Socialist Worker

Updated - thousands of anti-fascists rally against Tommy Robinson supporters

by Socialist Worker reporters
Issue No. 2613

Anti racist activists

The anti-Nazi movement is growing again (Pic: Guy Smallman)


A march of thousands of people against supporters of Nazi Tommy Robinson on Saturday capped off a great couple of days for anti-racists.

Some 3,000 people joined an anti-fascist march in central London against a far right demonstration that called for Robinson to be released from jail.

It is the largest mobilisation by anti-Nazis against a new fascist street movement, and was clearly much stronger than previous ones.

There was a sense that anti-Nazi movement is growing again, and that people had responded to the warning sent after 15,000 people marched in support of Robinson last month.

Around 6,000 fascists and racists joined the "Free Tommy" rally a few hundred metres away, with lines of police between the two demonstrations.  The Robinson supporters mobilised less than half the number that were out on 9 June.

The far right mobilisation was still larger than the anti-fascists. But their numbers had fallen sharply, and the anti-fascist side had grown very strongly.

The battle is far from over. We can expect the fascists to seek to capitalise when Robinson is released from jail.

But Saturday was a good step in the right direction.

The real face of Tommy Robinson
The real face of Tommy Robinson
  Read More

One anti-fascist, Jenny Chan, told Socialist Worker, “This march is bigger than I expected. I think a lot of people like me must have heard about how anti-fascists were outnumbered last time, and thought they should come along to this one to make sure our side was bigger."

Rey, another protester said, “We have to be able to come out and criticise and yell at the Nazis. This is a bigger demonstration than last time when there was just a few hundred of us and thousands of them.”

The demonstration was swelled by the clear support of trade union branches and Labour Party groups. As a result, it felt much more confident and combative than previous ones.

The march called by Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) linked up with another from the Anti-Fascist Network. The two groups cheered and chanted together as they met at the bottom of Whitehall.

The few racists that came to shout at the anti-fascist rally were quickly seen off.

There were at least 23 trade union banners on the march representing the Unite, UCU, CWU, Unison, RMT, PCS and NEU unions. Many were from union branches outside London.

Actively

RMT activist Glen Hart told Socialist Worker, “As a union we realised that we didn’t have enough numbers last time and were outnumbered. So we actively pushed for this one.

“It’s great the numbers we’ve got—especially after the demonstration against Donald Trump yesterday. It shows that there’s a reaction to what’s going on with the far right.”

Peter Kavanagh, London and Eastern regional secretary of Unite, told the protest, “We’re seeing the rise of the new far right.

“It’s time for the trade union movement to get involved. We will go into every workplace we organise in and equip our activists with the arguments against the far right.”

And CWU vice president Jane Loftus said, “Wherever we are, we fight racism and fascism. Let’s take that into the trade union movement.”

There were also at least five Labour Party banners, as well as banners from Momentum and Jewish Voice for Labour.

Dawn, vice chair of Swansea West Labour Party, told Socialist Worker, “It’s crucial that Labour is involved in this movement.”

And Sally Skaife from Hackney North Labour Party said, “I was at the last protest. Those of us who were there really spread the word.”

Labour Party MP David Lammy also spoke. He said the demonstration would “Send a message to Tommy Robinson and his crew—we are challenging you.”

Speakers and protesters talked about why it’s important to march—and linked the rise of the Nazis to Donald Trump.

Yet there’s still a lot of work to be done to make sure anti-fascists outnumber the Nazis—and an urgent need to keep building a movement that can beat them back.

Nahella Ashraf from Manchester Stand Up To Racism said, “We need to be much bigger—because they have a plan. They want a movement for Tommy Robinson to lead when he comes out of prison.”

Weyman Bennett from SUTR said, “What they’re trying to do is intimidate us. They say the streets belong to them. But whose streets are they? They’re our streets”.  

Michael Bradley from UAF said, “Don’t think it’s enough to march on the days these people don’t. And don’t think it’s enough to take on austerity but not racism.”

"Today has to be a first step. Something has to start to change.”


Robinson supporters were less confident

The mood on the pro-Robinson demonstration was less triumphant than on 9 June as numbers fell and the organisers tried to make sure the crowd was on its best behaviour after the fights with cops last time.

