Around 1,000 anti-racists gathered in Walthamstow, north east London, today (Saturday) to celebrate a resounding victory over the fascist English Defence League (EDL).
The EDL had been threatening to return to Walthamstow today after anti-fascists blocked their route and chased their dwindling mob out of town on 1 September.
But they failed miserably. As the size and scale of the anti-fascist response to these threats became clear, the police responded first by banning all marches in the area, and then by ordering the EDL to hold their “static demo” elsewhere, at a time and place chosen by the police.
The anti-EDL demo organised by Unite Against Fascism and We Are Waltham Forest, in contrast, assembled as planned and became a victory parade against the EDL.
At one point the anti-fascists defied the police ban by marching briefly along Hoe Street, reclaiming the streets of Walthamstow for the people who had come out to oppose the EDL.
Earlier that day wide range of speakers from the local labour and trade union movement joined faith leaders and community activists to address the anti-fascist rally.
Hugh Lanning from the PCS union condemned David Cameron for attacking multiculturalism and Ed Miliband’s comments on immigration. “The fight against cuts is an anti-racist fight,” he added. “That is why the EDL also targets picket lines.”
Father Steven Saxby from St Barnabas Church in Walthamstow told the rally that he was glad the EDL hadn’t come. “But the way to defeat them is through the grassroots coming together,” he added. “It was 4,000 people on the street that defeated them. It was nothing to do with the local council.”
Jo Cardwell from We Are Waltham Forest said, “Who would have believed it would be Walthamstow that stopped the EDL? But on 1 September we built the coffin that they climbed into—and today we shut the lid.”
Meanwhile a miserable ragtag of 50 or so EDL fascists were penned in by police at their “demonstration”, hastily relocated miles away in Old Palace Yard near the Houses of Parliament.
The police ban has implications for the right to protest. It covers a number of London boroughs and in theory bans all marches for a month. The police force should not have such sweeping powers, and the home secretary should not have granted its requests for them.
Calls for state bans on fascist groups are dangerous because they end up putting these powers in the hands of the police. It is the numbers on the anti-fascist side that stopped the EDL this time and on previous occasions, not the police.
Back in Walthamstow, Shaikhy was on the UAF demo with a delegation from the CWU union’s black workers group. “It’s thanks to the anti-fascist protests if the EDL don’t come,” he told Socialist Worker.
“We have to remember that most of the times the EDL have been banned, they’ve still turned up. But after what happened on 1 September they’ve bottled it. They got scared and have done a runner.”
The EDL could not be heard singing (Pic: Guy Smallman)
More reports at uaf.org.uk