Opposition grows to EDL founder’s book launch in Greater Manchester

By Gerry Gable

MPs, MEPs, councillors and trade unionists support anti-fascist statement, Unite Against Fascism has announced.

Opposition to a book launch being held, in Greater Manchester, by the founder of the far right English Defence League – ‘Tommy Robinson’ – is being organised by anti-fascist coalition Unite Against Fascism (UAF).

Signatories to a statement organised by UAF, in opposition to the book launch on 3rd November, include: MPs Kate Green, Dan Carden, Andrew Gwynne and Afzal Khan; MEPs Theresa Griffin, Julie Ward, Wajid Khan; Deputy Mayor of Trafford Tom Ross; Leader of Trafford Labour Group Andrew Western; a number of Trafford Councillors; North West Regional Secretaries from the following trades unions: the FBU, GMB, NUT, PCS, UNISON and Unite; Gerry Gable, Editor of Searchlight Magazine; North West Stand Up to Racism; and others.

UAF say that ‘Tommy Robinson’ – real name Stephen Yaxley Lennon – has a history of organising ‘fascist’ groups, including the BNP, British Freedom Party, and the English Defence League (EDL), which he set up in 2009. One section of UAF’s Unity Statement says that ‘Robinson’: ‘… organised a series of Islamophobic EDL demonstrations across Britain, which involved racist chanting, violence and Nazi salutes. Only in June 2017, Robinson attacked an Asian male at Ascot Races.’

The Statement also says: ‘Robinson recently organised an anti-Muslim Demonstration in Manchester on 11th June, in an attempt to exploit the recent, horrific terror attacks at the Arena, in order to scapegoat Muslims. Our thoughts are with all those affected by these terrible attacks. Greater Manchester is a proud, multicultural area which is made up of people of all races and religions and we will not be divided – Islam is not to blame for terrorism. We oppose antisemitism, Islamophobia and all forms of racism. At the centre of the 11th June demo were fascists who have been members of groups such as the National Front, BNP and Combat 18.’

The EDL founder said in August that he will hold the book launch at The Bowlers Exhibition Centre in Trafford Park on November 3rd. Following adverse publicity for the venue – including the ticketing service Ticket Quarter’s decision to cancel selling tickets for the launch – ‘Robinson’ has since said that the event will be elsewhere. However, UAF have also expressed concern over connections between members of The Bowler’s Management to far right organisations, and have said that UAF will protest against the book launch wherever it takes place.

Kate Green MP for Stretford and Urmston said: ‘Mr Robinson’s political opinions are vicious, divisive and dangerous, and he is not welcome in our diverse, multicultural and friendly communities here in Greater Manchester. I abhor all forms of discrimination, including anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and all forms of racism, and I warmly support Unite Against Fascism in their campaign against this event.’

Paul Jenkins of Unite Against Fascism said: ‘The EDL founder’s book is a racist one. We reject his attempts to try to blame Muslims for the terrible attacks in the Arena and elsewhere. The majority of people in Greater Manchester oppose racism. ‘Tommy Robinson’ is not the first fascist to write a book – Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf helped him to build the Nazi Party in Germany and to carry out the horror of the Holocaust. We say ‘Never Again’. We urge everyone to support Unite Against Fascism’s statement and protest against ‘Robinson’s book launch on 3rd November.’