Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott has backed a protest against racists and fascists in London on Saturday.
Far right supporters of Tommy Robinson plan to protest in the capital after he was jailed last month for breaching a court order.
Some 350 of Robinson’s supporters marched through Leeds last Friday chanting, “Muslims off our streets.” Just four days later, a mosque and a Sikh gurdwara in the Beeston area of the city were set alight in what police are treating as linked hate crimes.
It shows how racist and fascist marches can shift the mood and give racists confidence – and shows why they must be opposed on the streets.
Pritpal Singh is chair of the gurdwara. He told Socialist Worker, “We are sad because these things should never happen. We live in a civilised society. It is hurtful.
“We are not aggressive people – we love everyone. The doors of the gurdwara are always open. We serve food to the homeless.”
Anti-racists have called a vigil in Beeston on Sunday in response.
Anti-racist Sally Kincaid lives in Beeston. She told Socialist Worker, “Whoever carried out these attacks, it’s clear that last Friday’s march has given racists and fascists more confidence.
“That’s why it’s important that people are out on the streets opposing them and that we unite to push them back.”
Sally knows why it matters for anti-fascists to make a stand after attacks. Her car was firebombed in 2003 after her address appeared on a Nazi website called Redwatch.
She said going public about the attack was “the best defence” against the Nazis. “One of the reasons that we love Beeston is because of the huge amount of local support we had afterwards,” she added.
Leeds Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) called Sunday’s vigil. In a statement it said, “We can’t allow the far right to separate our community.
“The threat of a resurgent racist and fascist movement on the streets is ever present. We urgently need to mobilise the anti-racist majority to confront this threat.”
The GMB union has backed Sunday’s vigil. And NEU union joint general secretary Kevin Courtney sent a message of solidarity. “Good luck to all those attending the vigil,” he said. “You are building communities and cohesion.
“The racists who attacked the mosque and temple would make life worse for all of us. Unity is strength – in trade unions and in communities.”
Trade unions are also getting behind the counter-protest in London. The CWU postal workers’ union and the RMT union have sent letters to branches encouraging members to join the protest against racists and fascists in London.
And a number of union leaders have signed a statement opposing the march for Tommy Robinson. These include Kevin Courtney, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, CWU general secretary Dave Ward and TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes.
Mick Whelan, Aslef general secretary, has also signed the statement along with Bfawu president Ian Hodson and CWU vice president Jane Loftus.
The statement said, “Robinson and his supporters have been attempting to build the kind of mass far right street movements that are a fact of political life across much of Europe.
“They have been using Islamophobia as a central tool to build up support. But they are also threatening all migrants, Labour Party supporters and anti-racists.
“We cannot allow Robinson, a violent racist, to become the focus for a new far right street movement.”
Anti-racist and anti-fascist protests will also take place in York on Saturday in response to protests backing Robinson.
In York the far right protest plans to assemble at the same time and place as the city’s annual Pride march. York SUTR has appealed to people to make the counter-protest “the biggest anti-racist event this city has ever seen”.