By New Worker correspondent
AROUND 5,000 anti-fascists from a wide spectrum of community groups, faith groups and trade unions succeeded once again in preventing the Islamophobic English Defence League from bringing their message of hate and violence into London’s East End.
But after the EDL thugs had been marched away police sprang a nasty surprise and kettled and arrested a large number of anti-fascists who had started to make their way home – the numbers given vary from 160 to 180 – and took them away in buses laid on for the purpose.
The arrestees then had their details taken and were bailed after few hours with a caution that included a bar on them taking part in any demonstration near the EDL or the British National Party within the area bounded by the M25.
Local community organisations, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman, Jim Fitzpatrick MP and Unite Against Fascism leader Weyman Bennett had been in close liaison with the police prior to the event.
They had been told that the borough police force would supervise the anti-fascists while “Gold Command” would supervise the EDL.
Relations with the police seemed to be good; there was no violence or provocation from the anti-fascists with the exception of a small group of youngsters who tried to intercept the EDL march south of the river near Tower Bridge.
The fascists had gone from the scene; there was no longer any real danger of a clash or violence; the anti-fascists were in a good mood and partying. So the decision to arrest a large number is very disturbing. And at least five legal observers were among those arrested.
A legal expert told the New Worker: “Gold Command is just the code name for the officer in charge of the operation – in this case the entire 'public order' incident. There is a silver and bronze command underneath him.
“This assurance was always nonsense you know the police often lie….
“My guess is that the kettling was partly to make it simpler for the police to keep the two sides separate. It would also be very useful for the police to arrest 180 people – for the names and addresses, DNA and fingerprints and personal details.
“A caution is actually an admission to committing an offence – you get a record, you just aren't taken to court.
“If you are charged, or released on bail there can be bail conditions for example don't go somewhere or do something as a condition of being released.
“I'm not sure what legal force this has - no one should sign something like that without speaking to a lawyer first – better to get charged.”
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.