COMMUNITY groups and anti-fascists in London’s East End last week called on their local police chief to stop a planned march by the Islamophobic English Defence League through Tower Hamlets – an area with a large Muslim community.
The community leaders and local residents sent an open letter to Dave Stringer, Borough Commander, Tower Hamlets:
Dear Mr Stringer,
At a meeting with Mayor Lutfur Rahman on Tuesday 20th August, members of the many diverse organisations represented by United East End were informed that the police are proposing three options for how the EDL's threat to come to Tower Hamlets on 7th September will be handled:
1. The EDL will be allowed to march through the borough.
2. The EDL will be told they cannot come to the borough and must hold their demonstration in central London (probably Whitehall).
3. The EDL will be allowed to hold a 'static demonstration' in the borough.
We wish to say to you, in the strongest possible terms, that only option 2 will be acceptable to the vast majority of people in Tower Hamlets. We believe that the EDL must be kept out of our borough, for the following reasons:
a. The EDL is a racist, bigoted, violent organisation. Their presence anywhere is an affront, but their intention to come to Tower Hamlets is a direct provocation and incitement. As borough Commander, you will appreciate the diversity of our multi-cultural community. The very qualities we value are the ones the EDL hates. The Metropolitan Police has joined us in saying that we are 'One Tower Hamlets', but the EDL seeks to divide us. Allowing the EDL to enter our borough, whether for a march or static demonstration, can only undermine the years of progress towards mutual tolerance and respect that we have all worked for.
b. The EDL is targeting Tower Hamlets because we have one of the biggest Muslim populations in the UK. The EDL has an explicitly Islamophobic agenda. We reject the demonisation of Islam and the whole community will unite to peacefully defend Muslim places of worship and our friends and neighbours who are Muslims. However, allowing the EDL into the borough brings the inevitable risk that some will act with violence to oppose them. We believe the people of Tower Hamlets are entitled to go about their peaceful lives without fear on 7th September and every other day of the year.
c. We think it is very important to recognise that the dangers posed by the EDL have changed significantly, particularly in the aftermath of the murder of Lee Rigby. United East End has joined others in condemning the brutal killing of Mr Rigby, but we are also aware that the EDL and other far-right elements have attempted to exploit this situation to their own divisive ends. Numerous attacks have taken place on mosques since 22nd May that have raised anger and fear. Under these circumstances, the presence of the EDL in a borough with over 30 mosques represents a clear threat to public safety.
d. Allowing the EDL into Tower Hamlets will entail a significant police operation, as it did in 2010 and 2011. We believe that public money would be better spent on local community projects than policing the EDL.
In contrast to the EDL, UEE is a peaceful organisation comprised of groups and individuals who live in the East End, of all faiths and none.
As in previous years, we plan to celebrate our community’s diversity on 7th September. However, we are concerned that allowing the EDL into Tower Hamlets will result in serious disorder and ongoing disruption to our community.
The immediacy of this threat was illustrated in Hull on 17th August when a peaceful demonstrator was attacked by the EDL, but this is just one of a litany of incidents when the EDL has shown that it is not, as it claims to be, a peaceful and legitimate political organisation.
We are all committed to the principle that Tower Hamlets is “No Place for Hate”. Only option 2 can ensure that this remains true. We request that you pass on our comments to Scotland Yard and the Home Secretary as a matter of urgency.
Thank you for your assistance in this matter.
Glyn Robbins (Convener, United East End)
Rev’d Alan Green (St John’s Bethnal Green and Chair of Tower Hamlets
Jack Gilbert (Co-Chair, Rainbow Hamlets LGBT Group)
Rebecca Shaw (Co-Chair, Rainbow Hamlets LGBT Group)
Max Levitas (Veteran anti-fascist campaigner, Battle of Cable Street 1936)
Sabbi Dhalu (Joint National Secretary, Unite Against Fascism)
Abdullah Falliq (Islamic Forum of Europe)
Abdi Hassan (Ocean Somali Community Association)
Sister Christine Frost fcJ (Neighbours in Poplar)
Leon Silver (East London Central Synagogue)
Dr Jackie Turner (Local GP and Chair of Tower Hamlets BMA, p/c)
Brian Nicholson (London Dockers Club)
Kerie Anne (Assistant Branch Secretary, Tower Hamlets UNISON)
Amanda Bentham (East London Teachers Association – NUT)
Gerry Gable (/Searchlight/ and member of Metropolitan Police Independent
Ben Owusu (Chair, Metropolitan Police Independent Advisory Group)
John Azah OBE (Member of Metropolitan Police Independent Advisory Group)
Christine Yau (Member of Metropolitan Police Independent Advisory Group)
Roger Graef (Member of Metropolitan Police Independent Advisory Group)
Rabi Laay (Member of Metropolitan Police Independent Advisory Group)
Len Aldis (Chair, Tower Hamlets CND)
Phil Maxwell (Film maker, ‘From Cable Street to Brick Lane’)
Hazuan Hashim (Film maker, ‘From Cable Street to Brick Lane’)
Stephen Beckett (Secretary, Tower Hamlets Co-operative Party)
Dr Kambiz Boomla (Tower Hamlets GP)
Dr Anna Livingstone (Tower Hamlets GP)
David Rosenberg (Jewish Socialist Group)
David Hoffman (Tower Hamlets resident, photojournalist, NUJ)
Guy Harper (Tower Hamlets Left Unity)
Peter Ashan (Waltham Forest UNISON p/c)
Sasha Simic (USDAW Shop Steward p/c)
Lorna Solomon (Homerton Hospital UNISON p/c)
Hsiao-Hung Pai (NUJ)
Dean Harris (We Are Waltham Forest)
Wendy Wood (We Are Waltham Forest)
Tash Munoz (We Are Waltham Forest)
Liz Ray (We Are Waltham Forest).