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Sunday, 4 September 2011

Racist Thugs Shall Not Pass

Thousands of anti-fascists took to the streets of east London on Saturday to oppose a planned demonstration by the racist English Defence League in one of the capital's most diverse areas.

In the wake of last month's disturbances the EDL had cynically attempted to exploit the riot, claiming it was defending the streets of the capital.

But on the streets of east London on Saturday the message was loud and clear as a community united in opposition to the ultra right-wing group. Some in the crowd chanting: "They shall not pass," making reference to the Battle of Cable Street against Oswald Mosley's fascists in 1936.

A proposed march by the EDL down Whitechapel Road and past the east London mosque had been banned by the Home Secretary so only a static demonstration could take place.

But in an attempt to bypass the ban hundreds of EDL members arrived in different areas of the capital to march to the site of the static protest near Aldgate Tube station.

The racists and fascists of the EDL had bragged that they were coming to the heart of Tower Hamlets - "marching into the lion's den" in the multiracial, multicultural borough.

In the event the day was very much won by the anti-fascists and the people of Whitechapel who overwhelmingly rejected the EDL's hate-filled message.

EDL chants of "whose streets? Our streets." could not have been more ironic.

Only around 600 - police estimate 1,000 - EDL members made it to their final rally point - at Aldgate, outside the Tower Hamlets borough boundary.

The largely incoherent rabble chanted anti-Muslim slogans and attempted to sing God Save the Queen but apparently, did not know the words to the national anthem. Most appeared drunk.

At one point one skin-headed member began to abuse and push a young Asian man who had found himself within the police cordon.

But on the whole a massive policing operation had effectively isolated the group from all but a few bemused passers by.

A total of 60 EDL protesters were arrested as scuffles broke out and bottles and firecrackers were thrown as more than 3,000 riot police and mounted police tried to maintain control.

Further skirmishes broke out during the afternoon as EDL leader Stephen Lennon addressed a crowd, telling them he had broken his bail conditions to be at the protest. He was not one of those arrested.

On Whitechapel Road thousands of anti-fascists - police estimated 1,500 - trade-unionist and religious groups congregated in a carnival atmosphere.

The counter-demonstration organised by Unite Against Fascism and the United East End Coalition was addressed by CWU deputy general secretary Tony Kearns, East London Mosque's Dilowar Khan, veteran local anti-fascist Phil Maxwell and other local trade union and community representatives.

Former mayor of London Ken Livingstone sent a message of support, saying: "This is a fitting response to those who peddle hatred and fear."

Speaking on Saturday evening UAF national officer Martin Smith said: "Today we have won. We haven't had anybody arrested. We have stopped the EDL coming into this borough.

"We have marched on the streets today, the EDL have gone and we have won."

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