Manchester faces down English Defence League

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edl-uaf-manchester-demo-2-mEarlier today, hundreds of residents and activists turned out to counter a protest being held by the fascist English Defence League (EDL). We decided it was best to pay no attention to Ed Miliband’s advice to stay away, and instead to demonstrate and protect our city.

In the run up to demonstration activists from Greater Manchester Anticapitalists worked with others as part of a united coalition to advertise the counter-protest. Together we put up over 400 posters, held a number of stalls and meetings, and handed out thousands of leaflets.

Despite warnings by community and political leaders to stay away, the publicity campaign was a success. The day began with around four hundred protestors hitting Piccadilly Gardens.

It started as a classic Unite Against Fascism rally – a few speakers, a few songs, a few chants, you know the sort of thing. At around midday the anti-fascists started forming up to march down Portland Street. The demonstration split in two, as some protestors headed away from the designated rally site to try to block off part of the EDL’s route.

Most headed straight to Albert Square where Greater Manchester Police had built an enormous network of fencing, including 10 feet high solid barriers. The PCS samba band added a carnival-esque atmosphere to the demo. A breakaway group put up a valiant attempt to disrupt the fascists route, but were forced back into the kettle by the police.

Thankfully, we weren’t there for long and managed to leave to go find a more opportune point to watch the fascists arrive. The EDL’s turnout was similar in size despite their calls for a national mobilisation, showing they still haven’t recovered their strength.

Our group of counter-protestors held up Palestinian and Irish flags while goading EDL members over the fence. As we unfurled our banner with anti-EDL slogans, they went wild – all running over to the corner facing us, and trying to smash the fence down.

This banner really wound them up

This banner really wound them up

Unsurprisingly the police pretty quickly tried to take our banner away, but fortunately it disappeared before they could get their hands on it. We look forward to angering the boneheads with it again in the future.

Today was a good day for antifascism – our local turnout was similar in size to the EDL’s national mobilisation, and cowardly calls by the Labour Party to let them demonstrate unopposed were ignored.

We are particularly pleased with the networks that were built in the run up to the demo and how they functioned – we hope that this can be the start of new alliances that can help us fight cuts and poverty, as well as raise the profile of anticapitalism in Manchester more generally in the next few months.

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3 Comments

  1. March 2, 2013 at 8:55 pm · Reply

    The mobilisation was encouraging but there are real problems with how the EDL are being opposed. For example the key speaker was Daniel Gillard, a Labour Party councillor, who said that the good thing about representing people is that you “get a chance to make things better” and later “we’re the people who represent this city, we’re from the left and right, from the rich and the poor and everyone in between.” What basis is that to fight the far-right? Surely the 47% of children living in poverty in central Manchester after decades of Labour run councils, the cuts to services, jobs being slashed, the hounding of poor families over council tax bills and the constant demonisation of the poor might have something to do with the rise of the far-right? How much better are things getting for people living under Labour councils across the country? The EDL and the far-right can’t be beaten without us articulating a positive political alternative that is not tied to Labourism and therefore austerity. The capitalist crisis and the rise of the far-right are linked so unless we imbue the anti-fascist struggle with a working class perspective we will not get anywhere. A lesson the UAF and friends seem incapable of learning.

  2. John
    March 2, 2013 at 9:32 pm · Reply

    Good points chris. I didn’t spend alot of time at the rally but I do remember Uaf inviting the leader of leeds city council at a time when they were crushing a street cleaners’ strike a few years ago.

  3. Jason
    March 5, 2013 at 2:03 pm · Reply

    Absolutely agree with Chris S. It was better to have a counter-demo than not have one at all but for us to go any further we need a political and fighting alternative that shows that a united working class- Black and white, immigrant and born here, straight and gay, women and men etc.- can fight austerity, fight for working class interest and power as against the bosses and the bourgeois forces that keep selling workers out.

    The EDL offer no solutions at all to any workers- fascism merely turns t5he working class against itself.

    But to really fight them, the BNP and other fascist forces we need a vibrant working class antifascist movement unafraid to physically confront the fascists and to take on the political arguments.

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