Anti-fascists protesters in Newcastle outnumbered racists from a group called Pegida by ten to one on a demonstration today, Saturday.
As many as 3,000 anti-racists marched through the city on a counter-demonstration against the recently formed group that targets Islam.
Pegida had hoped to copy the success that the group has had in some parts of Germany by rallying thousands. But no more than 300 turned up, mostly Nazis from the English Defence League (EDL) and British National Party (BNP) bussed in from all over the country.
But the anti-fascists were overwhelmingly from Newcastle.
Pegida emerged in Germany at the end of last year and mobilised tens of thousands under its Islamophobic slogans until anti-racist protests pushed it back. Newcastle anti-fascists were determined to show it was not welcome.
Northumbria University student Shohaib told Socialist Worker, “The protest was epic. We were ten times the size of them. They’re the minority – but they’re the ones causing all the problems.”
Hassan, another protester, agreed. He told Socialist Worker “People shouldn’t be targeted just because of their religion.
“But it was fantastic to see the amount of people that came out today.”
The anti-fascist demo was called by Newcastle Unites, and supported by Unite Against Fascism (UAF).
UAF joint secretary, Weyman Bennett, spoke at the rally. He said, “Pegida’s best friends are the EDL and the BNP. And what did we do to Nick Griffin? We kicked him out.
“The people that belong in the dustbin of history are Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and Pegida. There’s a tiny group of Nazis over there. These streets belong to us.”
Simon Hall from Newcastle Unites also spoke. He said, “Somebody needs to give the Nazis an atlas – this is Newcastle, not Nuremberg.
“But this isn’t about driving Pegida back to Germany. It’s about driving the Nazis back into the sewers that they crawled out of.”
Other speakers included the Labour MP for Newcastle Central, Chi Onwurah, and Respect MP George Galloway.
Labour councillors Dipu Ahad and David Stockdale, who have played a central role in Newcastle Unites, also spoke.
The counter-demo was multiracial, with clear support from the Muslim, Jewish and Hindu communities. It also had strong support from trade unions, with banners from the National Union of Mineworkers, Northern Region TUC and Unison.
There were also delegations from the PCS and RMT unions.
Oskar was one of the anti-fascists. He told Socialist Worker “I’m a member of the Jewish community. It’s 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.
“Pegida say that Muslims are our natural enemies. But we know they say they’re for us [Jewish people] because they want to divide us.
“As a Jewish person, I know that if we don’t stand up when other groups are attacked by racists, sooner or later they’re going to come for us.”
A young Muslim woman, who didn’t want to give her name, agreed. She said, “We’re not just here to fight racism as Muslims. We’re here to fight racism for humanity as a whole.”
Weyman told the rally that it was important to continue the fight against racism by joining the Stand up to Racism marches in London, Cardiff and Glasgow on Saturday 21 March.
He said, “There’s an argument that austerity has been caused by immigrants. There’s an argument that the problem with the NHS is to do with the languages that people speak.
“But the people who caused the crisis in our society are not immigrants, are not black people, are not Muslims, are not Jews. The people who caused the crisis in our society are those at the top.
“On 21 March there are anti-racist demonstrations planned all across Europe. I want to see people march in Glasgow, London and Cardiff on that day.”
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