Recently, I made the case yet again against using the state to fight fascism. One key point in this was that by calling on the state to stop a protest taking place because those marching are fascists you set a precedent for them to do so when those marching aren't fascists. Thus, the only thing that surprised me was the rapidity with which that point was proven right.
Hope not Hate declared the police's decision to seek a ban "a victory for common sense." They are jubilant that the EDL have been "foiled" in their plan "to bring violence and disorder to the streets of Tower Hamlets." This alone smacks of a staggering level of naivety, given that the police only have the power to ban marches and not static demonstrations - as the EDL themselves proved only this month in Telford. Not to mention Leicester, where a ban didn't stop "violence and disorder."
Then there is the statement from the Metropolitan Police;
We are in the process of applying to the home secretary for authority to prohibit a march in five London boroughs for a period of 30 days.
As Dave Hill (who supported calls for a ban) admits, this "applies to all marches in the boroughs concerned," with the exception of "funeral processions and marches that take place annually and are therefore deemed part of local cultural custom and practice."
As a result, the Socialist Worker is calling on "everyone who opposes racism and fascism" to "protest about the ban" and to still "come to Tower Hamlets to show that the racist EDL is not welcome." Peter Tatchell is concerned that the "proposed ban on EDL march may also ban anti-EDL demo & East London Gay Pride." He rightly calls this "a dangerous precedent." And if the ban extends to Newham, the Disarm DSEi protest against the world's largest arms fair is another protest potentially in the firing line.
As Tower Hamlets ALARM say;
State intervention is a worrying turn, the State stepping in and banning EDL protests is not a sign of a left wing section of the State acting, or even an Islamic element gaining strength, it is a sign of a further move to a totalitarian State. We already have the camps in Yarlswood, thug police that get away with murder and an ever watching State gathering information on us. We don’t need to campaign for them to ban political groups. Today the EDL, tomorrow us.
We don’t need the State to stop the EDL. We need to do this ourselves. We need our communities to work together, overcome divisive elements and tackle the threat of fundamentalism in whatever forms it takes.
Let's hope that the repercussions of this ban reach enough of the left that Hope not Hate's approach will receive much more opposition next time.