Anti-fascists took to the streets of Leicester last Saturday to make a stand against the racists and Nazis of the English Defence League (EDL).
Around 700 activists from Unite Against Fascism (UAF) outnumbered the 450 EDL thugs who went to the city.
But police allowed the racists to march through the city centre—and used 2,200 officers to protect their route.
Hundreds of young locals came out to protect the nearby Highfields and St Matthews areas from the racists.
Both have large ethnic minority populations. People gathered to protect the mosques.
The route the police allocated for the UAF march was further away from the city centre than the EDL.
The day began with several hundred UAF activists assembling at the Clock Tower in Leicester’s main shopping area, a target for the EDL marchers.
Mounted police forced the UAF crowd to disperse to a separate assembly point by the city’s council officers.
Maria, a student, told Socialist Worker, “We should have the right to protest—but we aren’t even allowed near our own Clock Tower.”
Labour councillor Ross Willmott joined the Clock Tower assembly point with several of his fellow councillors. He was angry that the police gave the EDL such a prominent route.
“We know they advocate racism and violence,” he told Socialist Worker. “In 2010 they came here and smashed up Leicester.”
Saqib Deshmukh, a youth worker, said it was “appeasement” of the EDL. “The police have bent over backwards to facilitate the EDL,” he added.
The crowd was then marched to join a separate assembly point outside council offices. There were cheers as the groups met.
Devinder Singh was carrying a Sikhs Against the EDL banner. “We’re against people trying to benefit by dividing people,” he said. Others banners included those from the Leicester and District Trades Council, Leicester CND and the NUT teachers’ union. Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth was among the anti-fascist protesters.
The anti-racists then marched around the centre of the city. At the same time, several hundred anti-fascists returned to the Clock Tower to show their anger as the EDL marched past.
While UAF attracted largely local activists, the EDL brought racists from as far away as Weymouth.
The UAF march finished with speeches and music.
Martin Smith from Love Music Hate Racism told the crowd, “When racists and fascists come to this city it is right to take to the streets to say they aren’t welcome.
“But for the first time ever, the EDL were able to march into and out of a city centre. The police should be ashamed.”
People chanted “shame” at mentions of mayor Peter Soulsby, who had released a statement in support of police plans for the day.