Socialist Worker

Stoke moves to stop the EDL and the BNP

by Viv Smith
Issue No. 2185

Activists in Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire are organising to block a two pronged assault from the forces of fascism.

The thugs of the English Defence League (EDL) say they will descend on the city this weekend, while the British National Party (BNP) plans to stand in three local seats in the coming general election.

A protest in the city will oppose the EDL’s attempt to terrorise the Muslim community.

Jason Hill, president of North Staffordshire TUC, told Socialist Worker that the trade union movement is mobilising to join with students and others.

He said, “We are expecting a good turnout – the NASUWT, Unison, the NUT and other unions are asking their members to attend.

“There are coaches coming from across the north west of England and the East Midlands.”

Students from Staffordshire University are mobilising a feeder march.

“The BNP and the EDL are trying to create a racial divide in Stoke, so we have to show up in large numbers,” Assed Baig, president of Staffordshire University student union, told Socialist Worker.

“The only way to beat racism and fascism is by standing together, shoulder to shoulder, on the streets.”

Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and North Staffordshire Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (Norscarf), supported by Stoke TUC, called the demonstration after they heard about the EDL’s plans to come to their city.

Threatened

Weyman Bennett of UAF told Socialist Worker, “The EDL and the BNP want to divide Stoke and bring violence to the streets. Wherever the EDL goes racist violence follows. We want everyone to turn out to stop them.”

Every EDL rampage has been attended by known fascists and accompanied by chants like “I hate Pakis more than you” and Nazi salutes.

“The EDL are a toxic mix of football hooligans and extreme right wing activists” said Harry Ward, secretary of Norscarf.

Julia Barton, who organises workshops for schools on tolerance and equality, says that people are terrified of the EDL coming to Stoke.

She told Socialist Worker, “We have so many people who are disadvantaged, so many young people who are angry. This could be the thing that strikes a tinderbox.”

The BNP already has nine seats on Stoke city council.

But the Nazis’ voices were drowned out by protesters when they held a press conference last week to announce their intention to stand in the general election.

BNP leader Nick Griffin was then surrounded as he tried to leave the building.

Both sides of fascism – winning votes at the ballot box and fighting in the streets – will come together in Stoke this weekend.

They hope to ignite Stoke as they did Bradford in 2001.

That year BNP-inspired racist violence sparked riots, after which many young Asians who had fought to defend their areas received severe jail sentences.

“It is no accident that we have had the BNP launching their election campaign in Stoke on Friday and the EDL leafleting in town today,” Harry Ward said.

Tensions

But the people of Stoke have stood up to the fascists before. The majority of people want to see a united city without racist divisions and tensions.

That is why 20,000 people came together in Stoke last summer to attend a Love Music Hate Racism festival.

Assed Baig said, “We cannot hide away or ignore them. Now is the time for us to show them that they are a minority and we are the majority.”

The protest is assembling at 12.30pm, Saturday 23 January, at the North Staffordshire African Caribbean Association, Lindsay Annexe, Cannon Place, in Hanley, Stoke.


Join the Unite Against Fascism day of action against Nick Griffin standing in Barking & Dagenham, east London, 12 noon, Sunday 24 January, Dagenham Heathway tube station


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