UPDATED: Sunday 10 October
People from across Leicester’s diverse community staged a peaceful demonstration against the violent racists of the English Defence League today.
The EDL have tried to stir up hatred and division by demonstrating in the multiracial, multi-faith city, particularly targeting Muslims.
Their “protest” ended in violence and attacks on the police, journalists and local black and Asian people.
In contrast, over 800 people came to the antiracist protest called by UAF in the city centre today – they included black, white and Asian people, with Muslims joined by Sikhs, Hindus, Christians and people of no religion in an impressive display of unity.
The scale of the opposition to the EDL became clearer throughout the day, as it emerged that several hundred more antiracist demonstrators were prevented by police from reaching the city centre assembly point.
The EDL attempted to attack black and Asian people in other areas of the city, but were unable to as large numbers of local people came out to defend their local areas, including Highfields (see video, left). Local people also gathered to protect their places of worship and community centres throughout the day.
The UAF event heard speakers from the local National Union of Teachers, Public and Commercial Services civil service union and NHS workers’ Unison branches.
They shared the platform with UAF’s Paul Sillett, Communications Workers Union national political officer Steve Bell, three local councillors, community activist Joe Allen and representatives from the Muslim community, the Indian Workers Association and local Kurdish people.
The Fosse Boys – a well known group of Leicester City Football club supporters – helped lead the chants against the racist EDL. Local bands and performers also entertained the crowd.
Cllr Ross Willmott, a former leader of Leicester City Council told the crowd:
I’m proud to be here and show our city belongs to us all. The streets must not be ceded to fascist thugs.
Cllr Patrick Kitterick also emphasised the importance of turning out on the day to show opposition to the EDL. He said:
When people said “Stay inside and leave the streets”, I said “I will not.” In our diversity, we are beautiful. The EDL say they want to stop the islamification of Leicester. We say we have nothing to fear from our Muslim brothers and sisters.
Andy Connelly, another councillor and joint branch secratary of Leicester CWU, added:
It’s important for us all that we don’t leave our city to the EDL. Our trade unions and everyone need to stand together against the EDL. That’s why this protest is so important.
Speaking after the demo, Unite Against Fascism joint secretary Weyman Bennett said:
Leicester people have made it clear the EDL is not welcome in their city. The EDL have been similarly unwelcome in every other town and city where they have turned up. No-one wants them.
We are organising a major demonstration on 6 November – backed by the TUC, the Muslim Council of Britain and a host of trade unions, MPs, artists, faith groups and campaigners – to say no to racism, fascism and Islamophobia. That will be an opportunity for people to come together from all over the country and show that the EDL, the BNP and their poisonous racist and fascist ideas are not welcome anywhere.