The appearance of Nick Griffin, the leader of the fascist British National Party (BNP), on last week’s Question Time on BBC1 has raised the stakes for the anti-Nazi movement.
And the next challenge is set for Leeds this weekend when racist thugs from the English Defence League (EDL) are planning to march in the city.
Griffin boasted last week that the BNP had received a record number of enquiries after he was allowed to spout his anti-Muslim and homophobic lies on the BBC’s flagship programme.
He even declared that London was “no longer British” because of high levels of immigration.
Griffin claimed that “English and British people” have “been ethnically cleansed from their own country”.
The large and angry Unite Against Fascism (UAF) protests outside BBC studios across Britain tapped into a wider wave of revulsion at the BNP’s politics. They drew new forces into anti-fascist activity.
Giving a platform to the BNP gives confidence to racists and other bigots—and translates into violent attacks on the streets.
It boosts the BNP and other groups such as the EDL—a bunch of anti-Muslim hooligans with links to the fascists.
Anti-Nazi campaigners in Leeds are determined to stop the EDL.
Liz Kitching, a Leeds UAF activist, told Socialist Worker, “We are getting a very warm response everywhere we go—at stalls in the city centre and speaking to community groups.
“We have held five local meetings in the Chapeltown and Harehills areas of Leeds in recent weeks. We have plastered the city with posters and given out 20,000 leaflets for the protest.
“We have had a lot of support from the trade union movement.
“Yorkshire & Humberside TUC is supporting the demonstration against the EDL. We have also got backing from local branches of the Unison, Unite, NUT and students’ unions.
“Despite the police warning key figures from the mosques not to get involved, some have urged people to join the protests. Lots of local Muslims feel very strongly that they have to defend their community.”
Three feeder marches are planned—from Chapeltown, Harehills and from the universities—to bring people to a central anti-fascist protest.
The campaign has brought together hundreds of people in Leeds who have different reasons to unite to stop the fascists.
Liz said, “I’m a 50 year old grandmother. I have a mixed race grandchild and a disabled grandchild. I have been fighting fascism for a long time now.
“I think our campaigning has shifted the argument. There was a lot of anger over Nick Griffin appearing on Question Time. People are outraged that the EDL wants to march through our city.
“We hear that the police have cancelled all leave for the day, so we expect a big police presence. But the anti-fascist protest will be big and very determined.
“This is not just about what happens on Saturday. We are building a serious and permanent anti-fascist movement in the city.”
The Scottish Defence League—a twin organisation of the EDL—is planning to protest outside Glasgow’s central mosque on 14 November.
Anti-fascists are organising to counter this, and support has already poured in from trade unionists, MSPs, academics and human rights campaigners across the country.
Protest against the EDL in Leeds, 12 noon, Saturday 31 October, outside the Art Gallery on the Headrow