Some 400 anti-fascists turned out to confront Europe’s leading Nazi Marine Le Pen in Oxford yesterday, Thursday.
The Oxford Union debating society had invited the fascist Front National (FN) leader Le Pen to give a speech on “Western values”.
But anti-fascists scaled railings and blockaded the main entrance, which forced her to enter through a side entrance and delayed her appearance by over an hour.
Holocaust survivor Cleo Yvel joined the protest organised by Oxford Unite Against Fascism (UAF).
She was a child in France during the Nazi occupation and survived deportation after her family hid her. But her father didn’t escape and was murdered in Auschwitz concentration camp.
Cleo told Socialist Worker that it was important to oppose Le Pen’s attempts to present herself as a respectable diplomat.
“She uses the tactics of Hitler–going everywhere and using rhetorical speeches to impress and deceive people,” she said.
“But Le Pen is a racist. She is anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim and she should not be trusted.
“I’m here for the same reason that I protested against her when she came to Cambridge two years ago–against these shameful invitations by the universities.”
Oxford University students were joined by trade unionists in the CWU, Unite, Unison, PCS, GMB and NASUWT unions among others.
Chants of “No pasaran” and “Le Pen–never again!” rang out.
Student Eleanor told Socialist Worker, “I’m here because it’s really insensitive for the Oxford Union to invite her, especially with everything that’s going on in France. She has to be challenged.”
Mohamed Abbasi from Oxford said, “I am here to protest against fascism and Islamophobia.
“Oxford is a multicultural society–we don’t want her coming here trying to divide us.”
Le Pen has tried for years to sanitise FN’s image, but it is still a Nazi party and has been central to stoking up Islamophobia.
Photos recently emerged of party treasurer Axel Loustau doing a Nazi salute in 2011.
And Frederic Boccaletti, an FN candidate in last year’s elections, was sentenced to jail in 2001 for an armed attack on black youths.
Another candidate, Philippe Chapron, was caught with a stash of weapons belonging to the FN’s “security service”.
After the recent killings in Paris Le Pen said, “The first of all our freedoms, security, is now threatened by Islamist terrorism”.
UAF joint secretary Weyman Bennett addressed the protest. He said, “In Europe we see the dark clouds of people who wish to repeat the Holocaust. They sometimes have new targets, such as immigrants or Muslims.
“But we have to understand, if we allow them to grow then they will come for all of us."
Two days after Le Pen’s visit, police locked down Dudley town centre to facilitatea march by some 600 English Defence League (EDL) supporters.
Cops arrested around 30 people—most of them anti-fascists.
The EDL called their national demonstration to try and whip up Islamophobia over the building of a mosque in the town.
Anti-racists from Birmingham, Telford, Wolverhampton and Coventry came to a counter-rally called by Dudley UAF.
Delegations from the NUT, FBU, CWU, Unison and Unite unions also attended.
Shaz Islam, a student at Wolverhampton University, told Socialist Worker, “We have to come out and oppose them.
“They are much smaller than they have been in the past, but we cannot give them any room to grow.”
Labour leader of Dudley Council Pete Lowe told the rally, “The EDL do not speak for the people of Dudley.”
Cops arranged for local bar the Rock Zombie to open at 10am to accommodate the EDL. Management said they will donate money from the day’s trading to a cancer charity.
The UAF protest was held near the Dudley Central Mosque as police marched the racists to their rally in Coronation Gardens some streets away.
The mosque backed the counter-protest and arranged a social for anti-fascists to attend.
Imam Hashmi said, “We are living and working together in Dudley. Those people who are coming here want to divide us.”
Weyman Bennett closed the rally. He said, “In the West Midlands people remember a man called Mohammed Saleem who was murdered by a Nazi.
“When they organise on the streets it ends in murder. Our saying is very simple—never again.”
9.30am to 4pm Saturday 21 February,
TUC Congress House,
To book go to uaf.org.uk