The racist English Defence League (EDL) has received police permission to march through Leicester on Saturday. But they will have to deal with the town’s anti-racist majority.
Unite Against Fascism (UAF) has called a counter-protest on the day, and activists have received a warm reception from local residents. Local trade unions including Unison, CWU, PCS and Unite have backed the UAF protest.
Several Labour councillors are also supporting the action, along with Labour Party branches in Stoneygate and Aylestone, Sikhs Against the EDL and the Indian Workers Association (Great Britain).
This is not the first time the EDL have invaded the city. In October 2010 they rampaged through the streets after early morning boozing in local pubs.
Some 17 EDL thugs were arrested on that day after throwing bottles and firecrackers. But then, as now, local people resisted—despite a huge propaganda campaign by the police to keep anti-racists away.
The police want the anti-fascist march to finish in Nelson Mandela park, outside the city centre. Yet they are happy to let the EDL into the centre.
Jackie Lewis, chair of Leicester UAF, spoke out against the decision. “We are dismayed that the council and police have chosen a route for the EDL that would allow them to cut through the symbolic heart of Leicester,” she said. Jackie added that discussions were ongoing with police over the routes.
UAF activists have held successful leafleting sessions in the city centre and the mosques, as well as in residential areas. The campaign was a big hit last Saturday, with dozens of anti-fascists on the streets.
Several EDL thugs also turned up to hand out Islamophobic leaflets. They received a torrent of abuse from local people disgusted by their attempts to whip up hatred.
UAF, in contrast, received widespread support for its message of unity against the racists. Sarah, a local resident, said, “Leicester is one of the most racially harmonious places in the country. The EDL just want to stir up trouble.”
Robert, also from Leicester, agreed. “If the EDL are going to come back and cause damage like last time they should not be allowed back—they should be fined and locked up.” Neil, a student, added, “Racism has no place in Leicester and neither do the racists.”
Saturday has to be a day when people unite in pride to defend Leicester’s diverse society. Locals should not be forced to hide away when hatred comes to town—they should stand up and oppose it.
Class is the real divide
The EDL wants to drive divisions between people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds—but the real divide in Leicester is class.
The council has recently announced £21 million in cuts by 2013 and £44 million by 2015. The library, learning disability centres and old people’s homes are already under threat. Some 600 jobs are expected to go over the next few years.
But working class people are fighting back. The Unison union has called a march later this month against the cuts in Leicester. It is activity like this that unites people to make the city a better place to live.
The Unison march is on Wednesday 22 February at 4pm. It assembles at the High Street and ends outside a council meeting at the town hall.
Love Leicester Hate Racism: assemble 11am, Saturday 4 February, at the Clock Tower, Leicester city centre. Go to uaf.org.uk