The racist English Defence League (EDL) wants to protest in Bradford on Saturday 28 August.
Bradford has a large Muslim community and has long been a beacon of anti-racist resistance in Britain. This is a huge provocation by the EDL.
In April 1976, 24 people were arrested in pitched battles in the Manningham area of Bradford, as Asian youths confronted a National Front march and fought police protecting it.
In 1982, the Bradford 12—all young Asians—faced conspiracy charges for making petrol bombs to use against racists. They argued they were acting in self-defence—and won.
And in 2001 Asian youth fought the National Front and the police while protecting their streets from the racists.
Brian Collier teaches at Bradford College and is a member of its UCU union executive
“The worst thing that could happen is that there is no counter-protest to the EDL. Then they would feel confident to rampage into Asians areas, attack shops and homes—and the young Asian lads will fight back.
“That’s what happened in 2001. The National Front beat up Asian lads in front of the police, who did nothing. It escalated into an anti-police riot.
“Bradford has separate Asian and white areas but it is becoming more integrated—especially at work.
“The college where I work is one of the most integrated places in Bradford. The EDL are racist thugs—they want to divide the community.
“The problems of youth unemployment are appalling here, especially among the Asian community.
“If there’s not a counter-protest to the EDL then there is a danger that there will be a riot.
“It doesn’t help that the Hope not Hate organisation are saying don’t have a counter-protest. It splits the anti-EDL opposition.
“They say that a counter-protest will cause a riot. That’s the opposite of the truth.”
Anji Timlin lives near Keighley, just outside Bradford
“I don’t think they EDL will get much local support. People see them as outsiders coming in to cause trouble in our town.
“Their presence can make racists feel more confident to speak out. Keighley is quite segregated between Asians and white people.
“There’s a lot of unemployment and drug problems. A big local employer, a lift manufacturer, is threatening closure.
“If the EDL come and nobody goes down there to say no, then they’ll come back again.
“The more white people who join with Muslims to oppose the EDL the better—it shows solidarity.
Ashiq Hussain is a GMB steward and activist in Unite Against Fascism in Bradford
“Bradford has one of the largest Muslim communities in Britain. For the EDL to march here means they can say they have conquered Bradford. For them it’s ‘the Big One’.
“If they can get away with coming here, they can go anywhere.
“We don’t want a repeat of what happened in 1995 or 2001 when there were riots in Bradford.
“The police just went for Asians, not the racists provoking trouble.
“The police created the 2001 riots. I’m worried the police will target us again.
“If the EDL is banned that’s fantastic. But if it isn’t then there needs to be a Bradford event—a celebration of all communities coming together, a peaceful multicultural event to send a clear message that this is what Bradford is really like.
“The EDL say they have to take control back of the streets here because Muslims have taken over. It’s not true, no one ‘controls the streets’.
“Initially some people were OK with holding a We Are Bradford event.
“But then Hope not Hate started saying ‘it will cause riots’ and opinion changed.
“But if the EDL do come—to say ‘stay at home’ is ridiculous. Why should we be intimidated? It’s our city, we live here.
“People won’t stay at home, so its better to have something organised.
“If the EDL come here, it opens the door to the NF and BNP—and the EDL will be back.
“We want the Council of Mosques and others to back the We Are Bradford event.
“It’s important that people from outside Bradford come along and stand united with us versus the EDL and fascism.”
Arshad Ali was a candidate for Respect in Bradford West at the general election
“There’s a debate going on in the Mosques, among the Labour councillors and others about what to do about the EDL.
“They are saying, if you can’t ban them, then stay at home or stay in the Mosques and pray.
“That isn’t acceptable, it’s our city. If the EDL come here and spit on our doorsteps we can’t stay away.
“If no one does anything, the EDL will feel more confident. Our leaders should be ashamed of themselves for saying stay at home.
“I don’t think the EDL will be banned. Either way we should still hold a celebration of multicultural Bradford.
“I said to Marsha Singh, the Labour MP for Bradford West, that he should take a stand and be at the We Are Bradford event.
“If our city is being invaded, the MPs should be there at the forefront of resistance.
“We have to say no to racism and no to Islamophobia on 28 August—that’s our message. And where we are talking to people we are getting a good response.”
Public meeting: ‘We’re not staying home on the 28th’
Some 130 people came to a public meeting organised by Unite Against Fascism (UAF) in Bradford.
Weyman Bennett , the joint secretary of UAF said,
“The bigger the opposition the EDL face, the weaker they will feel. If they turn up, it’s important to have organised opposition and solidarity. Without that you are vulnerable. It’s the EDL that want violence. They are the ones who want a riot.”
Sarah Cartin, vice-chair of CND, said, “Islamophobia must be challenged. We can’t let racists turn parts of our city into no-go areas.
“I can’t rest my hopes on Theresa May and a ban to solve our problems. We can’t sit back and allow the criminalisation of another generation of young people in Bradford.
“We need to go out of this room and organise a big inspiring event for 28 August, but we need to do it quickly.”
David Ward, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East said, “I am not staying at home on the 28 August. It’s my Bradford and I’m going out.”
Many people expressed anger that the police at previous counter-protests have treated the racist EDL and anti-fascists as equivalent to each other.
Salim travelled from Bolton to the Unite Against Fascism public meeting to tell people the lessons of the EDL’s visit on 20 March.
“The council got the schools to send a letter home telling parents not to let their kids go into Bolton centre on the day.
“The Bolton Council of Mosques were told by the police and Bolton council to make an announcement at Friday prayers that people should stay away from UAF’s counter-demo against the EDL.
“There were council workers outside all 20 Bolton Mosques with leaflets saying don’t go and protest.
“Do not make the same mistake. Don’t let the councillors and the Mosque leaders say stay away.”