Hundreds of racist English Defence League (EDL) thugs were out on the streets last weekend attempting to intimidate anti-racist and anti-fascist activists.
Although in most areas their presence was small, in Oldham around 150 supporters of the right wing group gathered in the city centre and clashed with police. Eight were arrested for public order offences.
This happened while over 100 EDL thugs assembled outside the US embassy in London to show their support for an Islamophobic protest in New York.
This “flash mob” style of protest follows the failure of the EDL’s national protest in Bradford last month.
The EDL had set itself a target of getting 5,000 to Bradford, but only managed to assemble less than 1,000. They were penned in by police and outnumbered by anti-racist protesters.
But last weekend’s violent mobilisations show the EDL is not going away.
Its next national protest is planned for Leicester on Saturday 9 October. Anti-fascists in the city are ready and preparing for a peaceful protest in the city centre to oppose it.
Cath Lewis, a local Unite Against Fascism (UAF) campaigner, helped organise an emergency meeting when activists heard about the EDL’s plans.
She said, “We have had a fantastic response—people are furious that the EDL wants to come back to Leicester and spread its message of race hatred.
“We have hundreds of signatories on a statement against the EDL coming to Leicester, including those of councillors and trade unionists.”
The UAF emergency meeting involved activists from the local Unison health and city union branches, the PCS, Unite and NUT unions and students from De Montford University.
A small group of EDL thugs tried to attack the meeting but they were driven out by campaigners.
“We were furious,” Cath said. “The EDL claim it isn’t violent and racist but its four thugs shouted abuse at us and started throwing our leaflets around.
“They got more and more aggressive when we asked them to leave. So we drove them out.”
The meeting went ahead and agreed to call for a united protest in the city centre.
Cath said, “We won’t be driven out of our city centre. Leicester cannot become a no-go area for anti-racists. We have to turn it into a no-go area for racists.”
The protest is a regional one and activists from Nottingham and the East Midlands attended the meeting to give their support to it.
Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of UAF, said that the EDL’s activities point to the need for anti-fascists to build strong local groups in every area.
“We need to keep up the pressure and make it clear that we will not accept racists and fascists parading around on our streets,” said Weyman.
The threat of the EDL means that the national protest called by UAF on Saturday 6 November in London even more important.
The protest is backed by the Muslim Council of Britain and the Trades Union Congress.
The protest has been called to counter the rise of racism in Britain and Europe.
UAF will be hosting a series of rallies and public meetings around the country to build for the national demonstration.
“This is our chance to come together and show that we are the anti-racist majority,” Weyman said. “It is our chance to say no to racism, fascism, Islamophobia and all forms of discrimination.”
For further information go to www.uaf.org.uk