The English Defence League’s “Big One” in Bradford last Saturday was an utter humiliation for the racist group.
The EDL had claimed that it would mobilise at least 5,000 thugs to intimidate one of Britain’s largest Muslim communities. But these claims turned to dust as fewer than 1,000 turned out.
Anti-racist protesters sent a clear message that the EDL is not welcome in the city at the successful We Are Bradford event, which was backed by Unite Against Fascism.
Meanwhile the EDL’s bigotry was on show once again.
Despite claiming to be only against “Islamic extremism”, EDL supporters chanted, “We love the floods”—referring to the disaster in Pakistan—and “No black in the Union Jack”.
The racist group failed to mobilise any significant local support in Bradford.
Instead they spent a frustrating day penned in, fighting among themselves and lashing out by throwing stones at onlookers.
They were shipped out of town after failing to go on the rampage against the local Asian population.
Around 1,500 people attended the We Are Bradford event to celebrate multiculturalism and oppose the EDL.
Local man Mukhtar Ali told Socialist Worker, “If we stay in our houses it gives the EDL the opportunity to claim it has the city. We need to stand together.
“They want to bully people so they don’t come out, don’t open their shops or go to their places of worship.
“We don’t accept any form of fascism. The EDL’s message of hatred must be stopped.”
People travelled from across the country to protest against Islamophobia.
Yvonne, who is from Bradford, said, “It’s positive that people are coming from outside Bradford to oppose the EDL, it shows how many people support the people of the city.”
Meanwhile, several hundred local people gathered at the EDL’s meeting place to resist their racism.
It was good to see that people rejected the idea that they should stay away from the city centre when the racists arrived.
But this only happened after a hard political fight to ensure that anti-racists were able to be on the streets.
The leadership of Bradford’s Labour council, the police, the Hope Not Hate campaign group and the Bradford Telegraph & Argus newspaper all opposed a city centre event.
They claimed it would lead to a repeat of the riots in 2001, after which large numbers of young Asians received long prison sentences for defending their community against fascist thugs.
This time, Hope Not Hate spearheaded a campaign that said that the only way to stop the EDL was to get a state ban.
Despite marches being prohibited by the home secretary, the EDL held a legal “static assembly”. Hope Not Hate held a vigil on Friday evening.
The council organised an event on the day of the EDL rally, away from the city centre, which attracted just 150 people.
Many people rejected the argument coming from these groups.
Arshad Ali, one of the organisers of the We Are Bradford event, told Socialist Worker, “You can’t stand by in your own city while fascists spit in your face. It’s right to protest.
“The council spent a lot of money and effort scaremongering, but there are very few at their event. People want to be here at our event.”
Police tried to discourage people from attending We Are Bradford.
Aumayra Saleem helped steward the event. She told Socialist Worker how a police officer told her the evening before that “if I came to the protest I’d end up there,” pointing to the law courts.
Aumayra angrily added, “Why should we give our streets to the fascists? How dare they tell us not to come into our own town.”
There was a growth in support for the city centre protest with eight councillors—including four from Labour—publicly backing We Are Bradford.
The battle to hold such an anti-fascist event was crucial in puncturing the atmosphere of fear.
The confidence of anti‑racists in the city grew, as did the belief that it’s right to challenge the EDL.
Despite police claims—reinforced by Hope Not Hate—that the police would contain the EDL, they failed to do so.
Around 100 EDL were able to break out of their cordons and headed towards an area with a mosque.
It was groups of local youth—mainly Asian but with white and black friends with them—who prevented the racists from going on the rampage, not the police.
The EDL were forced to head back towards the police lines for safety.
Even Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate had to report on his blog, “EDL now loose on streets and no police around them.
“What are the police doing? This is a shambles... The dogs are out of the van but are pointed at the locals.”
The EDL’s Bradford disaster has deepened tensions among the racists. One of its Facebook sites gives a flavour of the demoralisation and recriminations.
One supporter moans, “It was meant to be our biggest yet, and we couldn’t even push 1,500…”
Last Saturday was an important success for anti-fascists in Bradford and the national campaign to drive the EDL back.
Voices from the protest
“I’ve come to support the people of Bradford. The EDL go to places to terrorise the local community.
We can’t have ghettos where non-white people are scared to leave their homes.
When people say we should just ignore the racists, I say tell that to Stephen Lawrence and his family.
Racists don’t go away if you ignore them. If you stay in your home, that’s what they want, because then they’re in charge of the city.”
Katan, student from Manchester
“The EDL has all these different divisions around the country and they’re all coming to Bradford. They mobilise nationally, so why shouldn’t we?
We needed to come here to show the Muslim community that they’re not alone and that lots of people oppose the EDL.”
Richa from Brighton
“I’m here to show the EDL that it hasn’t scared us off the streets.
If we ignore the EDL it’ll just come to Bradford more often.
I’m glad anti-fascists came from other places to support us—the more of us, the better.”
Jagdeep from Bradford
“I’m here to stand up for my religion. We also wanted to protect our mosques and make sure the EDL doesn’t attack them.
We can’t stay at home. If we don’t defend ourselves, who will?”
Safina from Bradford