not to get involved.
“But of course we had to come,” she said. “I come from a mixed family myself – my dad is a Muslim and my mum is a Christian. Why can’t everyone get on like that?”
Katy and Emily, two students about to start university, also came with friends. Katy told Socialist Worker, “We have come to support the local community.
“We have always lived round here. It is disgusting that there are groups trying to incite racism in an area where everyone gets on so well.”
“It isn’t just a protest against Islamophobia,” Katy added. “The people who want to march on the mosque aren’t just against Muslims – they are against anyone who is different to them.”
Sadaq, a local sixth form student, was sitting on a wall in front of the mosque.
The fascist BNP and its leader Nick Griffin were clearly to blame for stoking racism, he said, but the government and the media also have to take some of the blame.
“They are the ones that have pushed the idea that any Muslim man with a beard is a terrorist,” he said.
Others on the protest were increasingly angry about the role of the police.
After hundreds of young protesters had faced up to lines of riot police near Harrow station, I met a school student, still in his uniform.
He turned to me and asked, “Why so many police just to protect a bunch of fascists? We just want to look after our streets.”
As evening fell, and Muslims broke their fast alongside non-Muslims, it was clear that the day had been a clear victory for anti-fascists.
Hundreds of people in Harrow will be proud to remember it as the day they took to the streets to chase racists out of their area.
“I don’t think those racists will be coming back now,” one young black man told me as he made his way home.