More than a thousand people demonstrated against the racist English Defence League (EDL) in Blackburn last Saturday.
Asian, black and white people—the vast majority from the local area—came to the anti-racist event, called by Blackburn and Darwen United Against Racism.
Unite Against Fascism (UAF), Blackburn Trades Council, Blackburn College students union and Youth On A Mission supported it.
The Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM) also backed the event. It’s the first time a regional body of mosques has backed a counter-protest since the racists started organising in 2009.
As protester Zaheer told Socialist Worker, “We are sick of living under our own imposed curfew while racists run riot.”
A thousand people gathered in the city centre while hundreds more stayed on street corners to defend their areas.
Gail joined the protest. She told Socialist Worker, “We live well together here. The EDL wants to cause division. We won’t let it.”
The mood was defiant. Mulana Rafiq from the LCM led the crowd in a chant of, “No to racism! No to fascism!”
Martin Smith, a national UAF officer, told the crowd, “I’ve just come from Liverpool where the EDL tried to attack a joint UAF conference with the Unite union and the Anthony Walker Foundation.
“We chased them off. But it tells us what kind of hardcore racist scum they are.”
Anti-racists came to show solidarity from across the region.
“If you come for my Muslim brothers and sisters you have to come through me first,” Michael Lavalette, independent socialist councillor from Preston, told the crowd.
Police tried to limit the number of people protesting against the EDL, and so the LCM called on mosques to send only 50 people each. The police then created an atmosphere of intimidation—surrounding anti-racist protesters with metal barricades.
Saif, one of the protesters, told Socialist Worker, “They treating us like we are the criminals.”
The EDL had up to 2,000 people on their protest—the vast majority bussed in from outside the area. They can still mobilise significant numbers, but they were frustrated and fought among themselves.
Worryingly, racists were out in Blackburn the previous night targeting mosques.
Five mosques were vandalised and the words BNP and EDL were spray painted.
The resilience of the EDL, and the racist activity that always accompanies them, show why it is vital that even larger numbers are mobilised for future protests.
West Midlands UAF regional conference also took place on Saturday. There was an Islam Awareness Week workshop on Sunday in Birmingham.
Over 50 people attended a meeting to defend multiculturalism with author Danny Dorling in Sheffield last week.