Manchester faces down English Defence League
Earlier 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.
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.