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Tactics to stop racist EDL
Steve Score, Leicester Socialist Party
Hundreds of local people turned out to oppose the racist English Defence League (EDL) in Leicester on 4 February.
Unfortunately, a massive police operation involving 2,200 officers on duty, horses, dogs and riot vans allowed around 400 EDL thugs to march through the city centre.
It is likely to top the £850,000 cost of having the EDL in Leicester in October 2010. The local paper and the police overestimated the size of the EDL demo and massively underestimated the various counter mobilisations. The EDL demo was far smaller than last time, and attracted few local people.
The EDL claim their march was to oppose the "discrimination" in the justice system in favour of Muslims! In reality they aim to divide communities in this very diverse city.
The elected Labour mayor and the police appeased the EDL, who last time rioted through the city, by allowing them to march past the clocktower - heart of the city centre.
At the same time, a huge scare campaign was launched to try to prevent local people from opposing the EDL.
The mayor and the local paper equated anti-racists to the EDL. Police threatened to remove anyone in the city centre under the age of 18 to a 'place of safety', and arrest any protester not in the 'designated assembly point'.
Despite this, Socialist Party members and other anti-racists mobilised alongside hundreds of people in the communities at the clocktower and also on the edge of St Matthew's estate in an attempt to defend their city.
Hundreds also took part in a Unite Against Fascism (UAF) march. Unfortunately this was confined to a designated route on the outskirts of the city centre, away from the route of the EDL.
Some people who had earlier attempted to congregate at the clock tower were pushed back towards the UAF demo.
Other groups of local people coming down from the communities of Highfields and St Matthew's were kettled by police and pushed back from the city centre.
There will now be much discussion on tactics. There were obviously significant numbers of people who wanted to attempt, by force of numbers, to block the route of the EDL and stop them coming through the city centre. This is despite the fact that the Imams had told people to remain in their areas.
There are some who are calling for a ban on marches if the EDL attempt to come back, however the Socialist Party does not agree with that.
In October 2010 marches were banned and only static protests allowed and the result was racist attacks by the EDL.
It will be the strength of the opposition mobilised by the movement that will stop them. If thousands had managed to mobilise in the city centre the police would have had no choice but to confine the EDL to the car park they assembled on out of the city centre.
Trade unionists, socialists and people from various local communities now need to organise together to stop the EDL returning.
This is linked to building opposition to the cuts and attacks on working class people's living standards in order to undercut any support racist groups like the EDL can win from working class people disillusioned with all the main political parties are doing.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 7 February 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.