Brother A opened our meeting by noting that it was always a matter of time before the EDL came to Stoke, thanks to the electoral support the BNP have in the Potteries. Therefore, as far as our party is concerned we have two key political tasks between now and the EDL's arrival. The first of these is to build as much unity as possible locally among anti-fascists of various persuasions and concentrate those forces at the counter-demonstration. For this reason, he argued against one suggestion made at the NorSCARF meeting that we should mobilise at various points of the city so the EDL does not slip through the net (at the moment, no one knows where they will be congregating - assuming the police grant permission). The second job of the Socialist Party is to introduce our politics into the proceedings, albeit skillfully. He then moved on to outline some of the ways the branch can get stuck into this work.
In the discussion, P talked about his brief encounter with the EDL on the train to Nottingham a couple of Saturdays previous. Throughout the journey the EDL'ers traded stories about fights they'd been involved with, with one of them joking about how he'd slashed another bloke across the face. Coupled with other reports about the EDL's activities elsewhere, far from their being an organisation who wants to demonstrate peacefully about the (relatively negligible) influence Islam has in Britain, they're just a collection of thugs up for a ruck. He also noted that despite Griffin wanting to put much distance between his dapper-suited fascists and the EDL's knuckle draggers, if you consider them together they resemble the classical fascist movement of old - one wing is "legitimate" and deals in politics while the other tries to wrest control of the streets from its opponents. It's therefore unsurprising to find a certain interchangeability among their personnel.
Brother D in his first branch meeting as a party member said he knew some EDL supporters from back home too, and they very much fitted in the footy hooligan mould. To counter them he thought we needed as many out as possible to show the depth of anti-fascism opposition that exists. Brother F agreed and the counter demo/vigil has already got the support of his union branch. A mentioned that trade unions should especially be encouraged to turn up, not least because they have tens of thousands of members across North Staffs - enough alone to dwarf whatever national mobilisation the EDL can muster.
There was some discussion over the likely response of the authorities. In Autumn 2008, when the BNP held an event to mark the death of local fascist Keith Brown (who was stabbed by his Asian neighbour following years of abuse by Brown), the anti-fascist counter-demonstration took place far away at the police's insistence. There was little in the way of trouble apart from some faux jostling with the cops by a handful of SWPs keen to show off their r-r-revolutionary creds. This time will be different. The reason the EDL are marching in Stoke is because the first purpose-built mosque in the Potteries is nearing completion. If they march on it they have to pass through Shelton, which is ethnically diverse and has a large Muslim population. Back in 2001 the very rumour of a BNP/NF march in Hanley was enough to spark off a riot in nearby Cobridge. I'm pretty sure the local plod are very aware an EDL march could have the same result and are likely to police it very heavily, if they allow it to go ahead at all.
Whatever the case, whether the EDL march, are escorted to a scrap of ground somewhere, kettled at the railway station or don't turn up, a strong and united anti-fascist opposition will be mobilised to show their filth is rejected by the majority of Potters.