Up to 5,000 antiracists, antifascists and local residents took to the streets of Luton today in various locations to show their opposition to the racist thugs of the English Defence League.
UAF staged a rally in the centre of town with around 2,000 people, and also supported the mobilisation by up to another 3,000 people in Bury Park, the area where many of Luton’s Muslim residents live, to defend the community from the EDL.
The EDL had boasted that they would get a huge turnout, describing their Luton ‘protest’ as going ‘back where it all began’. They wanted a repeat of 2009, when masked racist thugs went on the rampage through Luton, attacking Asian residents and spreading fear and intimidation.
Only around 2,500-3,000 EDL supporters came to Luton, and they were prevented from repeating 2009’s rampage by the scale of the mobilisation against them.
The antiracist protests were lively, with many young people taking part. They began in the morning, when a few hundred activists staged a peaceful blockade of Luton railway station to stop the EDL thugs arriving by train.
In the centre of town, trade union banners and flags from Unite the union, Unison, CWU, PCS, TSSA and the NUT were on show at the UAF rally, along with the banners of local trades councils. A big cheer greeted the arrival of the banner and delegation of Sikhs Against the English Defence League, who turned out in solidaridarity with Muslims – the EDL’s main targets.
Groups of antiracists were on the streets in several areas of the town, with many making attempts to join the residents in Bury Park who came streaming out to protect their mosques and their local area. A group of UAF protesters and Asian young people who eventually made it to Bury Park were met with cheers, amid a brilliant atmosphere.
Luton MP Kelvin Hopkins told demonstrators in the town centre:
I’ve lived in Luton for 42 years – we’ve not had trouble here. It’s a friendly town, a comradely town.
Let’s chase the EDL out of town and make Luton a non-racist and equal town where we all get on in friendship and solidarity.
Richard Howitt, the MEP for the East of England, added:
The message to the EDL is clear: This is not your home, you are not welcome
Other speakers included a representative from Luton trades council, a CWU rep – who brought messages of solidarity from CWU general secretary Billy Hayes and the Southern and Eastern Regional TUC – and a speaker from the Muslim community in Bury Park. Mr Rehman said:
I bring a message of solidarity and unity from Luton’s Muslim community. UAF and everyone standing here have shown solidarity with the Muslim community and we are thankful for that. The EDL is not an English Defence League, it’s an Evil Defence League. Fascism is like a cancer… We must resist them, we must fight against them.
UAF joint secretary Sabby Dhalu said:
We’ve got Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, Christians, the MEP, the MP, councillors, trade unions – everyone united against the hatred of the EDL. We are a united multicultural community.
Martin Smith, a national officer of UAF added:
Today, we’ve told the EDL we will not be divided – and antiracism is the key message. It’s not the end of the EDL but if we start to doulbe and treble our size, today is the beginning of the end of the EDL… When they come to the next city, our slogan will be: ‘You shall not pass.’