Aaron Kiely (NUS NEC), explains why progressives should support a ban on the EDL ‘demonstrations’ and why it is vital to support the Unite Against Fascism’s mobilisations to celebrate diversity.
Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of discussion around the response to the upcoming demonstration in Tower Hamlets by the English Defence League (EDL). Trade unions, anti-fascist campaigners as well as outraged locals have rightfully organised in opposition to this clear incitement.
Some in the anti-fascist movement have focussed completely on calling for a ban whilst some others have opposed such calls and called instead for a mass mobilisation of anti-fascists, to celebrate multiculturalism; in defiance of the EDL. This has at times been polarising and has contributed to confusion as to what is actually happening on Saturday. The position of Student Broad Left is that we support both; we support calls to ban the EDL from coming to the East End – whether they are marching or statically demonstrating, and will be supporting the Unite Against Fascism/United East End mobilisation. Unfortunately, the authorities have decided to go for a blanket ban on marches in the area and we will support organisations such as East London Pride and the Cable Street commemoration in opposing this.
But let us be clear, the EDL march has been successfully banned, however they have still been allowed a static demonstration meaning that coach-loads of racist thugs will still be allowed to stain the East End with their presence. Whilst any racist protest happens, it is absolutely essential for progressives to call for a counter-demonstration to show unity amongst the community as well as opposition to the EDL’s hate-filled and bigoted agenda.
Because we should be clear what the EDL is and the threats they pose to people. It is an organisation with a history of violence, and has engaged in rampages up and down the country in attempts to divide communities under the guise of being against ‘Islamic extremism’. There is certainly no such thing as a peaceful EDL demonstration; they riot through communities calling for Mosques to be burnt down, attacking Muslim women and ripping off hijabs, vandalising gay bars and causing scenes of mayhem. Images of racist graffiti sprayed across buildings, smashed windows, vandalised local businesses and widespread incidences of racist assault and intimidation of Black and Asian residents is something that cannot be tolerated. We should not allow this pattern to be repeated.
After the previous weeks of unrest in London, as people in Tower Hamlets are picking up the pieces, it is completely unjust to allow the likes of the EDL to attack the community. Calling for a ban on their inflammatory actions is appropriate and is in step with what thousands of the local community have called for as well as several Mayors, politicians and community leaders. We realise the state of society we are in – Islamophobia is rife and the left is in no position to be replacing the police in protecting a community from violent hooligans. Along with the majority of society, I contact the police if a bunch of thugs are threatening to attack someone.
Just as anti-fascists call for a ban on the likes of Tommy Robinson of the EDL to not be given space to speak on Newsnight, we should also, when appropriate, call for bans on marches. We use tactics such as No Platform to isolate the far-right and to marginalise their views, because we know that when they speak or are given publicity, for every person repulsed, there is another who may well agree and see their own hateful views as legitimised. That is why it is completely consistent to use the tactics of bans where we can, to stop the insidious spread of the far-right and racist ideologies.
It is a victory that the EDL will be prevented from marching past the East London Mosque as they have been stopped from getting exactly what they want, it is only a partial victory however, because the EDL should be banned from demonstrating in Tower Hamlets altogether. Images of EDL members fighting with young Muslims is something that will be put out on every newspaper and television report and will contribute to the image that Muslims are the cause of trouble – we should not play in to such hands. The result of such a ruckus would be the criminalisation and likely imprisonment of vast numbers of young Muslims and is not something I want on my conscience.
The chilling words of Anders Breivik, the murderer of nearly 100 Norwegian young socialists – are telling: “The tactics of the EDL is to ”entice” an overreaction from jihad youth/extreme Marxists, something they have succeeded [in] several times already. The reaction has been repeatedly shown on the news which has boosted the EDLs ranks high. This has also benefited GDP. Win Win for both.”
Calling for a ban is completely justified in order to attempt to protect residents from being physically attacked. Max Levitas, a veteran of Cable Street, recently made the point that anti-fascists in the 1930s also appealed for a ban, and simultaneously organised. We stand in that tradition.
Our opposition to fascism and racism should always be broad and inclusive so that we can remain relevant to society at large and bring as many people along with us as possible. We believe in building the broadest unity of all those threatened by the EDL and the far-right: Black, Muslim and Jewish communities, LGBT, disabled and women students, and all those who stand for democracy and human rights. Student Broad Left hopes you will join the peaceful mobilisation on Saturday 3rd September of residents, trade unionists and faith groups in celebrating the diversity of modern Britain.