The English Defence League demonstration in London yesterday didn't amount to very much, with around 500 taking part. Fears that they would pick up momentum in the aftermath of the Woolwich killing of soldier Lee Rigby have not been borne out.
The EDL had intended to march on East London Mosque in Whitechapel claiming that Tower Hamlets is under sharia law - presumably just because it has a large Muslim population. The police kept them well away from there however. After meeting in Southwark by the south end of Tower Bridge, they were escorted over the bridge to the edge of Tower Hamlets at Aldgate and back again. Later a few of them wandered through Bermondsey shouting slogans then dispersed.
|Large police presence on corner of Tower Bridge Road and Queen Elizabeth St SE1|
- EDL gathering point
A larger counter demonstration of several thousand people gathered in Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel where the EDL had originally planned to get to - a provocative gesture as the park is named after a local man killed in a racist attack in 1978. Speakers included Max Levitas, who fought against fascists in this part of London in the 1930s.
|'Sisters Against the EDL'|
In an attempt to get nearer to the EDL, a large part of the crowd headed by an Anti-Fascist Network bloc set off round nearby streets. Some of them ended up being kettled by police, who later staged a mass arrest of anti-fascists under Section 12 and Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 - the laws which allow the police to impose conditions on public demonstrations and assemblies. In other words, they were arrested for diverging from the route imposed by the police - for little more than standing in the wrong road.
|South London Anti-Fascists Banner|
Final numbers have not yet been confirmed but it seems that in the region of 200 anti-fascists were arrested. Bail conditions have been imposed preventing those arrested from taking part in protests 'within the boundaries of the M25 where the English Defence League, English Volunteer Force or British National party are present'. This seems to be a deliberate police strategy to combat the resurgence of militant anti-fascism - South London Anti-Fascists and similar groups have shown that they can mobilise growing numbers of people at a time when the wheels seem to be coming off the SWP-led Unite Against Fascism.
A bail notice issued last night at Colindale police station to one of those arrested (Source)
On a musical note, I noticed that the Association of Musical Marxists had a banner out yesterday.
And in the park there was a great performance by UK Apache. After a rendition of his famous 'Original Nuttah' ('Bad boys inna london, Rude boys inna england') he sang Tenor Saw's 'Lots of Sign' - fantastic.