Over 250 people gathered in a peaceful protest to oppose the Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA) march in Sunderland on Saturday. The event, organised by Sunderland Unites and Stand Up To Racism North East, was a step forward in the fight against racism and the far right in the city.
A number of small protests by right wing groups in Sunderland have tried to use sexual abuse cases to encourage racism. The anti-racist protest on Saturday lifted the mood and showed that something can be done against them.
The racist DFLA had been invited by Justice for Women, whose leading figures have links with far-right groups. There were very few women and children on the march. And although the DFLA were at least twice the size of the anti-racists, it was a smaller turnout than they had hoped for.
Their promise of a “family day out” soon turned ugly as DFLA thugs attacked the anti-racists and police.
The counter protest by local residents, trade unions and anti-racist campaigners heard speeches condemning moves to cynically exploit recent cases of sexual abuse.
Zaf Iqbal, BME officer for the local Labour Party and chair of Sunderland Interfaith Forum, said, “The DFLA were not welcome and would only sow division and hate.”
There were a lot of local people from Sunderland on the anti-racist protest.
One local resident said, “There is no room for hatred in our city.” Another said “an important issue had been turned into a race issue”.
Anti-racist protester Annie said she was impressed by the number of local groups that had come together to oppose the racists.
Sunderland Unites aims to build a wider anti-racist movement in the city and organise transport for the National anti-racist protest on 17 November in London.