Around 1,000 supporters of the racist English Defence League (EDL) gathered in Preston last Saturday.
They came from all over the country. Many wore balaclavas and paramilitary hoodies embossed with the name of their division. They marched into the city square chanting, “Burn a mosque” and “Who the fuck is Allah?” Activists from the Nazi British National Party were seen on the protest.
The EDL’s behaviour undermines the lie that it is only opposed to “Islamic extremism”. It clearly hates all Muslims.
Just 30 metres down the road 300 people joined the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and Preston Trades Council counter-protest.
The contrast could not be clearer. Our protest was young, black, white and Asian, but most importantly it was local. It was supported by 12 Labour councillors and independent socialist councillor Michael Lavalette.
Sadly there were very few Muslims. The authorities have spent a month trying to deter Muslims from protesting. Police chiefs toured mosques and Asian youth centres warning people to stay away.
The police also handed out thousands of leaflets urging the public to keep out of the town centre on the day.
The authorities spend an average of £200,000 trying to stop people attending demonstrations like this—and it’s always anti-racists they target. They don’t bother leafleting the pubs where EDL supporters gather.
The police also served a Section 14 Order on the UAF demonstration, allowing them to limit it to just one hour. Officers threatened to arrest protest organisers if they did not comply.
But when the police ordered the protest to disperse, everyone sat down and refused to go.
The reason was simple—Preston was their town and they would not move until the EDL had left the city. For 30 minutes the protesters held their ground chanting “EDL go to hell, take your Nazi mates as well”.
Anti-racist protesters stayed until the news came though that the EDL had left.
No one can be complacent—on Saturday the EDL put close to 2,000 people on the streets of Preston and Nuneaton.
And it is gearing up for its “big one” in Luton, 5 February 2011.
This racist movement was born in Luton. The EDL has already told its supporters it will not co-operate with police.
One EDL division has sent a message to its members advertising the Luton demo with a short video showing a mosque in Georgia, eastern Europe, being burnt to the ground.
UAF will be calling a national demonstration against the EDL on 5 February. Every anti-racist should be there.
EDL supporters threw lit fireworks and bottles at local anti-racist demonstrators in Nuneaton, in the West Midlands, last Saturday.
The EDL bussed some 800 people to their “protest”.
They threw missiles at up to 300 counter-demonstrators, who had come to show that racism and violence are not welcome in Nuneaton.
Local NUT and Unison union branches backed the protest, which was greatly boosted by the arrival of local young Asian people.
Other anti-racists gathered to defend the area’s mosque.
After the EDL had got back on their transport and left town the anti-racists were invited to warm up with hot drinks at the local Asian community centre.
A public meeting in Nuneaton on Thursday of last week also saw around 60 people express their opposition to the EDL.