Waltham Forest runs the racists out of town
The racists and fascists of the English Defence League (EDL) suffered a humiliating defeat last Saturday.
Thousands of anti-fascists blocked their march route and stopped their rally in Walthamstow, east London. The EDL only managed to mobilise 200, mostly hardcore Nazis.
The anti-fascist demonstration, in contrast, brought some 4,000 people together representing the diversity of one of London’s most proudly multi-racial areas.
“It’s been a brilliant day—we completely trashed them,” said Siobhan, a Waltham Forest resident. “We had a really united campaign that reached out to the whole community. We wanted to stop the EDL and that’s what we did.”
Police had planned to march the EDL along Forest Road, the main road from Blackhorse Road tube station, to their rally outside the town hall. But this route was blocked by the anti-fascist march, which staged a sit-down protest at a key junction with Hoe Street. Demonstrators chanted, “Sit down! Join the fight! EDL have no right!”
Local resident Aftab told Socialist Worker, “We live just round the corner and we feel strongly about this. I lived here in the 1980s and I’m not going back to that racism. So it’s good to see so many people here.”
This mass action sent police plans into disarray. From that moment on it was downhill all the way for the Nazis.
The police tried to avoid the sit-down by taking the EDL through the back streets, while kettling the anti-racist protest. But several groups of anti-racists broke out. One party of around 400 surged out of a side street and occupied the EDL’s rally point before they could get there.
EDL leaders Tommy Robinson and Kev Carroll were there with a dozen or so supporters. They had to take down their sound system.
Robinson and Carroll were visibly shaken by the size and anger of the anti-fascist presence at the very place they had planned to hold their rally. The pair were later witnessed having a blazing row with each other.
As they waited in vain for their protest to arrive, the tiny group of EDL leaders were visibly humiliated when an anti-racist shouted “Did you lot come in a taxi?” Meanwhile local youths in small groups played cat and mouse with the police and harassed the EDL.
The police announced that the EDL rally had been cancelled and trailed the despondent racists back the way they had come.
The police kettles couldn’t suppress the confident and upbeat mood. This grew as the extent of the EDL’s humiliation became clear.
Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism, told Socialist Worker, “We came, we saw, we defeated the EDL. This magnificent alliance that brought together anti-fascists, trade unionists, faith and community organisations is a model that can defeat the racists.”
Anti-fascists held a carnival, march and protest against the Scottish Defence League in Dundee last Saturday. A vibrant, noisy crowd of around 250 people marched with trade union banners. They chanted “Nazi scum, off our streets”.
Dundee Together Against Racism and Fascism, which organised the protest, was backed by unions, UAF and local mosques. The carnival celebrated the diversity of the city. One organiser said, “Dundee is the city of the pie, the pizza and the pakora”.
The EDL’s miserable day began in the morning at King’s Cross station. Action from rail workers in the RMT union stopped them getting on a train. They had to walk to Euston.
Most local pubs were either closed or refused to serve EDL supporters. And managers had to run Blackhorse Road station as workers refused to service the EDL.
Hostile passers-by confronted the racists. One local woman, Monica, said, “They shouldn’t be here. This is nothing to do with freedom of speech. They’re just racists.”
As the EDL slunk off they knew they had been beaten. They couldn’t even manage their grunting chant of “E-E-EDL”. Instead the air was thick with local youth chanting, “Nazi scum, off our streets”.
Once we heard that the EDL were coming we called for a public meeting to plan our opposition. We contacted unions and other groups and got 120 people at the first meeting. From the start we were leafleting all over the area to build people’s awareness of the EDL.
We then started contacting mosques, local workplaces and the Labour Party arguing for a counter demo to stop the EDL. We constantly had arguments about what the tactics should be.
Some on the left argued that the Labour Party should not be involved as they had been responsible for local cuts. But we argued that it was vital to unite everyone who was against racism if we were going to stop the EDL.
Others argued against a march. But we always knew we had to be on the streets whatever happened.
We organised a Love Music Hate Racism benefit gig and campaigned for local pubs to refuse to hold the EDL. We kept leafleting throughout. We wanted our demo to reflect multicultural Walthamstow.
On the day, some people still argued against marching, but to have rallied away from the EDL would have been a mistake. The mood of the thousands who had gathered was to march.
That’s why you saw Muslim elders sitting next to students in the sit-down to block the EDL’s route. It’s no longer a case of “Can we stop racists?”—because now we have.
Jo Cardwell, Walthamstow resident and UAF supporter
The day started with an anti-EDL rally in a park off Walthamstow market, hosted by Unite Against Fascism and We Are Waltham Forest.
Irfan Akhtar, from Waltham Forest Council of Mosques, said that organising to stop the racists had been a positive experience. He said, “We can thank the EDL for the new alliances and new friendships we have made.”
Local Labour MP Stella Creasy welcomed people to the rally. Other speakers included Weyman Bennett from Unite Against Fascism, Green MEP Jean Lambert and Jennette Arnold, the local Labour London Assembly member.
People told of their determination to stop the fascists. Dean Harris of Waltham Forest UAF, a Unison member, said, “We stand together and we win together. We’re about celebrating diversity. So Cameron and the rest of you, look at us.”
Dorothy Mullings told Socialist Worker, “I didn’t know anything about the EDL until UAF gave me a leaflet while I was shopping a couple of weeks ago. As soon as I heard what they were about and that they were coming here I said, ‘No, you’re not!’
“My parents told me about the racism they faced when they arrived in the 1960s. I thought over the years it had eroded. These economic problems can give it energy. But I won’t allow people to be scapegoated.”