AROUND 400 protesters gathered for a counter-demonstration to the far-right English Defence League's (EDL) march from the Tate Britain to Parliament Square, London, on 5 March. The EDL had organised the march to celebrate the visit of the Dutch racist, far-right politician, Geert Wilders.
Wilders had been invited to screen his new anti-Islam film in the House of Lords by UKIP's leader, Lord Pearson. Alarmingly, Wilders' mis-named 'Freedom Party' recently made major electoral gains in the two cities where it stood in the Netherlands, gathering about 25% of the vote (see www.socialistworld.net).
As the protesters blocked the road to Parliament to stop the far-right thugs, the police clearly showed in whose interests they were acting.
The anti-EDL protest was forcibly removed from the road by hundreds of riot police, backed up with dogs and horses. When the EDL march eventually came through it was protected by a huge police presence.
The police physically removed protesters and held them in the Victoria Tower Gardens while the far-right thugs were given free rein to stir up hatred and division.
Socialist Party members along with other demonstrators were told by police officers that we were under arrest for a "potential breach of the peace". We were not eventually charged with any offence but were told we would not be allowed to leave until the demo was over and deemed to no longer be potential law breakers.
To be arrested for a crime you could "potentially" commit, is an indication of how far the right to demonstrate has been undermined by this government.
As the employers and government makes huge attacks on the pay and conditions of working-class people, undoubtedly these draconian laws will be used against workers who fight back.
The counter-demo, called by the UAF, was not stewarded, which unfortunately made it possible for some EDL members to worm their way into the crowd.
Nonetheless, the determination of the demonstrators succeeded in delaying the EDL march for several hours.
In the coming months we need to step up the protests against the EDL and the far-right BNP. At the same time we need to offer a political alternative to their racist poison.
We need a mass workers' party which would fight for decent jobs, homes and services to cut across a minority of working class people being drawn to the far right.
A new workers' party would cut across the appeal of far-right groups by uniting working class people of all backgrounds in common struggle against the bosses. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, which will be standing in the general election, is potentially an important step towards such a party.