Over 10,000 people protested against Nazi Tommy Robinson in central London on Sunday.
The march easily outnumbered Robinson’s “Brexit betrayal” demo, which was called with Ukip. It was a big step forward from previous occasions when Robinson’s forces have been bigger than the opposition.
The unity of Robinson’s fascists and the racists of Ukip was smaller than the unity of anti-fascists.But with the Tories in crisis over Brexit, the far right willl be trying to grow further.
Trade unionists, students, anti-fascists, socialists, women’s groups, Labour members, anarchists and others joined the counter-protest. It brought together Stand Up To Racism (SUTR), Unite Against Fascism, Momentum, Stop Trump and dozens of other groups.
People travelled from across Britain to join it.
Labour member Adam said he was there because “we need to defeat fascism”.
“All over Europe, right wing parties are getting elected,” he told Socialist Worker.
“There needs to be an alternative left wing party. But even media such as the Guardian attack Jeremy Corbyn because he speaks the truth and is for working people.
“We need to get Theresa May out and Jeremy Corbyn in.”
Protesters chanted, “Black and white, unite and fight,” and, “Any time, any place – punch a Nazi in the face,” as they marched down Regent Street from Portland Place.
There was a determined mood but also confidence because of the size of the protest.
Sumrah Anwar, a student in London told Socialist Worker, “I come from Manchester and I go to a mosque that Tommy Robinson has made people afraid to go to. It’s often closed down.
“We need to show he doesn’t want anything but publicity for himself and to cause trouble.”
Kenza joined her first demo in Britain. She said, “I’m from America and I’ve never been on a march like this. “Rallies like this are a good way of drawing people who aren’t usually involved in organising into activity.”
Mark, a Momentum activist from Tower Hamlets said, “It’s important to have unity against the far right and stop them taking advantage of the various crises across Europe and the collapse of neoliberalism.
“This march has got a good energy and I’m glad we’re all together rather than splintered into different sections. I think a lot of effort went into making sure that happened.”
Asif Khan from Watford Labour told Socialist Worker, “We need to show that, irrespective of whether you’re pro or anti EU, fascism isn’t the answer.
“Stephen Yaxley-Lennon [Robinson] is just an opportunist thug. We need to show that the vast majority of people don’t support his politics.
“And we also need to show that we can deliver social justice through politics. We’ve got to give people hope.”
We have shown we will not be pushed off the streets.
London Assembly member Unmesh Desai added, “We are against attempts to divide us.
“People have genuine fears about Brexit so let’s have a proper Brexit debate. Don’t let the right take it over – Tommy Robinson is not the solution.”
Banners included Islington North Labour Party, Gipsy Hill Labour, Walthamstow Labour, Hackney South and Shoreditch Labour, North Swindon Labour, Tower Hamlets Labour, Barnet local government Unison, London region UCU, Bromley Labour, Watford Labour, Hackney NUT, Homerton Hospital Unison, and Tower Hamlets Unison.
At a rally in Whitehall Nahella Ashraf from SUTR said, “Today is about unity against the fascists and the Nazis.
Weyman Bennett from SUTR hailed the turnout on the anti-fascist protest. “We are the many and they are the few,” he said.
“It’s not true that they beat us every time. We broke Nick Griffin – we smashed the Nazis on the streets.”
Weyman said Theresa May’s hostile environment for migrants has “opened the door to these scumbags”.
“We face dangerous times and we have to organise,” he said. “Many of us have come together and we have to carry on doing that. Enough is enough – never again.”
Claudia Webbe from Labour’s national executive committee brought “solidarity greetings from Jeremy Corbyn”.
“When Labour get into government we will not stop marching with you,” she said.
Joint general secretary of the NEU union Kevin Courtney said, “There are more of us than them today.
“In this country there is an anti-racist majority. Every time Tommy Robinson is on the streets we have to mobilise.”
And author Paul Mason said the Nazis “want to capture all the anger in British society”.
“To stop them we need unity,” he said.
Nita Sanghera, vice-president of the UCU Union, said, “We will be here again and again” to oppose the Nazis.
Ukip leader Gerard Batten shared a stage with Nazi Tommy Robinson on Sunday. A “Brexit Means Exit” march organised by Robinson and Ukip brought 5,000 people onto the streets.
Although the banner of the right’s mobilisation was Brexit, the glue that held the different elements together was racism, and particularly Islamophobia.
From the stage Robinson attacked the “Islamisation” of Britain. On the march people talked about moving out of areas because they were becoming “swamped” and describing Islam as “poison”.
Crisis-ridden Ukip is attempting to realign itself with a growing far right street movement. Ukip sees Robinson as the junior partner, but it may get a nasty shock.
The most popular chant in the march by far was “Oh Tommy, Tommy – Tommy, Tommy, Tommy, Tommy Robinson.”
Groups such as the far right Generation Identity were on the march.
Ukip members moved through the crowd with sheaves of leaflets asking people to join the racist party. From the stage Batten implored people to join.
“I want to make Ukip bigger and stronger. I want Ukip to organise in every constituency and take votes away from the treacherous political class,” he said. “We need more members, more money, more organisations and more candidates. I need you. I want you to join Ukip, I want you to play a part.”
Robinson asked the crowd to join him in becoming a member of Ukip, as he went through the process on his phone on stage.
Ukip talks of electoral politics, but its strategy appears to have shifted to an emphasis on more grassroots activity.
But if Batten’s intention for the march was to reach wider layers of people than established far right groups and Ukip he was unsuccessful. The turnout was smaller than Robinson has achieved on his own.
Batten has appointed Robinson as an adviser. Senior Ukip members and supporters have left the party in the last week because of that.
Batten did not defend himself from their attacks on him, instead he allowed Robinson to do it for him.
“The pressure that must have been on Gerard Batten in the past week, and he’s still standing,” said the Nazi.
Disgraced former Tory, now Ukip Welsh Assembly member Neil Hamilton spoke from the stage. And the Ukip spokesperson on immigration delivered a ranting speech about “a changing culture across Europe” where he likened Brexit supporters to the Terminator from the film.
The far right were on their best behaviour on the march – a stewards’ meeting at the start was told to take beers off people who were drinking. And when Robinson’s cousin Kevin Carroll saw a marcher soaking an EU flag in lighter fluid he hot-stepped it across the stage to make sure it didn’t go up in flames.
From the stage Robinson said, “The reality of this demonstration is beautiful British people.”
It’s important to keep calling him a Nazi to prevent him posing as the champion of the working class.
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