A massive display of resistance met the threat by the racist English Defence League (EDL) to march through the heart of east London’s Muslim community last Sunday.
Over 5,000 people took to the streets of Tower Hamlets to send a clear message—racists and fascists are not welcome here.
The protest was organised by United Against Fascism (UAF) and United East End.
The EDL planned to march against an Islamic conference being held on the same day.
But they have also repeatedly claimed that the East London mosque is a hotbed of Islamic extremism.
But the strength of unity across the East End saw the EDL cancel its demonstration.
Organising meetings involved hundreds of activists, and a rally of over 800 people took place in the East London mosque last week.
Even though the EDL called off their march, the anti-racist demonstration went ahead to show the strength of feeling against the EDL in the borough.
Trade unionists marched alongside local councillors and representatives of every faith group in Tower Hamlets, including the warden of the East London synagogue.
“The EDL said they were going to show their faces in Tower Hamlets—so where are they?,” Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of UAF, asked the crowd at the closing rally in Altab Ali park.
The mood of the protest was militant and angry—thousands of Asian youth joined the protest, ready to defend their community.
Takhir Ahmed, a 21-year old mechanics apprentice from Shadwell, told Socialist Worker, “I’m here because I can’t stand the idea of the EDL being here.
“We’ve got problems. The police give us hassle and it’s hard to get a job—but the EDL are not the solution. People don’t want them here.”
Samera echoed the sentiment, “I’m glad that the EDL were too scared to come, and that all these people came anyway.”
Many people were angered by the official response from Tower Hamlets council, which called on both the EDL protest and the Islamic conference to be cancelled, labelling both “extremist” events.
The council also asked protest organisers not to go ahead. Towards the end of the day, as the rally dispersed, police harassed and intimidated Asian youth.
They even told white people that they faced risk of attack if they passed the East London mosque.
Rally speakers talked about turning the movement against the threat of the EDL into resisting the oncoming attacks in the form of budget cuts.
Paul Brandon, a Unite union rep from Holloway bus garage, told Socialist Worker, “The coming cuts to public services are another threat we face.
“Cuts can cause division, that’s why the issues are linked. So we have to join these fightbacks together.”
The magnificent display of unity in Tower Hamlets shows how we can continue to drive the EDL back into the gutter— and how we can forge the broadest movement against the cuts.
Around 300 people took part in a rally and march against the Scottish Defence League (SDL) last Saturday in Kilmarnock.
The SDL only managed to muster 33 supporters—all from outside the area.
“We got fantastic support and people joined the demonstration as we marched through the town centre,” Jonathon Shafi told Socialist Worker.
The Nazi BNP hopes to sneak back onto Barking council in east London at a by-election next month. UAF is organising a day of action to make sure it doesn’t succeed. Meet 11am, Saturday 26 June, Jazzie Jake Caribbean Grill, 8-10 North St, Barking IG11 (nearest tube and railway station: Barking)