Some 5,000 people protested in Tower Hamlets east London today, Sunday, against racism and fascism.
The march was organised in defence of the Muslim community. The racist English Defence League (EDL) had claimed it would invade Tower Hamlets to disrupt an Islamic conference.
But strength of the response saw the EDL abandon its plans.
The energetic and exuberant protest saw thousands of young people in particular come out against the fascists.
Today's anti-racist demonstration created a tremendous sense of unity, disproving the police notion that it would cause 'trouble'. But after the march had ended and most people dispersed, the police stationed groups of officers on either side of the road outside East London mosque. They advised white people not to walk along the road 'because of fears about their safety'. Such provocative behaviour creates divisions.
Earlier, at the rally, celebrating the success of the march Weyman Bennett joint secretary of UAF told the crowd, “ “The EDL said they were going to show their faces but they were too scared in face of united community
“We say to the EDL: you are not marching in Tower Hamlets, Barking, Bradford or anywhere.
“We keep hearing that the EDL are worried about good versus bad muslims
“But it's not up to the racists to decide who is good or bad. They are Nazis.
'An attack on the Muslim community is an attack on us all.”
The angry and determined protest was called by Unite Against Fascism and United East End and backed by the NUT, CWU, Unison, PCS and Unite unions.
The Council of Mosques, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Islamic Forum of Europe also gave their support, along with the National Union of Students Black Students Campaign and Love Music Hate Racism
At the rally before the march moved off, Diwar Khan, Director of East London Mosque, told the crowd, “We are here today to express solidarity and unity.
'We have different faiths, cultures and lifestyles but we live as one community. We will not allow the EDL to divide us.”
Alex Kenny, NUT east London branch secretary, said, “Whoever you are you will not divide the people of east London.We are a trade union and we defend our communities when under attack.
According to Leon Silver from the East London Central Synagogue, “ I am proud to be an east ender. Our borough is glorious in its diversity and I reject Islamophobia as I reject anti-Semitism.”
Max Levitas was at the Battle of Cable Street 74 years ago. He told the crowd, “I am proud of fact that Tower Hamlets is playing a major part in struggle against racism and fascism.
“The Battle of Cable Street was to ensure fascists could not march.
“We united with everyone and every section of working class played major part in stopping them marching
“Police tried to stop us but they were beaten. Why? Because we stood side by side.
“Cuts in economy will not stop us fighting for jobs and unity of the working class
“Unity to smash fascism. Unity to ensure that the cuts that are coming are not allowed to be carried through to divide us.”
Tower Hamlets councillor Oliur Rahman said, “Residents of the east end are loudly sending a message to the EDL that they will never be allowed into Tower Hamlets.
“To those who called for our march to be cancelled I say you are not doing the movement a favour. People here who voted for you can take that away
John McLoughlin Tower Hamlets Unison branch secretary said, “I remember the dark days in 1993 when nazi Derek Beackon was elected. But our members responded by walking out on strike and in the end we smashed them
“It is not Muslims dividing our community. On Tuesday George Osborne will attack every single one of us.
“We will not let the EDL divide us and we will not let them attack us. The East End united will never be defeated.'
George Galloway from Respect said, “The EDL are people who said bring pork scratchings to throw at the council. Yet some pandered to them by getting the islamic conference banned. We asked police to ban EDL coming – the police refused
So we are here in our thousands to ensure these fascist thugs will not pass here in this borough.'
On the protest Jeannie a LGBT activist from Bethnal Green told Socialist Worker, 'When I saw a rainbow flag on a EDL demo it made me feel sick. These are the same people who beat us up on the street and attack our rights and those of ethnic minorities. They do not represent the gay community. We should remember that the gay movement started at Stonewall – a riot. The gay community should be proud to fight against racism.'
Paul Brandon a Unite union rep from Holloway bus garage told Socialist Worker, “You can’t underestimate the importance of a diverse community coming together to stop racist groups whose only aim is to divide.
'The coming cuts to public services also have the power to divide communities and that’s why the issues are linked. That is also why we should join together the fightback. I would urge everyone to come along to the protests against the budget on Tuesday.”
Mohammed Babor Uddin told Socialist Worker, “In 1978 the National Front attacked us in Brick Lane. Now the EDL are trying to do it again. Muslims are their main target, but if you don’t stop them it will be everyone. Tower Hamlets is a multiracial community, it doesn’t matter who you are we all want to live together.”
The rally was also addressed by Motin Uz-Zaman, mayor of Tower Hamlets; Tower Hamlets councillor Abjol Miah; Steve Hart, regional organiser for the Unite union; Hugh Lanning, deputy general secretary, PCS union; Councillor Helal Abbas, leader of Tower Hamlets Council; John Biggs, London Assembly Member; Laura Maxwell, Jewish Council for Racial Equality; Rushanara Ali MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, and Tower Hamlets college lecturer Richard McEwan for the UCU union.
The BNP is standing in a by-election in the Goresbrook ward of Barking and Dagenham council. Richard Barnbrook is the BNP candidate. UAF has called a day of action on Saturday 26 June. Meet 11am, Jazzie Jake Caribbean Restaurant, 8-10 North Street, IG11 8AW.