The English Defence League’s planned ‘celebration’ of its three years of existence turned sour as they were outnumbered by antifascists in Luton on Saturday 5 May.
The EDL claims Luton as its home town, but only around 800 or so supporters turned out for a rally held behind a huge steel fence that degenerated as drunken thugs – who had been allowed to assemble in pubs that opened specially at 8.30am – threw bottles at police and set off fireworks and smoke bombs.
That number is far below the 2,500-3,000 supporters it bussed into Luton last year and marks the success of antifascists in containing the threat of the EDL’s racist and fascist thugs at a series of demonstrations around the country in the past three years.
The EDL’s frustration at its poor showing on Saturday was expressed in the call by leader Stephen Yaxley Lennon (AKA ‘Tommy Robinson’) for yet another attempt at a demo in Luton in August.
The racist thugs endured a 25-minute speech by Yaxley Lennon, who with fellow EDL leader Kevin Carroll has now been proclaimed joint vice-chair of the British Freedom Party, the outfit formed by former senior British National Party members, which announced an alliance with the EDL last year.
The BFP is a fascist organisation seeking to inherit the electoral mantle from the BNP following its collapse at the elections this week. The new BFP’s link with the EDL creates a classic two-pronged fascist attack, with a ‘political wing’ focused on elections and a violent, street thug wing.
British Freedom Party
But the BFP’s launch was something of a damp squib. It tested the water with six candidates in Thursday’s local elections, five of them in Liverpool – with four of these being former BNP candidates.
They scored derisory votes at the polls, ranging from a high of just 87 votes in Basilon Essex to a laughable 17 votes in Liverpool’s county ward.
Meanwhile, the antmosphere at the antifascist UAF and We Are Luton demo was very different, with music and a lively, youthful crowd of black, white and Asian people from a range of backgrounds, proud to stand together against the racists and fascists.
Side by side
Trade unionists stood side by side with members of the local Muslim community, which has been particularly targeted by the EDL. Up to 2,000 demonstrators took part with local people joining the march as it went along and turning out for to the final rally.
Banners on display included Stevenage trades council, PCS Eastern region, Harlow TUC, Luton TUC, Luton NUT and USDAW Welham branches, along with a fine display of flags and ‘racists beware’ placards from trade union Unite.
The demo against the EDL was backed nationally by the TUC, while East of England MEP Richard Howitt, Luton MPs Kelvin Hopkins and Gavin Shuker and a number of local councillors joined the march from Bury Park – where many of Luton’s Muslim community live – into the town centre.
Local Labour councillor Mohammed Riaz said:
This is the real face of Luton — people of all faiths and none, and all the trade unions. Almost every single member of the council is here too. There’s no room for racism in this town.
A number of speakers stressed that the EDL has moved from only targeting Muslims, to attacks on trade unionists, socialists, anti-cuts campaigners and others – this was why we must stand together in unity against the threat the fascists pose to us all.
Local speakers urged that any attempt by the EDL to turn up in Luton again in August should be met with an even bigger turnout.
And UAF chair Steve Hart, who is trade union Unite’s political officer, pledged:
If the BFP stand in elections, we will name them as fascists and campaign to stop them.
UAF assistant joint secretary Martin Smith urged antifascists to mobilise against the EDL in Bristol, Waltham Forest and other areas where the EDL fascists are planning to demonstrate this summer.
Pics: Kelvin Williams