The state allowed 250 followers of the racist English Defence League (EDL) to march on parliament on Friday last week.
The EDL was supporting the racist Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who was visiting Britain to speak in parliament at the invitation of the UK Independence Party.
But the EDL and Wilders did not go unopposed.
At short notice around 400 protesters joined the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) counter-protest, blocking the road for two hours.
The EDL was eventually able to march – but only because of the violent intervention of the police.
EDL thugs assembled outside the Tate Britain gallery about 10 minutes walk away. Many arrived drunk from local pubs, and were allowed to bring their drinks on the march.
Shama, a journalism student, told Socialist Worker how shocked she was at the racism from EDL supporters.
“They started chanting ‘We want our country back’. My parents are Muslims and they talked about them as if they are animals.”
James Haywood was there with a group of 50 students from Goldsmiths college in south east London.
“The police used neck and head locks and held people face down on the floor,” he said.
“I was thrown on the ground, punched in the face and dragged into a police van. There was a guy on the floor – his leg so badly hurt he couldn’t bend it.
“They said they were charging us with obstruction and a disturbance of the peace.
“We ended up at Sutton police station, where we were left for an hour. Then they said if we gave our names, date of birth and home address they would let us go without charge.
“My mates were put in vans that went to Croydon, Lewisham and Bromley. They were all dumped and released.
“The police clearly wanted us removed. It shows what side they are on.”
Trade unionists and students linked arms to try and hold the road.
“Our protest was completely peaceful, but the police kettled and removed us – while allowing the racists to march,” Hugh Lanning, deputy general secretary of the PCS union told Socialist Worker.
“[Home secretary] Alan Johnson should not have allowed the EDL to march, especially after the violence in Stoke. They want to stir up racism and promote fear.”
Zita Holbourne from the PCS executive and race relations committee went to the Tate gallery’s management with her concerns about the safety of PCS members working there.
“They didn’t heed our warnings,” she told Socialist Worker. “EDL supporters walked into the gallery.”
“Yet on the other side the police were heavy handed. I witnessed police dragging UAF protesters by their hair and legs.
“Sometimes there were four to six police officers dragging one person away.
“But the EDL was allowed to stay in groups in central London. One of our black members was confronted by a group of EDL at Victoria station on his way home.”
Some EDL supporters gave Nazi salutes. A group pushed and slapped a student, shouting “Fuck off, Paki.”
The EDL’s token Sikh, Guramit Singh, said in his speech to the mob, “God bless the Muslims – they’ll need it when they’re burning in hell.”
And Wilders spouted racist filth at a press conference after his meeting. He called Islam “a retarded culture” and a “fascist ideology”.
Weyman Bennett from UAF said, “It is a disgusting day when Nazis march. But they didn’t march unopposed.
“We need a movement of thousands to stop them. We know where this story can go. It starts with marches and ends with murder. Bolton is a line in the sand.
“That is why we need to go to every trade union, every college and every anti-fascist with the message – get to Bolton on 20 March.”
Union general secretaries from the PCS, FBU, POA, NAPO, NUJ, RMT and other unions at the Trade Union Coordinating Group on Saturday demanded an inquiry into the police’s behaviour.
Dudley activists are preparing to stop the EDL marching there on Sunday 4 April. So far over 200 trade unionists and community and faith groups have signed a unity statement opposing the racists.
Reballots have opened the way to bigger struggle