Anti-racists scored a crucial victory over the British National Party (BNP) last Saturday, as they first outnumbered and then blocked a planned march by the fascist party in central London.
Around 1,000 protesters took to Whitehall, near parliament, on a demonstration organised by Unite against Fascism (UAF).
A demoralised BNP mustered less than 100. They were kept well behind police lines as an opposition, comprised of anti-fascists, trade unionists and disabled people, took to the streets in a three-hour stand-off with police.
The BNP had initially planned to march in Woolwich, south London, in an attempt to capitalise on the recent killing of soldier Lee Rigby.
But following a police ban, they were forced to start their rally in Whitehall from where they hoped to march to the Cenotaph war memorial.
The BNP were unable to even start their march because angry demonstrators blockaded the road, linking arms and chanting, “No pasaran – they shall not pass”.
Throughout the day passing drivers blared their horns in support of the anti-fascists, to cheers from the crowd.
Fazal Farooq joined the protest after receiving a leaflet in Wembley, north London.
“I didn’t envisage anything as big as this. It’s really great,” he said. “There is a lot of fear in the public that we need to lift. Organisation is key.
“We have to raise the confidence of Muslims to come out, and that is done through organising like this.”
Michael Bilewicz, a student at King's College London, told Socialist Worker, "One of my friends was threatened with a knife on a bus a few days after the Woolwich killing because he's Muslim.
"I'm not going to stand by and let that happen. I don't think mosques should be petrol bombed because someone was killed in Woolwich."
Speakers from many organisations addressed a rally. Daud Abdullah from the Muslim Council of Britain said that responsibility for the killing in Woolwich lay with the government and its foreign policy, not with Muslims.
“Bombings in London did not happen before 2003. It’s after the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan that they started to happen,” he said.
The police repeatedly attempted to break up the anti-fascist demonstration, and later announced they had arrested 58 people, but protesters held firm. As the police tried to move the protesters from the road one demonstrator’s leg was broken.
But the protest remained upbeat. A demonstration against the government’s badger cull ended in Parliament Square and many of the protesters came to join the anti-fascists.
The fascists had assembled at 1pm, but the start of their march was constantly delayed until Nick Griffin, the normally cocky BNP leader, was forced to tell his dwindling gang that it would be “suicide to march today”.
After five o’clock what remained of the fascist rabble scuttled away.
On hearing the news that they had stopped the fascists from marching, hundreds of protesters rallied to the cenotaph to celebrate their victory.
UAF assistant secretary Brian Richardson addressed the rally. To cheers he said, “Black and white unity has won the day”.
“The Nazis cowered behind police lines. Now they skulk off back to the gutter where they came from”.
Racists and fascists wanted to use today to capitalise on the mood after Woolwich. They didn't succeed.
Today also saw at least 35 UAF protests against the racist English Defence league around Britain. There will be a report of these in the next full edition of Socialist Worker, which will be online on Tuesday evening.