Around 2,000 anti-racists joined a march and rally against the Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA) in central London today.
Called by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) and Unite Against Fascism (UAF), it was an important test in the battle against the resurgent far right.
The DFLA pulled the smallest numbers to date for a national mobilisation—around 1,500 to 2,000 joined its march from Hyde Park to Whitehall. Some stayed in pubs rather than join the march, others left early for the pubs.
And then their generator broke down, curtailing their speeches.
It came on the one-year anniversary of the "original" FLA's first demonstration, which saw up to 20,000 march under the banner of "united against extremism”.
The SUTR demonstration saw speeches from trade unions, Labour Party members and anti-racist organisations.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott sent a message of support that said, “We’re proud to walk in the traditions of anti-racism campaigners and activists. Your fight is our fight.”
Many on the anti-racist protest spoke about the necessity to oppose the far right on the streets as well as taking on racist ideas.
The next focus for all those wishing to oppose the poison of Tommy Robinson and his cronies as well as the state racism that comes from the Tories is the national unity demonstration on 17 November
Hal, a student at Queen Mary university in east London, told Socialist Worker that a “united front is definitely needed, it’s a really broad coalition today.
“We need to oppose them [on the streets], but it’s also important to convey the message and to have the arguments with people, and we’ve got to win them”, he added.
Some speeches pointed to the widespread threat of fascism. “We are living in dangerous times”, Unmesh Desai, a Labour member of the Greater London Assembly, told the crowd.
“We see the rise of the far right across Europe, but no matter how many people they bring out we will be there.”
And he blasted the DFLA, calling them “Tommy Robinson’s street army, an alliance of racists, fascists and people who should know better”.
Fatima, a nurse on the anti-racist protest, said, “I’m fed up with the current climate, we can’t sit by and watch anymore. I saw the rise of racists in Germany, and that’s when I got organised.”
Fatima said she was going to continue being active because, “If they don’t have people on the opposite side to stop them then they will carry on.”
Another, smaller, anti-fascist protest took place in central London at the same time as the main one in Whitehall.
Some DFLA thugs were disappointed at their reduced turnout.
One DFLA supporter said, "We had 20,000 a year ago—what's this? 1,500.” But in a sign of the fascist core that remains, he added, "But at least it's the proper people this time."
Their final rally mustered only hundreds, and groups of racist thugs marauded through the adjacent streets to Whitehall.
At the DFLA rally the main focus of the few speeches was the racist lie that Muslim or Asian culture is responsible for sexual abuse of women and girls.
But on the counter-protest Alex Kenny, east London secretary of the NEU education union said “Muslims are being targeted for what they wear, and what they believe in.”
And he said Islamophobic attacks are “where the words of Theresa May and Boris Johnson end up.”
The march showed that anti-racists organising against the DFLA has had an impact, but it doesn’t mean that the threat has gone away.
They are likely to try to mobilise thousands after the result of Tommy Robinson's retrial on 23 October.
Weyman Bennett, SUTR co-covenor said it had been “an important day against the fascist DFLA.
“Opposition works, the DFLA promised 6,000 and they didn’t deliver that.”
The next focus for all those wishing to oppose the poison of Tommy Robinson and his cronies as well as the state racism that comes from the Tories is the national unity demonstration on 17 November.
That needs to be big, with a larger turnout than today from trade unions as well as Labour supporters.
Today wasn’t the boost the DFLA were hoping for. But, Weyman warns, “there’s no room for complacency.”
“Germany had an anti-racist demonstration of over 200,000 today,” he said. “They’ve got organised because there are Nazis in parliament. We need to make sure we organise so any of these groups don’t get into any positions of power here.
“And even when they don’t manage that, their hatred leads to murder and attacks on the street. We need to keep organising.”