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Halifax: English Defence League struggles to mobilise

The fascist EDL struggled to get numbers to Halifax on Saturday 9 July when around 400 tried to protest around the town, 200 of which had bussed in from the Midlands.

Business seemed to go on as usual, except for the few closed pubs and some Asian-owned businesses which closed for safety. The fact that 200 had to be brought into Halifax by coach shows that the EDL may be losing its influence and organising ability in some areas of the country. This is especially telling as Yorkshire towns such as Halifax, Bradford and Leeds have often been seen as their traditional stomping ground.

The official antifascist response was over a mile away in People’s Park with a turnout of around 70, mostly community leaders, local councillors and some UAF activists. This, as we have seen time and time again, was billed as a peaceful ‘celebration’ of multicultural Halifax. This did not deter the police in moving the rally another half-mile away down the road and further away from the city centre, meaning numbers dwindled further. Around 50 Asian youth were kettled in Peace Park after the event was moved, suggesting that the presence of militant young people was the reason the event was moved. This is because the intended reason for the ‘celebration’ may have changed direction and become difficult to control, as young militants see the need to physically defend their town from possible fascist attack. We were, however, able to talk to some Asian youth in the local area around the park, with many wanting a much more militant response than UAF’s event and even recommended we don’t bother with the now relocated ‘We Are Halifax’ festival.

After attempting to link up with this group we were subjected to a tirade of abuse
from a police support officer and forced to leave the park, so we headed back to the town centre to assess the situation as the UAF demo had now packed up. The fascists remained in their pen behind several lines of riot police with many onlookers nearby.

No antifascist mobilisation of any kind took place near the EDL’s pen. We left with a feeling of disappointment that we had not been able to link up and march alongside our Asian brothers and sisters that have been such brave fighters on earlier demos, and that we could not talk to any UAF activists that may have wished for a more practical response to the EDL’s presence in the town. A presence which could physically confront the EDL, while defending our demo and community from police and fascist attack. This response was sorely missing.

At a time when the EDL’s ability to mobilise significant numbers for what they again billed as ‘The Big One’ seemed lacking (due to internal strife and ruptures), a militant and well-defended demonstration of local people and antifascists could have chased the fascist scum out of town for good. We cannot trust the state to defend us from the EDL, as they will just as readily attack us.

Also, multicultural celebrations are to be welcomed, and in fact happen at many times during the year in most places, but not on a day when a practical task needs to be carried out by working class people of all religions and skin-colours; that of defending ourselves and our demonstrations from fascist attack and potential pogroms of Asian areas. This is why we need an Antifascist Defence League to act as the organised line of defence against the fascist menace. The BNP’s fall into near-obscurity and the EDL’s internal splits do not mean we should be complacent. We can stop them now and keep our streets fascists free for good.

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