The racist thugs of the English Defence League (EDL) brought their hate to Leicester last Saturday—and were opposed by some 800 anti-fascists and anti-racists.
The EDL supporters were drunk and violent. The police ferried them into pubs in the city, which opened early to accommodate them.
EDL supporters then spent hours spewing out racist chants and fighting with the police.
In opposition, people from all over Leicester and from many backgrounds joined the Unite Against Fascism protest in the city centre.
It included students, trade unionists and pensioners. A large delegation came from the Kurdish community.
Jane and Matt are both 25 and grew up in Leicester. They both work in the city. Matt told Socialist Worker, “This is our city and I’m proud of being from Leicester.”
“I love how multicultural it is, it makes it an exciting place to live,” added Jane. “But organisations like the EDL and the BNP are trying to wreck that,” said Matt.
The Hope Not Hate organisation carried out sustained propaganda, alongside the police and the council, against having any counter-protest on the day of the EDL demonstration.
But it was important to have a visible show of opposition and anti-racist unity. The EDL could not grab the city centre.
As Labour councillor Ross Willmott told the crowd, “I’m proud to be here today, to stand here and show that our city belongs to all people, and this territory must not be ceded to some neo-fascist thugs.
“It is vital that we do not clear the city centre.”
Labour councillor Patrick Kitterick added, “When people said ‘Stay inside and leave the streets’, I said ‘I will not.’
“The EDL says it wants to stop the Islamification of Leicester. We say we have nothing to fear from our Muslim brothers and sisters.”
Rita is a housing worker in Leicester. She told Socialist Worker, “I grew up here when the National Front seemed to be everywhere. It was basically constant harassment from them on the estate where we grew up.
“There were bricks through windows, dog shit through the letterbox and verbal abuse.
“I’m proud that Leicester is the city it has become—I don’t look over my shoulder anymore and I’m not going back to that.
“We got rid of the NF, and we’ll get rid of the EDL. Leicester has moved on, they’re not welcome here.”
Members of the student union executive from De Montfort University came along too.
Jessie, a student at the university, said, “I came to Leicester to study because of its mixed population. I’m shocked that the EDL thinks it can come here.”
In other parts of the city, groups of local black and Asian youth defended mosques and other buildings.
At the end of the EDL’s rally police allowed the thugs to break from their area and attack local people.
Some 17 EDL members were arrested after hours of pelting the police and journalists with firecrackers, bottles and coins.
The EDL is not going away. We have to build a movement of thousands—in truth tens of thousands—to stop them.