Published on Saturday, 05 May 2012 20:40 Written by Sonia Gable
Trade unionists, community groups and antifascists have told the English Defence League loudly and clearly that they are not welcome in Luton. Nearly 2,000 demonstrators set off from Wardown Park this afternoon carrying a mass of trade union banners and placards, and made their way peacefully to the western part of the town centre.
A smaller number of EDL supporters gathered in pubs in the Park Street area before setting off on their march on the eastern side of the town centre. A heavy police presence kept the two groups apart, but was unable to prevent EDL marchers from fighting among themselves, setting off fireworks and pelting the police with bottles and beer cans.
Earlier, Stephen Lennon sporting a badly scratched face announced that he was to be appointed deputy leader of the British Freedom Party, news that had leaked ten days earlier. How many members he will help lead is a moot point. Already those not so enamoured by his presence are walking out of the tiny party, formed in late 2010 by disillusioned British National Party activists, and going nowhere fast. Five BFP candidates standing in the council elections in Liverpool on Thursday received just 221 votes between them and a sixth in Basildon fared only slightly better with 87 votes, amounting to a massive (or not) 4.2%.
Lennon’s deputy in the EDL, Kevin Carroll, turned up in a smart suit, but it did not hide his violent tendencies as he told his supporters that George Galloway, the newly elected Respect MP for Bradford, should be hanged for treason. Kasper Mortensen, the recently sacked leader of the Danish Defence League was there, presumably returning the compliment after a few EDL supporters made their way to Denmark for the poorly attended counter-Jihad meeting in Aarhus on 31 March. Throwing missiles at the police was probably a bit tame for him. He recently served a 28-day prison sentence for a violent assault on a night club bouncer.
Also lending their support, following the recent overtures to the EDL by BNP leader Nick Griffin, were all of Luton’s BNP leadership and the party’s local photographer Alan Johnson.
Despite the EDL violence only two arrests were reported, one at each demo.
The antifascist march was organised by the community group We are Luton, with the support of several local youth organisations, trade union branches and regional organisations, Luton and Beds Green Party, Luton Council of Mosques, the local MP Kelvin Hopkins, and Unite Against Fascism. We are Luton has also won the support of the TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.
Speakers before and after the antifascist march emphasised the importance of challenging the EDL, and other racist and fascist groups such as March for England, on the streets and making a strong stand against their attempts to divide the community. Marchers carried banners from We are Luton, several Unison branches, NUT, PCS, UCU, Luton TUC, Shropshire and Telford TUC, Bradford United against the EDL, several UAF branches, Stevenage & District TUC, Harlow & District TUC and Antifaschistische Aktion.
After the march a group of antifascist activists from Brighton stayed behind in the town to help protect Islamic community buildings from attack by the EDL.