Manchester anti-EDL demo: not a great day for anti-fascism
We began the day with a rally by the cenotaph, which was surrounded by fences. The only entrance was by the tram stop, complete with a six-foot drop. Instead of setting up inside the pen and keeping the crowd in the area, Unite Against Fascism (UAF) organisers set up a microphone and sound-system outside the pen and encouraged the 80-or-so attendees to stay away from the monument.
Several fascists turned up and were immediately huddled by the police towards the cenotaph. Both sides, clearly wary of starting a fight on the cenotaph, kept to murmured insults and threats, rather than direct confrontation.
Over the course of an hour, police were able to gradually filter anti-fascists out of the square, and despite an attempt to prevent the entrance being given over to the police, we were eventually forced off the platform and the square was handed over to the similarly-sized crowd of fascists who had arrived.
In an attempt to save face, several UAF members remained on the steps of the cenotaph surrounded by the EDL, producing the uncomfortable spectacle of UAF and EDL simultaneously commemorating memory of Lee Rigby. The EDL dropped their flowers and wondered off, and anti-fascist speakers claimed this was a victory, even invoking the phrase ‘no pasaran.’
Unfortunately, the only success of yesterday’s demo was that no one on our side got attacked or arrested. Anti-fascists willing to take direct action were not organised enough or in large enough numbers to offer an alternative to the ‘symbolic protest’ strategy of the UAF leadership.