It was standing room only at last night’s rally against the racist English Defence League in Tower Hamlets, east London.
Up to 700 people – white, black and Asian – crowded into the public meeting organised by UAF and United East End at the London Muslim Centre.
They heard speakers from across Tower Hamlets’ diverse community call for unity against the EDL and urge the biggest possible turnout at the national demonstration on Saturday 3 September.
The meeting began with a minute’s silence to remember the Oslo victims of Anders Behring Breivik, the fascist inspired by the EDL and its vicious anti-Muslim racism.
Three Norwegian trade unionists then addressed the rally, telling the audience: “We support all demonstrations against the EDL.”
Tower Hamlets’ mayor Lutfur Rahman, former mayor of London Ken Livingstone, and community leaders from Muslim, Jewish, Christian and other faith groups were among the hugely diverse line-up of speakers.
They were joined by trade union reps from the Tower Hamlets Unison branch, East London NUT and the Unite union’s London region, a representative of the Rainbow Hamlets LGBT group, two local school students and a group of Tower Hamlets councillors.
Max Levitas, a veteran of the Battle of Cable Street – when Oswald Mosley’s fascist Blackshirts were stopped from marching through the East End in 1936 – really raised the roof with an inspiring speech.
He told the audience:
It took organisation in the struggle against the racists and fascists. On the day of 4 October there was 100,000 people at Aldgate and Gardiner’s Corner… The people of Stepney, dockers, tailors, pensioners, never got divided and came onto the streets.
The fascists will never march through this area – but it won’t be done by talking about it. We’ve got to take action… we’ve got to ensure the people of Tower Hamlets know what’s taking place, with leaflets and loudspeakers going through the area.
Above all, unity has got to play its part. We are going to win this struggle because we are unified.
Ken Livingstone also drew on the lessons of Cable Street, noting that in 1936, Jewish residents were the fascists’ main target, while the EDL now tries to whip up racism against Muslims.
As Londoners came together to stop the fascists marching against the Jewish community 75 years ago, we must come together to stop their successors threatening the people who now live here.
Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman, who was joined at the rally by a group of local councillors, said there was “no place for hate” whether on grounds of race, religion or sexuality.
We are one Tower Hamlets and we have no intention of letting the EDL divide us.
UAF national officer Martin Smith pointed out that the EDL had started by targeting Muslims, and was now also attacking trade unions, student demonstrators and others.
In that situation it is up to every single one of us to stand united to beat them.
The best memorial for the people who were murdered in Norway is to show the EDL can be defeated. And that defeat will begin in Tower Hamlets on 3 September.
Pics by Kelvin Williams