More than 200 people crowded onto the pavement outside the magistrates court in south west London on Tuesday morning to support Martin Smith. Martin, who is a national officer of Unite Against fascism (UAF) and also national coordinator of Love Music Hate Racism, was arrested on the protest outside the BBC when BNP leader Nick Griffin appeared on Question Time.
He was charged with assaulting a police officer. In truth the right to protest against the Nazis is on trial
There was a huge amount of trade union support represented on Tuesday, with banners including the national NUJ, South Yorkshire NUJ, London Fire Brigade Unison, RMT European Passenger Services and Harringey Trades Council.
Messages were read out from trade union general secretaries including Bob Crow of the RMT, Jeremy Dear of the NUJ and Billy Hayes of the CWU, as well as from the NUT and the FBU.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS civil service workers’ union joined the protest. He told the assembled crowd, “I’ve known Martin since 1983. He’s always stood against injustice—supporting every strike, standing against the fascists.
Mark said that the court case against Martin represents a systematic attempt to disrupt anti-fascist protests. “We must redouble our efforts,” he said. “And support Martin and all of those under threat from the BNP and the EDL.”
Steve Bell spoke on behalf of the CWU union. “This represents a dangerous trend,” he said. “Only our actions will prevent attempts to cut off the head of the anti-racist movement.”
Speeches were interspersed with music and poetry, including a live performance by Drew McConnell of Babyshambles.
NUS black students’ officer Kanja Sesay told the protest, “It is a disgrace when leaders of the anti-fascist movement are scapegoated. It’s an attack at the whole anti-fascist movement. We must stand firm and continue the fight.”
Just before going into court, Martin Smith told the cheering crowd, “I am not a criminal. My only ‘crime’ is that I refuse to bow down to fascism or the BNP.
“They must not break the anti-fascist movement. This is not about me. It is a test case.”
He pointed out that many in the anti-fascist movement face much worse charges, but vowed that the movement would fight on. “We will never stop marching,” he said.
Doris Page, a 73 year old Jewish activist joined the protest. She told Socialist Worker, “My immediate family and I escaped from Nazi Germany. Others were taken to concentration camps and killed.
“There is a direct link between what is happening today and what happened in the Holocaust.
“That is why we have to support Martin in his fight against racism and fascism which is still rearing its head here and across Europe on a scale we have not seem for some time. We have to stand up to it.”
A carload of supporters left Sheffield at 5am to join the protest. “It is really important to show solidarity,” said Carly Ennis, a Sheffield UAF activist. “We have to stand up to the fascists, and to challenge the myths around Islamophobia.”
A group of RMT members from the European Passenger Service branch brought their banner to the protest. One of the RMT members, Arthur Shaw, told Socialist Worker, “I was on the protest outside Question Time where Martin was arrested. I think its wrong the way the police snatch people. It’s all the wrong way round. They target UAF activists who are trying to make the world a better place and let the fascists off the hook.”
For full messages of support go to www.uaf.org.uk