Wyre Forest Labour members arrived in Worcester for the anti-EDL ‘Rally 4 Unity’ well before the scheduled assembly time, and walking through the city wondered what was in store, as a few supporters of the racist EDL were already visible.
The city was also adorned with a large contingence of police; special operatives, regulars, and liaison officers. Some were drafted in from neighbouring authorities. Indeed, when we all arrived at Hill Street at 12 noon, the police made up a third of those present.
However, that was to change and by 2pm there were some 700 anti-EDL demonstrators representing the demography of the community and including political organisations and trade unions. There were banners including Worcester Trades Council and the Fire Brigades Union. There was also a variety of anti racist placards and some giving a message of peace and unity. One woman had wrapped herself in Union flag bunting and held a placard saying the EDL did not represent her England. Worcester Labour was well represented along with Wyre Forest Labour and the Tenbury branch and other parts of the Midlands.
The mood of the police was very amicable and officers approached individuals and engaged in polite conversation and small talk. One or two did express their aim being for everyone to go home safely.
Our send off followed speakers including those from Worcester Trades Council, prominent Anti-Racism Activists, Worcester Labour, Worcester Mosque, Labour Youth, and Book Marks (the progressive book shop in London recently subject to a fascist attack).
Just as we were about to leave we heard the triumphant rhythmic chords of a Bhangra band approaching. It lifted the atmosphere and everyone gave out loud cheers and applause as the band made its way to the front.
The route of our march was very short, Tallow Hill to The Corn Market and Silver Street. Hence, no main city centre streets for us, unlike what the fascist march had been allowed to do.
However our mood was positive and jubilant. Arrival at The Corn market gave us our first view of the assembled fascists (probably 100 to 150 of them) and we continued past them with the expected exchange of ‘pleasantries’ and assembled some 150 yards away. Chanting was the order and then our rally heard further speakers including FBU, Unite Against fascism and Stand Up To Racism.
The police had made sure all routes to the fascists were blocked off, and from the police point of view it, had obviously been a well marshalled exercise. They had made sure no contact was possible and contained both groups separated in a small area of the city.
Overall, the EDL fascists had been opposed and the ‘Rally 4 Unity’ had been a successful antidote to their vile racist bigotry and message of hate. As far as we know, there were no incidents of violence, although later on the fascists were seen to be scouring the streets as though looking for some of us.
Despite their call for a ‘National Rally’, the EDL had only mustered some 150 or so. However, we should not allow this to lure us into complacency. We currently live in a turbulent political period, both nationally and internationally, and for some, ultra-right wing politics will appear to be the answer. Fascism is never the answer, it is a creed of intolerance and violence that always leads to war.
Our opposition to the threatening presence of fascists on our streets is likely to be tested more severely but we are ready to face up to them and resist them.
Labour opposes racism and racists in whatever guise they appear, not just when they’re EDL thugs. Fascists don’t always present themselves in a way that is obvious when they cloak themselves in seeming respectability. Like wearing suits, being well educated, rich, and pretending to be your friend whilst hiding in open view. They even have no scruples and will accuse others of racism to hide their own guilt and fascist aspirations.
Labour has also been critical of the mainstream national media like The Daily Mail, The Express, The Sun etc that gives a platform to bigots and allows the demonisation of foreigners and the EU in an attempt to blame them for problems made in Tory dominated Westminster. It’s all a smokescreen to deflect working people from what’s really going on. None of that type of disguised racist rhetoric is helpful, and Labour will continue to call it out.
It is nonetheless reassuring to know that when called upon, the communities of Worcestershire can come together, regardless of background, in a show of unity and will organise to oppose racist EDL thugs seeking to sow hate and division. And for that, Worcestershire communities should be proud.