The racist English Defence League (EDL) had its hopes of a triumphant homecoming dashed yesterday (Saturday) when it was outnumbered three to one by anti-fascists on the streets of Luton.
Only a few hundred EDL members turned up. They had to rally on the far side of the town centre surrounded by police to protect them.
Up to 2,000 marched in the “We Are Luton” counter-demonstration organised by Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and a coalition of local trade unions and community groups. And many more guarded their mosques from EDL thugs.
Unfortunately the police prevented anti-fascists from getting into the central St George's Square or confronting the EDL on the other side of town by constructing a 6 foot metal wall.
But unlike the last time the EDL marched in Luton there was one united counter demonstration. It marched from Wardown Park in the multicultural Bury Park area to the town centre and back again.
The EDL had planned to commemorate their origins in Luton three years ago. Since then they and their allies have taken every opportunity to portray the town as bitterly divided between Muslims and white people.
Even Norwegian fascist mass-murderer Anders Breivik picked up on this, citing Luton as a “no go area” in his court testimony.
But the people of Luton are proud of their multicultural town. Bury Park in particular has long welcomed successive waves of new arrivals—from Irish migrants to more recent workers from eastern Europe—and Luton is the richer for it.
“I’ve taught in Luton for a long time and it’s just not like the EDL say,” said Anne Kennedy on the march. “It’s such a great mix of people of all races and cultures.
“The EDL are a tiny minority. But if we don’t oppose them their kind of scaremongering can fester and grow as with the National Front in the 1970s.”
Local Labour councillor Mohammed Riaz added “This is the real face of Luton—people of all faiths and none, and all the trade unions. Almost every single member of the council is here too.
“There’s no room for racism in this town.”
The day was a double humiliation for EDL leader Tommy Robinson, who had also planned a press conference to declare himself the deputy leader of the new British Freedom Party (BFP).
It was to be part of the public launch of the BFP following the wipe-out of Nick Griffin’s fascist British National Party in the local elections last week.
But the press conference was cancelled after anti-fascists complained to the venue. Robinson was forced to hold it on Twitter instead.
Luton is Robinson’s home town, and he plans to bring the EDL back there in August.
“We have hurt the far right, but our job is not finished,” UAF’s Martin Smith told the closing rally. Martin warned of the rise of Marine Le Pen’s fascist Front National in France. “The left and the minority communities ignored Le Pen’s party for 30 years. Now it is the third biggest party in French politics, and can mobilise 10,000 people on the streets of Paris.
“We need to drown the EDL in a sea of humanity—black and white, Muslim and Jew, men and women, old and young, all together. And if we do that we can win.”
For more information visit the Unite Against Fascism website at www.uaf.org.uk