By Sadie Robinson
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Protesters prepare to take on the racists on Saturday 19 March

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Issue 2490
Standing up to racism at the UAF conference
Standing up to racism at the UAF conference (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Campaigners spoke of a “new hope” for pushing back racism at Unite Against Fascism’s annual conference last Saturday.

The conference took place as governments across Europe target refugees and Muslims. But activists were clear that not everyone has fallen for the racist rhetoric of politicians.

Anti-racist campaigner Amal Azzudin said support for refugees in Calais had been “breathtaking”.

“A third of the UK did something to help refugees,” she said. “That gives us hope.”

Amal stressed the need to build anti-racist protests on Saturday 19 March. Demonstrations will take place in London, Glasgow and Cardiff, as well as in cities across Europe.

Greek anti-fascist Petros Constantinou

Greek anti-fascist Petros Constantinou (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Petros Constantinou is from Keerfa, a coalition against racism and fascism in Greece. He appealed for “joint action” across Europe on 19 March.

Petros said the drowning of refugees in the Aegean Sea was a “crime”.

He said, “All these refugees are welcome. If we cancel the debt and stop paying the bankers we have enough money to pay for houses and jobs for everybody.”

Shadow minister Diane Abbott

Shadow minister Diane Abbott (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Shadow minister Diane Abbott recently visited refugees in Calais.

She said, “They came from parts of the world where directly or indirectly Western military intervention had turned them into refugees.”

Abbott said it was important to support all migrants. “At least half of the people crossing the Mediterranean are not Syrian,” she said.

“They may not technically be refugees. But what are we to say? Because you can’t technically be a refugee we’re going to throw you back into the water?”

Weyman Bennett from Unite Against Fascism stressed that anti-fascists have had some victories.

“The British National Party now can’t form a party in Britain,” he said. “That’s a triumph of anti-fascism.”

But he said that a recent fascist protest in Dover, Kent, showed that “we can’t rest on our laurels”.

Trade unionists, students, councillors and representatives from refugee charities also spoke.

Clare from Waltham Forest in east London stressed the need for different tactics in taking on the racist Ukip party and fighting fascists.

Gerry Gable, editor of Searchlight magazine, said it was important to label fascists as fascist.

He added, “We should never ditch the united front strategy. It has been successful in holding back the fascists.”

Phil Turner from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, said the fascists are weaker in Britain than elsewhere in Europe.

He said this was “because of the united front approach”.

Roger Keeley from Huddersfield spoke about a recent anti-racist mobilisation against Britain First in Dewsbury.

“For the first time in my memory we outnumbered them,” he said. “I feel like a corner has been turned. People are elated.”

The protests on 19 March are crucial. Big demonstrations will show the scale of opposition to the government’s racism.

And they will show Muslims and refugees that they are not alone.

Fighting anti-Muslim racism

Workshops at the Unite Against Fascism conference looked at the government’s Prevent strategy.

Shelly Asquith from the National Union of Students denounced Prevent for “criminalising” Muslims.

Aman Ali from Muslim charity Mend said Prevent was “causing utter fear”.

He said, “A few years ago I felt despondent. But there’s more hope now.”

Muslims at the conference said unity against racism made them feel stronger.

Amina told Socialist Worker, “A lot of Muslims are scared. But it’s really heartening to see the support we are getting from different organisations.”

Protest against Pegida in Birmingham

Protest against Pegida in Birmingham (Pic: Geoff Dexter)

Racist Pegida outgunned in Birmingham

A small and bedraggled group of supporters of the anti-Muslim group Pegida gathered at the remote Birmingham International railway station last Saturday.

They were outnumbered by counter-demonstrators.

At most there were 200 at the Pegida rally, although the police tweeted, “Around 150 Pegida protesters mustered”.

Most of the turnout were veterans of the English Defence League and other fascist outfits.

Around 100 counter demonstrators from Unite Against Fascism and the West Midlands Anti Fascist Network gathered at the station.

Pegida was protected by hundreds of police with dogs.

Meanwhile over 150 people came to a broadly-based anti-Pegida protest in the centre of Birmingham.

Tommy Robinson, former head of the EDL, was the main speaker at the Pegida rally. He told reporters he had selected an empty industrial estate as the venue.

He said, “It’s sad that we have to come into the middle of nowhere to make sure we can show ourselves for what we are, to make sure that bottles and bricks are not raining in on top of us.”

The brutal acts of Pegida groups elsewhere in Europe show the importance of keeping such groups small and on the defensive.

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