Anti-racists outnumbered the Football Lads Alliance (FLA)—two to one—in Manchester on Saturday for the first time since the group began mobilising on the streets last summer.
Over 600 joined the rally against the racist group organised by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) Manchester. They rallied in St Peter's Square then marched down next to where the FLA had gathered to chants of "Whose streets—our streets".
Shazzia from the Labour Party came as part of the SUTR delegation from the West Midlands. "It's really important to oppose groups like the FLA because they are here to build hatred and division in the community," she told Socialist Worker.
"By being here today we've shown them that they are not going to divide us with their hatred."
She added, "There is a majority of us and a minority of them—and that is how us should be."
The anti-racist turn out was built through broad-based support from Labour MPs, councillors and national and local trade unions.
Dawn Taylor, NEU education union divisional secretary, had come with a delegation from one of the dozens of trade unionists who supported the SUTR demonstration with banners. "The FLA does not speak for this city," she told Socialist Worker.
"Manchester is as diverse as it comes, as the chant goes—we're black, white Asian and we're gay."
She added, "It comes from bankers dividing working class people and thats what we need to oppose."
In a sharp contrast to the confidence on the anti-racist side, the FLA supporters were dour, demoralised and divided. They turned out at most 300—compared to 20,000 in London last October and 3,000 in Birmingham in March.
The FLA had planned to march through the city centre on the anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing to whip up Islamophobia.
But, as their march wasn't allowed to go ahead, at most 250 rallied in a near-empty Castlefield Bowl. Over 50 remained drinking in the adjacent Castlefield Hotel balcony, noticeably disappointed by their numbers.
FLA supporters in the crowd commented "This is fucking shit" to one another and blamed the leadership for "poor organisation like in Birmingham".
While smaller than their earlier outings, far right and racist politics ran through the rally much more openly. There were a few EDL members, people in Donald Trump hats and young Ukip members.
One of the star speakers was Trevor Coult from the Democrats and Veterans Party (DVP). It is a split from Ukip headed by failed leadership John Rees-Evans candidate who proposed a repatriation scheme taken from the Nazi British National Party.
To loud cheers Coult called to "replace our ministers with seasoned veterans" and boasted that 16 generals and commissioners supported or joined the DVP.
And he called FLA supporters to join them after the rally.
A speaker from Justice for Our Boys campaign called for deportation of foreign criminals.
A big focus at the rally was fighting against the far left undermining Britain. The compere said, "We should not bow down to Corbyn and the far left who can't count to five."
Speaker Vinnie Sullivan said that "our goal is to tackle the alt left" and warned against "Anarcho-Communism".
Despite a small mobilisation in Manchester the danger of the far right regrouping has not gone away.
The Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA), a larger breakaway group on the up, plan to march in Manchester on two week's time on 2 June. They were part of a 4,000-strong march and rally called by fascist former EDL leader Tommy Robinson in London last month.
And they are acting as bridge between the fascists and Ukip.
The pressure at the rally was for the two formations to unite. One DFLA member in the crowd told others, "We've tried every way to get together" and that it was up to "whoever has taken over" the FLA."
Anti-racists will have to mobilise again in large numbers on the 2 June.