Some 600 people crammed into the London Muslim Centre in east London last night for a rally against the English Defence League's (EDL) plans to march in the area on 3 September.
The meeting was organised by Unite Against Fascism and United East End.
Roses were handed out as to people as they came into the room and held aloft during a minute’s silence in solidarity with the people of Norway.
Three trade unionists and socialists travelled from Norway to address the meeting. They received huge applause as they walked on stage.
Randi, a public sector worker told the meeting, 'People immediately tried to blame Islam for the attacks in Norway. This attack is an attack on us all – the working class and the labour movement. In Oslo, the fascists cannot march because we have been there to stop them every time.'
Tim, also from Norway said, 'We are unequivocally calling for a more open, more democratic, more diverse society, and that is what we're fighting for.'
Former London mayor Ken Livingstone said, “Londoners came together 75 years ago to stop the fascists in what was then a predominantly Jewish area. We must come together to stop their successors now. “
The speakers on the platform reflected the meeting itself. There were experienced and first time activists, Muslims, Jews, Christians and socialists, LGBT people, disabled and others.
Leon Silver, from the local Nelson Street Synagogue, was defiant, “The fascists don’t get it. We are united in our diversity and mutual respect.”
Tazmin Ali, a school student in Tower Hamlets, added, “Growing up in Tower Hamlets, I’ve never faced major racism. People here are accepting of other people.”
Rebecca Shaw from the LGBT group Rainbow Hamlets, which works closly with the East London mosque, told the meeting, “I say to the EDL, LGBT people may be part of your agenda—but you are not part of ours”.
While a number of speakers spoke in favour of banning the EDL march, everyone agreed to march against the EDL.
Martin Smith from Unite against Fascism and Love Music Hate Racism said, “They say Breivik is the devil’s spawn. But where did that spawn grow? In Angela Merkel’s attack on multiculturalism, in Sarkozy banning the veil in France. When David Cameron said Muslims have failed to integrate here.
“I don’t want to upset the meeting—but I don’t trust Theresa May.”
Omer Ahmed, Council of Somali Organisations, said, “Somali immigrants have been fighting racists since the race riots of 1919. I want to reiterate what has been said about political responsibility. It is outrageous that the Prime Minister has not said a word about this EDL march.”
Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepne said, “Martin Luther King said, ‘Our lives begin to end when we stay silent about things that matter’. This matters.”
The EDL must be confronted on 3 September, and not be allowed to rampage through the heart of the East End.
For more information go to WWW.uaf.org.uk