Several Labour MPs and leading trade unionists have backed a protest against Nazi Tommy Robinson in Salford, Greater Manchester, this Saturday.
Shadow ministers Angela Rayner and Cat Smith are among those supporting the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) and Unite Against Fascism counter-mobilisation. Labour left group Momentum branches from Manchester and Stockport also planned a protest.
A statement from the Salford Unison union branch slammed Robinson’s attempts to paint himself as a free speech martyr ahead of a planned BBC Panorama documentary. “Protesting against the far right is not about attacking free speech,” it said.
“It is about recognising that wherever they go their actions cause violence and division”.
The Nazi figurehead hopes to marshal the forces of the British far right outside the BBC Media City in Salford.
Robinson is a former member of the fascist British National Party (BNP) and co-founder of the English Defence League (EDL). Two instances last week hammered home his racist agenda.
A leaked video showed Robinson boasting about scoring drugs and proclaiming himself “king of the whole Islam race”.
It shows him refer to a taxi driver in Bologna, Italy, as a “little Paki who drives a car”.
Robinson tried to dismiss this as “banter”—and protested that there are “multiple Asians, multiple Asians” in the group chat. “This could have been so much worse … some of the banter that I’ve had in this group,” he said.
A Rape Crisis centre advertising help for black, Asian and minority ethnic women received abuse after a Facebook post by Robinson attacked their publicity last Friday. A spokesperson said that they had “significant volume of abusive phone calls, messages and emails, many of which are of an overtly racist nature”.
The Wycombe, Chiltern and South Buckinghamshire centre supports all victims of abuse. It also provides a specialist service for black and Asian women who can face added barriers to accessing help.
The Salford rally is Robinson’s first public outing after anti-fascists outnumbered his joint march with Ukip in London last December. It comes at a time when different groups jockeying for leadership on the far right.
The fascists have been organising “Yellow Vest” protests in London, Manchester and other towns. Their leader James Goddard was arrested last week.
Around 40 Yellow Vest protesters tried to rampage through Haymarket in central London last Saturday. Supporters of SUTR outnumbered small numbers of “Yellow Vests” in Manchester and Durham on the same day.
While the “Yellow Vest” numbers are small, it shows that they are confident to try and bring violence onto the streets. Anti-fascists must oppose them.
All out to protest against the racists on 16 March
Anti-racists are booking coaches from across Britain to the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) national demonstration in London on Saturday 16 March.
Transport is coming from Sheffield, Manchester, Nottingham and Cambridge. There will also be demonstrations in Cardiff and Glasgow on the same day. Weyman Bennett, co-convenor of SUTR, said the demonstrations were a key opportunity to push back against the far right and racism. “We are in the fight for our lives,” he said.
“The right are all linking up and Islamophobia is the key thing that holds them together—and behind Islamophobia are other forms of racism.”