By New Worker correspondent
A GROUP of thugs whose faces have been seen on many marches organised by the Islamophobic English Defence League last Saturday violently assaulted members of the Socialist Workers’ Party and other activists in Lewisham.
Earlier that morning the same group had attacked a press photographer who recognised them from the “March for England” event in Brighton the previous Sunday.
They recognised him and five of them followed him to a bus stop, punched him twice in the face and then ran away. He immediately reported the assault to the police in the hope of alerting them to the presence of dangerous EDL thugs in the area.
Alas the warning fell on deaf ears and there was no quick police response when the fascist thugs attacked the regular SWP stall that has been a feature of Lewisham High Street for three decades – even though the stall is just across the road from the very large Lewisham Police Station.
The thugs accused the SWP group of being from Unite Against Fascism and “throwing bottles in Brighton” the previous Sunday.
They were referring to the enormous turnout of local Brighton anti-fascists in protest at the EDL/March for England trying to march through their town, which succeeded in twice stopping the fascist march.
But the only bottle throwers in Brighton on Sunday 22nd April were the EDL themselves and a few drunken anarchists, not the UAF.
The thugs were under the impression that the thousands of anti-fascists who came out in Brighton were all UAF and that they had all come from outside, as they themselves had.
In fact the anti-fascists in Brighton were almost all local. And since the event had not been reported in any national media – not even the Morning Star – most people in Lewisham, including those around the SWP stall, had no idea what the EDL thugs were talking about.
The EDL came to Lewisham intending to wreak some sort of violent revenge for their humiliation in Brighton against the UAF.
They expected a UAF election campaign bus to begin its journey through south London – urging people to vote against British National Party and other fascist candidates in the coming mayoral and GLA elections – from Lewisham clock tower that morning, as advertised on the UAF website. But the UAF campaign bus was delayed due to mechanical problems.
The EDL hung around the clock tower for an hour, taking photographs and staring menacingly at shoppers and activists and then decided to attack the SWP stall.
Shortly after 12 noon they passed the stall en masse at which point an altercation began, with shouts and heckling from the racist group.
In response to Islamophobic statements an SWP pensioner approached them and received a vicious head-butt as an answer, throwing him to the ground. Another pensioner intervened and was quickly surrounded, man-handled and flung to the floor, receiving a knock to the head. Both had to receive medical treatment for their injuries.
Sabby Dhalu, Unite Against Fascism Joint Secretary said: “This vicious, cowardly attack by fascists on anti-racist pensioners, illustrates why we must all campaign against fascism. The police must take action and immediately arrest and charge the perpetrators of this vile attack.
“We urge every one to use their vote on Thursday 3rd May and stop fascist and racist groups like the British National Party, English Democrats and National Front from getting elected; and join the peaceful demonstration against the English Defence League organised by We Are Luton and Unite Against Fascism."
Jarman Parmar, who chairs Lewisham Anti-Racist Action Group said: "The actions of these racist attackers is shocking and strengthens our resolve to unite everyone who opposes this kind of behaviour and ideas which have no place in our society. Those who have the vote should make it count by voting against the British National Party and help stop the far right on 3rd May. We all want to create and live in a society where there is no hate and no fear on racial and ethnic grounds.”
Gerry Gable, editor of Searchlight anti-fascist magazine, told the New Worker that anti-fascist and other left activists should take note that there is a real threat of attack by fascist thugs like this and they should take sensible precautions. He added that dedicated activists would not be deterred by this; they would be more motivated to come out and oppose the fascists after cowardly attacks like this.