Over 2,000 racists and fascists marched through Manchester on Saturday in another warning of the growing threat of the far right.
The racist demonstration was called by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA) to stir up hatred against Muslims on the one-year anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing.
But the jailing of Nazi Tommy Robinson after his actions outside a Leeds court last week has acted as a lightning rod for the right. The DFLA marchers chanted, "O, Tommy, Tommy"—showing that Robinson has gone from a marginal figure on their demonstrations to a main focus.
The march was a sea of Union Jack and England flags and banners proclaiming, "Make Britain Great Again". There were also flags with the slogan, "Don't tread on me"—associated with the racist right in the US South.
A big focus on the protest were child sexual exploitation (CSE) scandals in towns, such as Rochdale and Telford, where the police and local authorities have failed victims. Fascists and racists use CSE scandals to push the lie that sexism and abuse are the preserve of Muslim men.
Tommy Robinson was a fascist and he still is a fascist.
Dan Lewis, CWU union North West chair
Robinson was arrested outside the Leeds Court because he was filming during an abuse case, with the aim of whipping up Islamophobia.
Attacking the left was also a feature of the march, with placards attacking "racist Labour" and others aimed at Stand Up To Racism.
The DFLA billed it as a march of remembrance and its supporters were initially relatively restrained, but this began to gradually break down.
As the DFLA marched near the SUTR demonstration some tried to move towards it and shouted "shame on you" at the cops who wouldn't let them. They walked up and tried to attack people filming them from the pavement.
At the SUTR protest chants of "Nazi scum, off our streets" and "Black and white, unite and fight" rang out.
It had broad support from Labour MPs, councillors and trade unions across the North West of England and further afield.
Coaches came from London and West Yorkshire.
It underlined the need to build opposition to the far right ahead of a planned "Free Tommy" demonstration in central London next Saturday.
The fascists are angry—and sense an opportunity to build and regroup around turning Robinson into a "free speech" martyr. Around 350 of them rampaged in Leeds on Friday, chanting, "Muslims, off our streets".
At the SUTR protest Dan Lewis, CWU union North West chair, told Socialist Worker, "Tommy Robinson was a fascist and he still is a fascist.
"He hasn't changed saying the same stuff—if he had changed, he would be saying something different."
Mobilising against the fascists and racists next Saturday, and wherever they try to march, could not be more important. As Tara, a student from Manchester, told Socialist Worker, "We need stuff like this to make people see that we're not going to give them a space."
Campaign summits against racism
Around 130 people joined the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) regional summit in Birmingham last Saturday.
Charlie Williams from the Children of the Windrush Movement vowed, “We are going to hold more rallies to unite the community and keep Windrush in the public eye.
Former Labour MP and campaigner Clare Short warned of the dangers of racist scapegoating. “Racism is about divide and rule,” she said.
“And our capacity to demand reform and change, whether that’s workplace organisation or political organisation, is weakened.”
Other speakers included left wing Labour MP Chris Williamson and SUTR co-convenor Weyman Bennett.
Over 90 people joined the Sheffield SUTR summit last Saturday. Lord Mayor of Sheffield and Green Party councillor Magid Magid, who came to Britain as a child refugee from Somalia, said, “We’re here today because racism isn’t going to go away by itself and it really needs to be fought.
“Refugees still drown in the Mediterranean, still rot in squalid camps, because we have a government that doesn’t value the lives of black and brown people.”
Activists in Manchester plan a regional summit for 23 June, with speakers including Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott.