by New Worker correspondent
HUNDREDS of anti-fascists from Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and Antifa gathered between the corner of Trafalgar Square and the top end of Northumberland Avenue last Saturday to block the route of two separate demonstrations organised by racist organisations: Britain First (BF) and the English Defence League (EDL).
These two organisations had planned to march down Whitehall to Parliament to hold Islamophobic rants on the spot where Khalid Masood, a British-born extreme right-wing Muslim, had driven his car into a crowd of people on Westminster Bridge, killing two and injuring many, before fatally stabbing a police officer on guard outside the Houses of Parliament, where he was shot dead by other police.
But last Saturday both the racists and the anti-fascists were dwarfed by a massive turnout by the Metropolitan Police — their biggest deployment for a few years.
The Met gave notice on line that it had diverted the route the racists planned to take to a spot on the Victoria Embankment, via Northumberland Avenue, and issued a ‘section 12’ and a ‘section 14’ — which imposed strict conditions on all the planned protests, including assembly point, route and time limits, and gave police very wide powers of arrest.
The UAF and Antifa ignored the Met’s designation that they should assemble at a spot to the south of the Victoria Embankment, in view of the pens designated for the two racist groups but about 50 yards away and completely sealed off.
Instead they assembled at the top of Northumberland Avenue to block the fascist route but were forcibly pushed out of the way into Whitehall by hundreds of police, a process that involved a number of seemingly random arrests. Police later said there had been a total of 14 arrests.
On the way they had to pass the heavily kettled Lord Moon pub where various racists and fascists had been drinking before, during and after the ‘marches’.
The anti-fascists were pushed down Whitehall as far as Horse Guards Parade and then left on to the Embankment into the area the police had prepared for them, where they held a rally and chanted: “We are black, white, Asian and we’re Jews, and there are many, many more of us than you!”
Sabby Dhalu, UAF joint secretary, said: “The respectful and compassionate nature towards those killed and their loved ones that is reflected in the majority of British people is in stark contrast to the far right. Fascists such as BF and the EDL have no concern for the victims of this attack. While the turnout by fascists today was pathetic, we must remember the threat they currently pose in Britain is not in numbers, but in their attempt to whip up fear, hatred, division and violence.”
Fellow UAF Joint Secretary, Weyman Bennett, said: “The murder of Jo Cox, the shocking rise in hate crime and the rise of the far right in Europe show that it is critical we unite against fascism, racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism at this time. Neither BF nor the EDL have significant forces, but their efforts to inflame Islamophobia need opposing. The vast majority of society opposes fascism, and we stand firm in our resolve not allow the far-right to grow in Britain as they have in other parts of Europe.”
The EDL was given its own separate pen next to Britain First, which only served to highlight how small its turnout was — about 40 at most.
At one point former EDL leader Tommy Robinson was seen wandering about with a megaphone between the EDL and Britain first pens and being ignored by both.
The Britain First crowd appeared bigger from a distance because of dozens of Union Jacks and St George flags being carried. But on closer inspection it was apparent that most marchers were brandishing two or three flags apiece on lightweight bamboo sticks. They numbered about 150 altogether.
Police marched both racist groups away on the dot of 3pm and the anti-fascists left an hour later.None of the Islamophobes got anywhere near the crowds of tourists thronging around Parliament as usual.