The English Defence League’s attempted invasion of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire failed today.
The EDL’s racist, swaggering, Islamophobic supporters hoped they could take over the town and intimidate Muslims and ordinary people. They failed.
They hoped Asians and black people and trade unionists would be too scared to demonstrate against them. They failed.
Around 200 anti-EDL demonstrators, overwhelmingly local people including trade unionists and 75 Asian people, gathered in the town’s Vale Park in a show of anti-racism and support for multiculturalism.
Kate Douglas, a local PCS union rep, chaired the rally and sent out a clear message that the EDL was not welcome in the town.
Steve Bell, from Bucks health Unison branch, said that on this May Day workers across the world were celebrating their unity and their desire for a better world – the opposite of the message of anti working class hate and division from the EDL.
Ian McKendrick from Oxford Unite Against Fascism said it was a disgrace that the local council had prevented UAF from holding an anti-racist carnival in the town. He added that instead of blocking anti-fascists they should have come out against the EDL.
Oxford student Amy Gilligan described how the city had mobilised against Nick Griffin and Nazi historian David Irving. She called on everyone to oppose the BNP at the ballot box and the EDL on the streets.
In a well-received speech Saqib Deshmukh said that in the 1970s and 1980s the Nazi National Front had created no-go areas for black and Asian people, and that this must not be allowed to happen again.
He said there must be no complacency over the rise of the BNP and that the movement today must write new pages in the history of anti-fascism from Cable Street in the 1930s to Lewisham in the 1970s. He also told of the continuing fight for justice for Habib “Paapu” Ullah who died in July 2008 during a stop and search by police on a vehicle in a car park in High Wycombe.
NUT union executive member Chris Blakey called for solidarity against the EDL and for real solutions to the problems caused by the economic crisis rather than the fake answers from the racists.
School student Dick Sharp from Aylesbury described how he had launched a Facebook group and started to build a counter-protest as soon as he heard the EDL was coming to his town. He called on everyone to keep organising after the EDL had gone and create a lasting anti-racist presence.
FBU rep Gordon Richardson was cheered when he denounced the money that was spent on policing to allow “a bunch of dickheads” to march. Gordon said that he has fought to achieve a diverse fire service, and he was not going to allow racists and homophobes to rule in the town.
While the anti-racist protest took place, the EDL were contained in a pen by the police. The local press put their number at 800, although other reports said it was fewer. They had come from all over Britain, with only a handful of local people their ranks.
Some made an attempt to break out towards the town mosque, but they were beaten back.
Police arrested 12 EDL supporters, eight on suspicion of possessing offensive weapons, three for public order offences and one for being drunk and disorderly.
Andrew Grant, the chief executive of Aylesbury Vale District Council said afterwards that “a range of entertainment has been organised for Monday by the Town Centre Partnership to help welcome people back to the town'. Indeed – the vast majority of local people will be glad the EDL have gone.
Congratulations to all those anti-racists who came out today. The police and council tried to stop the anti-EDL protest by writing to parents of young people urging them not to take part, and working with Mosque leaders against the mobilisation.
Nobody should be complacent about the threat from the BNP and the EDL. In the last few days before the election everyone should work to keep down the BNP vote. We also need a continuing campaign against racism, the attacks on immigrants, and the EDL.