1,000 make stand against Nazis
THE NATIONAL Front was routed in Oldham last Saturday after 1,000 people attended an anti-racist rally. It was called by Oldham United Against Racism and Oldham NUT teachers' union, and supported by the TGWU transport union. Speakers included local Labour MP Phil Woolas, the ex-MEP and Anti Nazi League treasurer Glyn Ford, the current MEP Arlene McCarthy, myself as Oldham NUT president, councillors, and trade union and community organisation representatives.
After the rally a delegation of 100 people went into the centre of town to leaflet and effectively became an impromptu march through the centre of Oldham. We marched despite some very heavy-handed policing (with over 20 police vans, ten horses and nearly 200 police), and the fascists didn't even show up. The mood was disciplined and peaceful, celebrating our right to march through the town centre, and showing in action the principle of black and white, unite and fight.
Mass meetings of 300, 400 and 500 people have taken place, in various communities. The council executive, through the chief education officer, tried to pressurise us to call off the march, claiming in a letter to me that "any march would be a catalyst for violence" and equating us with the fascists. However, due to the mass meetings, all the councillors came out in favour of the march and rally.
The council did its best to demobilise the event by getting the education authority to contact headteachers to advise staff not to go to the rally, despite being called by the biggest teachers' union-the NUT! We welcomed the Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers, including a contingent of Kurdish refugees who postponed their Manchester demo to come to Oldham to show solidarity against the fascists.
Every time New Labour and Jack Straw were mentioned there was spontaneous jeering and anger. Lots of people took Socialist Alliance stickers and were urging us to stand in the area as they are sick of the betrayals of Labour and its racist policies. Saturday was just the beginning.
- JASON TRAVIS, president Oldham NUT
Anger boils over
ANGER ERUPTED in Bradford on Friday of last week after an all-white jury acquitted Jonathan Fairbank, who had been charged with the murder of Mohammed Asghar last year. Fairbank claimed he killed Asghar, a takeaway owner, in self defence. About 400 people, mainly young Asians, spontaneously demonstrated in the town centre on hearing the verdict.
They tried to block the M62 motorway in protest but were cordoned off by the police. Arfan said, "The police nearly ran us down. One of my friends was clubbed with a baton." Usman and Abdullah said, "We stopped buses and cars. Some shop windows were smashed. People want justice. We want to let the police, the courts and the politicians know that we will have justice."
About 100 people, black and white, rallied in the town centre the following day. Khalid Azir said, "Mohammed and I were friends years ago in Pakistan. He was a kind, helpful, peaceful man. I feel like I have lost my own brother." Mahmood Chaudhry added, "The police know we will not keep quiet until we get justice. We need a campaign uniting black and white. Jack Straw's attacks on asylum seekers are appalling. He and the Tories are making the racists confident. We are going to protest outside Bradford Crown Court on Monday."
- Protest outside Bradford Crown Court, 9am, Monday 9 April. Bring banners and placards.
ANTI-NAZI campaigners are mobilising to stop a planned Nazi National Front (NF) "Keep Bermondsey white" march through Bermondsey in south London this Saturday. Support for the counter-demonstration, called by Southwark Trades Council and the Anti Nazi League, has included Greater London Assembly member Valerie Shawcross, and the local Socialist Alliance and Labour prospective parliamentary candidates.
- Stop the Nazi NF march, 10.30am Saturday 7 April, South Bermondsey station. For more information contact the Anti Nazi League on 020 7924 0333.