The English Defence League is not welcome anywhere.
This is what the 2,000 strong counter-demonstration in Manchester last Saturday, and previous protests in Birmingham and Harrow, have shown.
Once again Unite Against Fascism (UAF) protesters ensured that the EDL was chased out of town, and their rally was severely hampered.
And the EDL was exposed for what it really is – the violent wing of the Nazi British National Party.
At least 17 EDL supporters were arrested for chanting racist slogans, and their supporters were photographed “sieg heiling”.
But alarm bells must also be sounded after the Manchester demonstration.
The EDL was able to put some 500 thugs onto the streets of Manchester.
This was its biggest mobilisation by far, much bigger than Birmingham or Harrow.
The EDL’s virulent Islamophobia – anti-Muslim racism – and the possibility of street fighting is attracting groups of football hooligans.
The EDL feels even more confident when it is protected by hundreds of police officers, dogs and phalanxes of police on horseback.
In the run-up to the demo the police toured mosques and community centres urging people not to support the anti-racist counter-protest.
You would expect that from the police. But, shockingly, organisations like the North West TUC and Labour councillors were also urging people to stay away from Manchester city centre and away from the UAF protest.
This was a real mistake. We cannot let Nazis and racists rampage through our streets.
We cannot let our cities and towns become no-go zones for black and Asian people and anti-racists.
Socialists have a responsibility to stand shoulder to shoulder with the thousands of young black, white and Asian youth determined to stop the EDL.
It was encouraging to see unions like the NUJ, PCS, RMT and Manchester Trades Council support the protest.
We need to campaign over the coming weeks for all unions to do the same.
We know that the EDL is planning rallies in the coming weeks in Leeds and Nottingham, and the “Welsh Defence League” is planning to march in Swansea and Newport.
We have to re-double our efforts and build effective counter protests to the racists and Nazis. We need to:
- Call on the trade union movement to get behind the counter-protests.
- Go back to community groups and faith groups and put our case.
- Mass leaflet football clubs, especially those targeted by the EDL.