The English Defence League (EDL) is trying to whip up racism in Rotherham following the horrific child abuse detailed in a recent report.
It has set up camp outside a police station in the South Yorkshire town and plans to demonstrate there this Saturday. But Unite Against Fascism (UAF) has called a counter-protest. It assembles at 1pm this Saturday in All Saints Square.
Sue Wild, a pensioner in Sheffield, plans to join the UAF demonstration. “If people don’t protest then the racists could gain a lot more influence,” she told Socialist Worker. “The more people who go on Saturday, the better.”
Local workers say the EDL doesn’t speak for them.
Ged Dempsey is a print worker who lives in Wath, Rotherham. He’s also on the Unite union’s national executive committee and is a Labour Party member.
Ged told Socialist Worker, “We want justice for the victims of child abuse. And we want the police, council officials and councillors to be held accountable for their failure to safeguard Pakistani and white children.
“But the EDL is just after causing unrest and breeding division. It doesn’t give a damn about ordinary people.”
Racists have tried to paint abuse as a race issue after many victims described their abusers as “Asian”.
Ged rejected that. “The EDL doesn’t point out that most offenders for child abuse are white,” he said. “They include celebrities and people from the judiciary, politicians and the establishment.”
Rotherham trades council has passed a statement condemning the authorities for failing to protect victims. It rejected the idea that this was due to a fear of being labelled “racist”.
It said, “The real causes are very different, from cuts to children’s services to the appalling attitudes of those in power towards women and girls from poor backgrounds.
“We can’t let the racists of the EDL, BNP or Britain First divide us and turn this scandal into a race issue.”
Phil Turner is an NUJ union member working in the town and was part of trades council leafleting and petitioning in Rotherham last Saturday. He told Socialist Worker, “The mood is polarised but people do want to have a serious discussion.
“When you talk about class, it gets a response. If you don’t get out and talk to people, it can feel like the town’s been taken over by racists. But it isn’t the case that everyone is going along with the racists.”
Over 1,500 people have already signed the trades council petition opposing a racist backlash.
A group of artists have launched a campaign called “Rotherham Fights Back” to oppose the EDL’s attempts to divide people.
It has called on people to suggest positive messages to paint in the Old Market Gallery windows in contrast to the racist ones from the EDL.
Vicky Hilton explained that the aim was to show that people in Rotherham “want to live in a united community”.