Anti Fascism,  Anti Muslim Bigotry

Bloggers on Tower Hamlets and the EDL

Sixteen arrests were initially made following the EDL’s demonstration in London and the counter-protest by its opponents.   Later 44 further arrests followed an incident in which a coach stopped in Whitechapel Road, and was attacked by local youths. According to this report everyone on the bus was arrested.  The full picture isn’t clear, but this post tries to piece together all the available information.

I was ambivalent, at best, about the decision to ban the march (all marches in fact) in Tower Hamlets for 30 days, but I can certainly sympathise with those living in Tower Hamlets who welcomed that move, particularly after reading the accounts of the coach incident (above).   I also have mixed feelings about aspects of the counter-demonstration.  After reading comment #4 on this Socialist Unity thread, which warns against posturing, vigilantism and actions which ratchet up the tension, I agreed with the response made by Rachel (comment #5) ‘Can’t believe I’m in agreement with Andy Newman (mostly).’  But my feelings are mixed – not negative – and I can obviously fully understand why people want to demonstrate against the EDL.

As far(ish) left TLAs go the AWL seems kind of ok. But I can’t say I was terribly impressed by their take on the march, which I read over on Shiraz.

The entire day had a kind of grim inevitability. The presence of thousands upon thousands of riot police on our streets, particularly when they are hassling Asian kids, and especially when they are actively facilitating large racist demonstrations, is absolutely nothing to celebrate.

Leaving the accusations of racism aside (I don’t want to adjudicate on that one) I think it seems perfectly right that the police should facilitate demonstrations, and if large numbers are needed to prevent violent disorder – that’s better than not preventing it.

The writer complains that the anti-fascist rally was ‘bland’ but commends ‘some welcome points from trade union figures about the need to link the fight against racism to a working-class fight against cuts.’   Although I think it’s fine for commentators to make a link between social deprivation and the rise of the EDL, it should be acknowledged that the left don’t have the monopoly on anti-fascism or anti-extremism.

Here’s another blogger who seems to see opposition to the EDL through a narrow political lens, and one which is not just partisan but largely irrelevant to the issue at stake. This Lib Dem blogger, by contrast, gives the impression that she genuinely wants to record what she saw, and thus produces a less predictable account.

Over at Lenin’s Tomb concern is expressed about the police’s commitment to tackling racism, reporting an email they sent to a Muslim group asserting the EDL weren’t simply far-right and that Muslims should open up a ‘line of dialogue’. I think it’s fair enough that Muslims shouldn’t take kindly to being asked to reach out to a group with supporters like this man. But although it probably wasn’t a great move on the part of the police, in fact several Muslim groups have tried to engage with EDL supporters – sometimes with positive results.