Around 5,000 people marched through the East End of London today in a huge show of unity and defiance against racism and fascism.
The demonstration organised by UAF and United East End was orginally called as a counter-protest against the racist English Defence League, which has links with the British National Party and other fascist groups – but the racists abandoned their plans to come to Tower Hamlets as the scale of opposition to them became clear.
There was a great turnout on today’s antiracist demo anyway, with marchers determined to show that racism and fascism are not welcome in the East End. Large numbers of local young people were joined by trade unionists and people from every part of the area’s diverse population in an exuberant demonstration.
Lively chants of “EDL, Nazi scum”, “One, two, three, four – EDL no more!” and “Whose streets? Our streets?” turned to “Whose mosque? Our mosque!” as the march passed the East London Mosque. There had been concerns that the EDL would try to target the mosque, following the racists’ attempts at provocation earlier this week, and non-Muslims were keen to show solidarity with Tower Hamlets’ Muslim community.
Speakers from a range of different faith groups, trade unions and campaigns highlighted a refusal to let the racists divide us.
UAF joint secretary Sabby Dhalu said:
Today’s peaceful demonstration was the biggest antifascist and antiracist demonstration in London in over a decade. This fantastic event displayed unity of different faiths, political parties, trade unions and local communities against the fascism, racism, Islamophobia and hatred of the EDL.
UAF joint secretary Weyman Bennett said:
We’ve had a victory over the EDL. They said they would come and demonstrate in east London and they have failed. This is a victory of unity in east London, with black, white and Asian people coming together, different faith groups, young people, LGBT people, trade unionists – everyone in solidarity.
Rev. Alan Green, dean of Tower Hamlets and chair of the Interfaith Forum said:
Today’s great event showed fantastic solidarity and unity of communities against the EDL and those that try to divide us.”
Dilowar Hussain Khan, chief executive of the London Muslim Centre, said:
The rally really demonstrated the energy and unity of our community. This peaceful event highlights all the common issues we will work towards and the respect we have for each other.
The EDL has been targeting Muslims and mosques and had made plans to “hit” a series of major multiracial, multicultural cities this summer.
But it was forced to scrap its planned protest in east London’s Tower Hamlets, admitting last week that it would be a “suicide mission” in the face of a huge local mobilisation against the racists.