Sunday 9 August 2009

Racists on the Streets of Birmingham

Here are a couple of short videos from yesterday's demonstration/provocation by the English and Welsh Defence League, a group of so-called concerned citizens who took to Birmingham's streets to protest against Muslim "extremism". They claim not to be racist - and yet this pathetic gaggle of fascists and losers chose to demonstrate In a city where 21 per cent of the population are south Asian. They deny having any links with the BNP, and yet one of its leading activists was or is a member of Nazi Nick's mob.

Unite Against Fascism and the local labour movement turned out to make sure this squalid little gathering did not go unchallenged:

According to the BBC there were 33 arrests and a number of incidents that, if true, have no place in the anti-fascist movement. That said the level of disturbance was such it may be unlikely any police force will acquiesce to similar demonstrations in future.


Anonymous said...

a Militant Twist?

Just seems like standard student politics.

Phil said...

Would this be the same anonymous who spent less than 30 seconds on the blog at 2am this morning?

Anyway, here's a report of what happened on Saturday from Ger Francis if Respect. This originally appeared on Socialist Unity:

Re Saturday’s protest. It was a success. I thought around 350-400 anti-fascists turned up. Other than a few mentally deranged boneheads the fascists were largely reduced to some drink sodden posing well away from our protest, no doubt grateful for their police protection. While I expect there to be some hue and cry in the media about violence on the anti-fascist side, the simple fact is this: if a bunch of racists are allowed to protest in any part of Birmingham, and especially its city centre, violence is an inevitability. It was important the previous fascist provocation was responded to and UAF are to be congratulated for organising Saturday’s response.

The anti-fascist demonstration was not, however, without weaknesses. If we are to better strengthen anti-fascist activity in the city for the future it is important to acknowledge these, hence the emphasis of my comments are one of fraternal criticism.

One weakness was that the anti-fascist platform was very narrow. It needed to have cross party and interfaith representation to highlight Birmingham’s anti-racist unity and the fascist’s isolation. Unfortunately, the only elected politician on the platform was Salma Yaqoob. If cross party and interfaith support could be secured over the Gaza crisis in Birmingham, there is no reason why it cannot be secured on the issue of stopping fascist hate.

It was also important in view of the risks of confrontation that the story after the demo would not be one about violence between Muslim youth and the police. Unfortunately, the absence of a proper PA system and inadequate stewarding ensured that the march organisers were unable to properly control the demonstration. With better organisation some of the confrontation with the police and arrests could have been avoided.

The issue of political breadth and stewarding is important. There was already nervousness inside the Muslim community about the UAF demo for fear Saturday could be perceived as a Muslim/White confrontation. Plus everybody is mindful of the Bradford experiences where Asian youth got sent down, some with long sentences, for minor offences. For these reasons a number of mosques made announcements after Friday prayers discouraging people from attending and leading Muslim organisations did likewise. There will be some who will use Saturday’s disturbances as proof that this was the right call. Such views need to be undercut.

For starters, an open letter that could be used in the media, mosques and beyond, which condemns fascist attempts to stir up sectarian hatred and racial division in Birmingham, which highlights that wherever fascists put down roots racist attacks increase, which resolves for these reasons to resist fascist attempts to spread their hate in the city, and which is signed by, among others, prominent white politicians and personalities alongside African-Caribbean, Sikh, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim figures and representatives, would not go amiss.

The police should also be pressurised over their role. Both before and afterwards they consciously played down the racist intent behind the football hooligans protest. Their harassment of Asian youth on the day was a disgrace. I personally witnessed a group of Asian youth being issued with dispersal orders on the most flimsily of grounds, and heard one police office respond to legitimate allegations from one youth of racial harassment with the words ‘you’re boring me’. Action against the officer in question is being taken.

The weaknesses exposed on our side can be addressed for the future. Overall, anti-fascists in the city can look with confidence to the future after the success of Saturday’s activities.

occidental_death said...

Good to see this incident get some coverage.

The English Defence League is currently planning another "protest" in Birmingham on the 30th August. Reading the Facebook "event" page (no, really) should quickly correct anyone who buys the EDL's claims that it is a non-racist movement seeking to organise peaceful protest. I've reported the group and event to Facebook admins -- no action has been taken as yet.

"One weakness was that the anti-fascist platform was very narrow. It needed to have cross party and interfaith representation to highlight Birmingham’s anti-racist unity and the fascist’s isolation."

This is something that concerns me. The anti-fascist turnout in Birmingham on Saturday did seem largely to be composed of Muslims / British-Asians. This, I think, makes it far easier for the media to portray the incident as just "racial" violence, needing no explanation beyond some kind of "tribal spirit" which animates the two groups. Large sections of the media already seem only too happy to equalise the anti-fascist demonstrators with the members of the EDL ("the two groups of protesters..."). This would be made harder, I think, if we could get a good turn-out of demonstrators who represent a variety of ethnicities and faiths -- and who, more importantly, will avoid violence.

I agree that any EDL "protest" is likely to lead to at least a small amount of violence, which will make it easy to smear the anti-fascist component wholesale. I wonder if it might be more prudent to arrange a separate anti-racist demonstration at a time when the thugs are otherwise occupied?

I'd like to know, if one takes all of the EDL propaganda at face value, who exactly these "protests" are aimed at? I'm no expert, but I believe that terrorism is already illegal. And quite widely condemned.

P said...

This question of inviting 'a broad spectrum of elected politicians' to speak at anti-fascist actions is an interesting one.

Seems to me it is the corruption of the current crop of elected politicians that is driving so many people into the arms of the BNP.

Of course opposing political corruption by voting for or joining the party that is the absolute essence of political corruption is not any answer at all - but it seems to be what is happening.

The problem I see, is that if, for example, someone from the political establishment like one of those ministers who has recently resigned over the expenses scandals was up there on an anti-fascist platform (I'm sure a few names spring to your mind, their mere presence would deeply demoralise the antifas and encourage much mockery from the nazis. If those people and their ilk represent the 'democracy' we are trying to defend, we might as well give up now. We need to point out from exactly these platforms, that their policies and their corruption are exactly what is creating the conditions under which fascism thrives.

Who exactly are the elected people that Ger Francis thinks could speak at these rallies? How can we make sure they are people who working class people can admire, rather than people coming from the kind of self-serving politics they rightly despise?

IMHO Trade Unionists would be very welcome indeed. MPs and councillors would have to show that they genuine principled people, and that they are not just part of the Labour/libdem/Tory gravy train before they could be invited to speak at an anti-fascist demo.

Frank Partisan said...

In the US, with the disruption of town hall meetings, by organized and financed rightists, might in no time, get similar confrontations happening here.