Saturday, 3 September 2011

The EDL fail to reach Tower Hamlets

For the English Defence League, today was undoubtedly a spectacular flop. After months and months of hype about "marching into the lion's den" in Tower Hamlets, they managed only to get 600 people to the final demo point - and that outside of the Tower Hamlets borough! Meanwhile, huge crowds of anti-fascists turned out to defend the streets.

The EDL found themselves unable to enter Tower Hamlets when the RMT threatened to close Liverpool Street Station if they were allowed to muster there. They then closed Kings Cross station when the fascists gathered nearby, and they had to get a police escort to Aldgate. There, they were kettled by the police - 10 yards and a world away from Tower Hamlets. Tommy Robinson broke his bail conditions to address the crowd, sneaking in by dressing as a Rabbi, and challenged the police to arrest him. They appeared more than happy to oblige.

Anti-fascists, meanwhile, had roads blocked off and the streets well guarded. Had the EDL managed to set foot in the borough, they would have been given short shrift. As it was, the main demo soon broke up - but it took two hours to return the EDL to their coaches. There were clashes with local youth and anti-fascists at several flashpoints, before police escorted the group back first to Liverpool Street and then kettled them once more at Tower Bridge until they could be herded onto their coaches.

Anti-fascists are unanimous in declaring the day a victory, but not so much in what was responsible for said victory. In his only acknowledgement that not all anti-fascists agreed with a state ban, Nick Lowles claimed "today has proved that [the ban] was the right decision." Unite Against Fascism laid the credit at the feet of "the greatest possible opposition to the racists and fascists," who "ensure[d] the [EDL] could not threaten the borough’s multiracial, multicultural community." Tower Hamlets ALARM largely agrees, saying that "a mob of locals and antifascists" defended the area and saw the fascists off.

I'm inclined to agree with the latter assessment. As Lowles himself noted, as a result of the police escort, the EDL effectively got to march anyway - even if not in their intended destination. It was the solidarity of the RMT (effectively threatening illegal strikes to shut the stations down) which saw the EDL's movements interrupted and foiled rather than any legal measure. And of course the "mob" was the best protection Tower Hamlets could have had.

It is only by working class communities standing together in solidarity that we can beat fascism. The state will not defend us, and when needed they will happily use the far-right against us - as they did in 1926 when fascist militias were recruited to break the General Strike. Let's learn that lesson, finally, for wherever the fascists go next.