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From The Socialist newspaper, 25 April 2012

Brighton: Mass protest counters racist EDL

Brighton and Hove Socialist Party
BNP Nazis not wanted here - war veteran protests, photo Paul Mattsson

BNP Nazis not wanted here - war veteran protests, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

On 22 April a mass mobilisation of up to 1,000 anti-racists joined a demonstration to counter the English Defence League (EDL) and their annual 'March for England' (MfE) through Brighton.

MfE claims to stand for patriotic and nationalist values and argues that its 'family orientated' St George's day demonstrations, which have taken place in Brighton since 2007, are no more than a celebration of national pride.

However, it has become clear that MfE is inexorably tied to various far-right organisations, especially the (EDL), which is known for spreading a virulent anti-Muslim and ultra-nationalist agenda through intimidation and harassment of local populations. On the march last year sexist abuse was shouted at women, such as: 'Get back in the kitchen'.

Bullies and thugs

Mass protest counters racist EDL in Brighton, 22 April 2012, photo by Paul Mattsson

Mass protest counters racist EDL in Brighton, 22 April 2012, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

The event was dominated by bullies and thugs, intent on promoting fear and hatred in Brighton, known for its history of tolerance and anti-fascism. As socialists, we saw the counter-demonstration as an opportunity to stand with the wider community against this threat.

The EDL tries to capitalise on the anger among working class people about the cuts and attacks on living conditions they face but they have no solutions. We explained the need to build a mass united working class fightback against both austerity and racism.

The march was due to leave Brighton station around midday. Our numbers began to swell as anti-racists lined the main road leading towards the town centre. Even protected by police regiments from several counties, the group of around 100 to 150 MfE marchers didn't get far before the road was repeatedly blocked.

Mass protest counters racist EDL in Brighton, 22 April 2012, photo by Paul Mattsson

Mass protest counters racist EDL in Brighton, 22 April 2012, photo by Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

The police, numbering 300 to 400, resorted to very violent horse and baton charges, dogs and pepper spray and arrests to break the line of counter-demonstrators, while the MfE route was diverted away from the seafront and towards Victoria Gardens.

Once at their impromptu destination, however, it became clear that the MfE was vastly outnumbered. Our banners, singing and rallying cries drowned out their limp messages of hate. The MfE were then followed all the way to the station by the crowds, who were held back by the large police presence.

But at the station the police allowed the thugs to roam through the town, badly beating at least one trade union and anti-racist activist. This shows the need for organised stewarding of such anti-racist counter-protests - which the Socialist Party argued for prior to the day.

Nonetheless it is clear that this year's event was an underwhelming and embarrassing result for the far right, rescued only by the police. Few in numbers, they were humiliated by a big and determined counter-protest.

Socialists used the occasion to engage with local people and demonstrators, and to show the urgent need to build a new mass working class party that fights for jobs, homes and opportunities for all. The far right will try to use the neglect of these necessities by capitalist parties to their advantage.

We will keep building a movement against future fascist events. March for England may well return to Brighton next year, but they will not go unchallenged in our city.

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In The Socialist 25 April 2012:

Fighting the government's attacks

We're striking back on 10 May

Socialist Party news and analysis

NHS faces more cuts

The ugly truth behind the latest unemployment figures

Brighton: Mass protest counters racist EDL

Them & Us

Socialist Party feature

Interview: 'get organised to support workers in struggle'

Socialist Party May Day Greetings

May Day Greetings in The Socialist newspaper

Socialist Party workplace news

Workers' Memorial Day 28 April

Jobs threat at CSC

Claps and cheers greet Remploy marchers in Sheffield

Workplace news in brief

Vote TUSC in May

Vote for a socialist alternative

Build a socialist alternative to austerity

Hundreds of Liverpool Sure Start parents demonstrate against cuts

Labour - no friend of trade unions

Gateshead campaigners told to 'move house' if they don't like waste-site plans

TUSC campaigns round-up

International socialist news and analysis

Argentina: Nationalisation provokes wrath of imperialism

France: Left Front vote shows potential for new workers' party


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