Around 3,000 fascists and racists rallied in support of Tommy Robinson in Salford, Greater Manchester, on Saturday.
The Nazi figurehead had called the rally outside the BBC Media City offices ahead of an upcoming Panorama documentary about him. It brought together old school British Nazis, Ukip leader Gerard Batten and a minority from a younger demographic that looks to Donald Trump and the US alt right.
Around 600 people joined a counter-mobilisation organised by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) and Unite Against Fascism (UAF).
Robinson is looking for opportunities to regroup the far right after a 10,000-strong anti-fascist mobilisation outnumbered a "Brexit Betrayal" march in London last December. It had been organised jointly by Robinson and Ukip.
The rally outside the BBC was organised on a politically harder basis than the Brexit Betrayal march. It was billed as a screening of “Panodrama”, a film targeting the “globalist” agenda of the BBC, playing on far right and antisemitic themes.
Among the far right crowd were people near the stage with T-shirts branding the BBC the "Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation”.
Robinson is also still looking at a potential lash-up with Ukip. He told the crowd that the movement had to politicise. “No one will take notice until we start to see take their seats,” he said to loud cheers.
He also announced that he was starting a new media venture with Australian alt-right figure Avi Yemeni—who calls himself the “world's proudest Jewish Nazi.”
Chants of "Nazi scum, off our street" rang out from the counter-protest on the other side of the building. It brought together Labour Party members, other socialists, trade unionists and students.
Kate Lewis, a Labour councillor from Salford, told Socialist Worker it was important to join the counter-protest “because racism is growing in this country”.
“The move to populism is helping the right wing and racism to grow,” she said.
And Lewis pointed to racist incidents in the run-up to the far right rally, including “No blacks” being sprayed onto a Congolese family's door in Salford. “You've got racist graffiti that looks back to the times of colonialism,” she said.
“We have fought against racism and we have to stand up to it now.”
Far right “Yellow Vest” protesters have been organising in nearby Manchester City Centre in recent weeks. They have targeted a picket line by rail workers in the RMT union, and Socialist Worker and SUTR campaigning stalls.
Alina has been part of mobilising against the Yellow Vests in Manchester. “Those on the other side are racists and we need to stand against them,” she told Socialist Worker.
“I wear the niqab and one person said, 'Take it off', because they wanted to film my face.”
She added, “Another time someone asked me if my husband knew I was on a protest because of my niqab.”
“I am wearing it because it is my choice, I can choose what to do and I know I should be here.”
The protest was boosted by coaches from Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield and other areas across the North of England.
Dee, a young worker from Lancaster, told Socialist Worker, “If you believe in something, you should take action not just talk about it.
“We have to show that the people on the other side that they do not represent the majority.”
She added, “I know people voted for Brexit for a lot of different reasons, but the rhetoric around migrants has made racists feel more confident to speak out.
“Whenever you see racism in your family or workplace, call it out.”
Meyuni, a Manchester Metropolitan University student, said it was important to take to the streets against the fascists. “We have to squash their confidence,” she told Socialist Worker.
“These sorts of protest against the racists are important, we need more of them.”
The far right are still a danger.
National demonstrations by SUTR in London, Cardiff and Glasgow on Saturday 16 March can boost the movement to take on racism and the far right.