Socialist Worker

Anti-racists stand up to EDL thugs in Manchester

by Mark Krantz and Cliff Cawthorn in Manchester
Issue No. 2173

English Defence League racists on the streets of Manchester  (Pic:» Guy Smallman )

English Defence League racists on the streets of Manchester (Pic: » Guy Smallman)

More than 2,000 anti‑racists gathered in Manchester city centre on Saturday of last week to face down one of the biggest Nazi protests in central Manchester since Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts in the 1930s.

Hundreds of English Defence League (EDL) supporters had gathered to demand “no more mosques” – but they were met with a determined counter-demonstration.

All sections of the opposition to the race hatred were represented at a lively five-hour Unite Against Fascism (UAF) rally in Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester’s central public square.

One Asian protester pointed out to the EDL, “We have more white people than you do!”

In the end the EDL were only able to hold a limited rally – and that was because hundreds of riot police, backed up by dogs and horses, protected them and drove a wedge into the crowd of protesters.

Young rappers, singers and dancers brought a vibrancy to the protest, inspiring chants of “Our music is better than yours!”

Around 100 students blazed through Oxford Road to join the main demonstration at midday.

Many of the young people had joined recent protests after British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin was elected, but this time they brought more of their friends with them.

“Diversity is what makes the world beautiful,” said Abby, a Manchester Metropolitan University student.

Police turned away hundreds more anti-racists as they tried to join the protest. They secured an unprecedented “lockdown” of Piccadilly Gardens.

Many local trade unionists joined the UAF protest.

RMT rail union national executive member Craig Johnson told the rally it had the “full backing” of his union.

Chris Morley from the NUJ journalists union also offered solidarity, as did Geoff Brown of Manchester Trades Council.


Over 100 EDL supporters shouting racist abuse marched down Market Street with a full police escort.

Many people were outraged that this was allowed to happen, and attempted to stop it.

But police with shields, backed by dogs and horses, eventually pushed through the anti-Nazi protesters to force a channel for the EDL into Piccadilly Gardens.

Several anti-fascist protesters were hurt after being bitten by police dogs.

Police then escorted the racists into one corner, so they could hold their rally of hate. Some made Nazi salutes.

As more were allowed to join the protest, the fascist numbers swelled to over 400. But their rally was drowned out by the bigger – and much more vocal – UAF protest.

Anti-racists kept up their chants until the EDL had left.


At the end of the afternoon, local campaigner Nahella Ashraf said, “On behalf of the Muslim community I wish to thank all of you who have come out to oppose the EDL and their Islamophobia.

“Our protest today makes me proud to be a Mancunian.”

Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of UAF, told the rally, “The only way the EDL can walk around and pretend to be the master race is under police protection.

“But what we have to remember is that there are many more of us than there are of them!”

The Manchester branch of Unite Against Fascism appealed for wider unity across the city, saying, “We are preparing now to build the bigger, stronger, and more determined opposition that will be needed to stop any future attempts by the EDL to march again.”

After Saturday, opposition to anti-Muslim race hatred has grown even stronger in Manchester.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.