Kevin Carroll, Tommy Robinson's cousin who helped co-found the fascist English Defence League (EDL), appealed to the drunken mob. “Anybody that throws a missile at police officers—you have sold Tommy out,” he said.

As Carroll spoke, a few racist thugs had started a ruck with police officers who tried to confiscate an effigy of London Labour mayor Sadiq Khan having sex with a pig.

The fascists and racists were frustrated by the 250,000 people who protested against their hero Donald Trump in London the day before.

Carroll slammed Khan as a “lap dog” who “insulted our greatest friend and ally Donald Trump”. And another one of the speakers was one of the seven people who had protested in support of Trump in Sheffield.

It emerged on Saturday that a diplomat representing Trump lobbied the British government on behalf of Robinson and threatened to publicly criticise its handling of his jailing.

Sam Brownback, the US ambassador for international religious freedom, is reported to have raised concerns over Robinson’s safety in prison with the British ambassador in Washington.

Islamophobia was the binding theme at Saturday’s far right demonstration.

Ukip leader Gerrard Batten whipped up the crowd by pushing the lie that sexual abuse is the preserve of Muslim men and referred to Islam as the “cult of Muhammad” which produces “rape gang members”.

The rally confined that Ukip has thrown its lot in with the fascists in the hope of rebuilding electoral support.

“If you want to make a difference then you have to organise politically,” said Batten.

“If you want our descendants to be free, not live under Islamic ideology, then I ask you to rally to Ukip's banner.”

Loud cheers erupted through the crowd when a sizeable contingent of the alt right group Generation Identity marched down from Trafalgar Square.

There were speakers and video messages from across the European far right, including the French fascist National Rally (Front National rebrand) and Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders.

After the demonstration a group of fascists attacked RMT union members in a pub. Senior assistant general secretary Steve Hedley was taken to hospital.


Driver victim of hate attack

On Saturday fascist thugs blocked a bus on one of the roads next to Trafalgar Square. The driver was a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf.

It was one of the most shocking incidents on a day that saw the Nazis frustrated.

In video footage of the incident one Nazi appears to give the sieg heil salute toward the bus.

Another photo shows a topless man holding two fingers up to the bus driver through the glass.

Some people on the fascist mobilisation banged on the bus windows with “free Tommy” placards. Others brandished ones reading “Britain Loves Trump”.


US figures for Robinson

High profile US political figures have been making demands over Robinson’s treatment.

In an interview on the LBC radio station, Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon remarked that Robinson has “got to be released from prison”.

The station’s political editor Theo Usherwood challenged him on air. According to Usherwood, Bannon responded off air by saying, “Fuck you. Don’t you fucking say you’re calling me out. You fucking liberal elite. Tommy Robinson is the backbone of this country.”

It emerged on Saturday that a diplomat representing Trump threatened to publicly criticise the British government’s handling of Robinson’s jailing.

The US ambassador for international religious freedom allegedly raised concerns over Robinson’s safety with the British ambassador in Washington.


Nazis go to Cambridge

Supporters of Tommy Robinson have said they will march in Cambridge this Saturday. A counter-protest is supported by Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge, councillor Lewis Herbert, the leader of Cambridge city council, and many trade unionists and anti-racists.

Oppose racist and fascist march for Tommy Robinson in Cambridge—Sat 21 July, 2pm, Petersfield Park, Cambridge CB1 1BB. Hosted by Cambridge Stand Up To Racism and Unite Against Fascism. Check details at bit.ly/CambsAgainstRobinson

Fascist SDL in Glasgow

The fascist Scottish Defence League (SDL) was set to demonstrate in Glasgow this Saturday. Unite Against Fascism Scotland has called a counter-protest.

SDL member Peter Morgan was last week convicted of charges under the Terrorism Act. He will be sentenced on 16 August.

Police found bomb-making equipment at his Edinburgh flat. Cops also found a swastika flag and other Nazi paraphanelia.

Over the last 15 months UAF Scotland has mobilised six times against the SDL and NF. Each time they massively outnumbered the fascists.

Oppose the Nazi SDL! No to Islamophobia! Sat 21 July, 12 noon, George Square, Glasgow

If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.