Friday, 11 December 2009

There are many more of us than them - so get to Harrow on Sunday!

I have spent some time in the last fortnight building for a demonstration - or, rather, a counter-demonstration - to be held in Harrow this Sunday. In September, a small anti-Islamic group, Stop the Islamisation of Europe (SIOE), called a demonstration outside the newly built Harrow mosque (the old, frankly tiny mosque is next door). On that occasion, they did not organise very well and two dozen of them were kept by the police in a pub while a crowd of about 2,000 anti-SIOE protesters milled around in front of the mosque. The police told the SIOE to go home in the end.

The main story of that day was that the SIOE, who had tried to organise a provocative demonstration in a quiet suburb that none of them would visit ordinarily, were completely outnumbered and thought better of it. Unfortunately, the press relayed only pictures of some Muslim youth clashing with the police - which did happen, but which was very much a byproduct of the main events.

In the last couple of months, the English Defence League, a separate group from SIOE, but just as anti-Islam and swimming in the same far-right swamp, held a number of demonstrations in English towns. To the bystander these marches looked much like a group of football hooligans threatening to go on the rampage. EDL marchers gave Nazi salutes and abused Asian people.

Taking heart from this, the SIOE has decided to come back to Harrow again to whip up more trouble; their second demonstration is this Sunday afternoon.

I have been persuading trade unionists to join the counter-demonstration. The mosque is divided in their response; they are under a lot of pressure to rein in 'their' young people and are also telling anti-fascists to keep away.

I think that's a mistake. It is no good looking down at the pavement as the EDL and other far-right groups goose-step around our city centres. We tell ourselves that they are only a minority element; if that is so, why are they allowed to dominate public space in this way, week after week, in town after town? The sooner that all the private anti-racists get out and demonstrate their feelings in public, the sooner the EDL will get the message and go home.

I'm not advocating fighting the far-right, I'm advocating turning out to show that we outnumber them. If anyone wants to come to Harrow on Sunday, there are some more details on the Barnet TUC website:

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