Socialist Worker

Racist rally in Birmingham proves the EDL thugs are still a very real threat

by Sarah Ensor
Issue No. 2363

Anti-racists protest in Birmingham last Saturday

Anti-racists protest in Birmingham last Saturday (Pic: Kelvin Williams)

Over 800 racists from across Britain came to an English Defence League (EDL) rally in Birmingham last Saturday.

Hundreds of cops escorted them to Centenary Square in the town centre. This was effectively a march. 

The EDL abused passersby, tried to break through police lines and smashed up a bus shelter.

Police also arranged for the EDL to drink for three hours in city centre pub Bar Risa. People walking past shouted “racist scum” at them. 

Many pubs had refused to let the racists meet on their premises. Unite Against Fascism (UAF) activists argued with Bar Risa’s management to block them too.

But the bar said the police had forced them to host the EDL. They donated the proceeds from the EDL’s drinking to charity.

Over 500 socialists, trade unionists and anti-racists took to the streets against the EDL. Around 250 people joined the Unity event called by UAF in Chamberlain Square. Police prevented many others from entering the square. 

Protester Rose Neelan said, “I’m shocked that Britain has still got fascists like the EDL. They say that they’re against extremism but they’re against all Muslims.”

Labour councillors joined the protest, including Josh Jones and Mariam Khan. Mariam told Socialist Worker, “It was important to have a demonstration against the EDL to show that people in Birmingham don’t tolerate hate.”

Josh added, “We’ve seen through history that if we don’t stop fascists they’ll attack everyone—socialists, trade unionists and LGBT people.”

Many anti-racists felt frustrated that police wouldn’t let them march but accommodated the EDL.

Doug Morgan, president of the NUT union in Birmingham, said, “It’s a disgrace that the police have enabled the EDL by getting pubs to open early and bussing them round the city.”

Weyman Bennett, joint chair of UAF said, “Today is a warning. The racist EDL can still mobilise big numbers. We cannot be complacent. We need UAF groups rooted in every town.

“And we’re going to have to keep fighting if we are going to drive them off our streets.”

Counter protests to take on the racists

Anti-fascists were set to stand up to far right thugs in London and Glasgow on Saturday of this week.

The English Volunteer Force—including members of the  British National Party and National Front—was set to “protest” at the immigration service office in Croydon, south London. The counter-protest is backed by workers’ PCS union.

The Scottish Defence League was set to march in Pollokshields, Glasgow.

The English Defence League is also preparing for a national demonstration in Tower Hamlets, east London, on Saturday 7 September.

See for details of counter-protests.

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