More than five thousand people have joined a Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and United East End (UEE) demonstration to stop the racist English Defence League (EDL) entering Tower Hamlets.
The EDL, who had initially promised to mobilise thousands, were left embarrassed when only 750 racists turned out on the day. Their demonstration was disrupted by drunkenness and violence as they targeted each other when it became clear their racist march would not make it to Tower Hamlets.
In contrast, local mosques, trade unions, and community organisations mobilised thousands of people onto Whitechapel Road to protect the East London Mosque which had been threatened by the EDL. The UAF rally highlighted the strength of multiculturalism in the borough, people from different cultural, religious and political backgrounds were determined to stand together in the face of racism.
UAF groups from across the country, including the South East coast, the Midlands, and as far afield as Wales, also joined the counter-demonstration. But the majority of the mobilisation were themselves local residents angry at EDL attempts to divide them.
When news reached Altab Ali Park that Tommy Robinson had been arrested, and that the EDL had turned away early from their rally, cheers went up throughout the demonstration. Protestors carried a banner saying, “Tower Hamlets United Against Racism” and led a victory march along Whitechapel Road to the East London Mosque. Marchers made it clear, if the EDL were to return, they would too.
Weyman Bennett, Joint Secretary of Unite Against Fascism, said:
Today highlighted the strength of unity, when they tried to divide us, we stood
together. Every section of the community stood together when the fascists threatened to march. This was another good day in the struggle against the racists.
In the past weeks, mosques and Islamic community centres have been attacked. Today we sent a message that this must stop.
We must recreate this success everywhere the EDL plans to go. In local areas we need to build the broadest possible alliances to block them from marching. We will stand with an community threatened by racism and fascism.
Tower Hamlets Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, said:
Tower Hamlets is a vibrant and diverse borough which I am proud to call home. Like many other areas of our country, there are problems such as unemployment and poverty but the EDL blame ‘others’ for our country’s problems in an attempt to divide us.
Owen Jones, writer and journalist, told the crowds:
Wherever the menace of Islamophobia emerges, we must drive it back. Today this is our message to the EDL; we are one community. We will not rest until we drive this poison off the streets of this community.
Sunday update: Arrests
All the organisers have shown concerns, this morning, of the large numbers arrested following the UAF/UEE counter-demonstration. We see these arrests as a consequence of the EDL coming to East London and will offer support to anyone arrested. If you were arrested last night we suggest contacting one of these firms who have experience representing people arrested on demonstrations: TV Edwards – 020 3440 8000; Birnberg, Peirce and Partners – 020 7911 0166.
We will release a more detailed statement in due course.
A demonstration of this size costs thousands of pounds to organise. To ensure a successful mobilisation this Saturday has meant printing hundreds of thousands of leaflets and posters. We also need to cover the cost of stages, PAs and transportation. As such, we are calling upon our supporters to donate whatever they can to help, you can do this via paypal here. Organisations and affiliates can contribute as well using this model motion.
Photo credit: Copyright Guy Smallman