MORE THAN 1,000 anti-fascists gathered in the centre of Waltham Forest last Saturday to celebrate the non-appearance of the violent thugs of the Islamophobic English Defence League.
The EDL had been banned from holding a second march in Walthamstow after the first, on 1st September, was blocked from completing its course by thousands of local residents representing all sections of the very diverse local community.
The EDL referred to the second attempt to march as a “rematch” but 53 EDL supporters, including their leader Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, also known as Tommy Robinson, were arrested a week before the event.
Police acting on intelligence stopped them travelling in large vans and carrying an assortment of weapons on their way to attack a mosque in Whitechapel.
They had all been bailed, except Yaxley-Lennon, on condition they did not attend any events in east London.
The Metropolitan Police and Waltham Forest council also secured a ban, under the Public Order Act, on all marches in the area and told the EDL they could hold a static demonstration in Westminster or none at all.
But that ban was used as a pretext to halt the anti-fascist rally. When the protesters started to turn up at the open green area for the victory rally organised by We Are Waltham Forest and Unite Against Fascism, council officers told them there was to be no rally and that the area was occupied by a travelling fairground.
But the anti-fascists continued to arrive and police were forced to allow them to use a side street for their rally. Eventually it was so full police had to close the road to traffic.
A long line of speakers included Labour & Co-op MP Stella Creasy, Gerry Gable, editor of Searchlight, Tony Kearns CWU deputy general secretary, Hugh Lanning PCS deputy general secretary, Green Party MEP Jean Lambert and Father Steven Saxby, a local Catholic priest. Other speakers included local student activists, Varinder Singh from Sikhs Against the EDL, UAF joint general secretaries Weyman Bennett and Sabby Dhalu, and Jo Cardwell and Sophie Bolt from We Are Waltham Forest.
There were a few tense moments when the antifascists decided to march together peacefully with placards and banners the short distance to the station and to disperse from there. But negotiations with the police produced a happy outcome and there were no confrontations to spoil the celebration of the double victory over the EDL.
Meanwhile around 50 members of the EDL turned up in Westminster. They tried to occupy Parliament Square and failed.
Some of them carried posters depicting Lennon, alias Tommy Robinson, behind bars with a call to “Free Tommy Robinson, political prisoner”. That, in itself, is a highly dubious claim. In fact Lennon has been charged with using a false passport to enter the USA. He has also been arrested for an alleged assault in Luton.
Without their leader and facing antifascist protesters, some of whom had hot-footed it from an Anti-Fascist Network meeting at the Anarchist Book Fair in east London, the EDL gave up on speeches and instead carried out a ritual burning of a piece of fabric with Arabic writing on it.
On the same day several hundred people turned out in Rotherham to celebrate the multicultural nature of the town – an event organised in four days as a response to a proposed National Front march there. Police estimated 40 turned up on the fascist National Front demo.