Demonstrate in Manchester, Saturday: unite against the racist FLA!

By Gerry Gable

This Saturday, 11am at St Peter’s Square, unite against the racist Football Lads Alliance; don’t let the racists divide us.

A coalition of Manchester people is supporting a statement opposing a protest by a far right group in the City on Saturday 19 May.

The statement – organised by Stand Up to Racism (SUTR) and Unite Against Fascism (UAF) – opposes the demonstration organised by ‘The Football Lads Alliance’ (FLA), stating thatThe FLA claims to be against all extremism but in recent months it has had far right speakers on its platforms. Its marches have been promoted by far-right organisations and activists.’

Stand Up to Racism’s statement against the FLA coming to Manchester  is supported by 16 MPs, 2 MEPs, Manchester City Council Leader Richard Leese, over 30 Manchester Councillors, Regional Trades Unions, and others, including Dan Hett, brother of a Manchester attack victim and co-founder of Survivors Against Terror.

Mr Hett has said: “The racist and Islamophobic Football Lads Alliance are planning on callously hijacking the anniversary of the attacks to march in Manchester.  No class. No respect. Not welcome.”

The MPs supporting the statement against the FLA are: Debbie Abrahams MP, Yvonne Fovargue MP, James Frith MP, Kate Green MP, Andrew Gwynne MP, Mike Kane MP, Barbara Keeley MP, Afzal Khan MP, John McDonnell MP & Shadow Chancellor, Liz McInnes MP, Jim McMahon MP, Jo Platt MP, Yasmin Qureshi MP, Angela Rayner MP, Jonathan Reynolds MP, Jeff Smith MP;

The Football Association recently wrote to Premier League Clubs warning them about the FLA.

SUTR’S statement states that a major Veterans’ charity – Walking With The Wounded – pulled its support for an FLA demonstration in London in October following ‘severe’ posts on the FLA’s closed Facebook page targeting the Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, in the wake of concerns she raised about the group.  The statement says:  ‘Far from opposing extremism, the FLA’s closed Facebook page continually sees racist and Islamophobic posts’.

Stand Up to Racism & Unite Against Fascism are holding a mobilisation in opposition to the FLA, and will be meeting at 11.00am on 19 May in St Peter’s Square, Manchester.

Poet Tony Walsh, who read his poem ‘This is the Place’ at the Vigil following last year’s attack on the Arena, is also supporting the statement against the FLA.

Other signatories opposing the FLA include:  Julie Ward MEP, Wajid Khan MEP; GMB North West & Irish Region, PCS North West Region; UCU North West Region; UNISON North West Region; Show Racism the Red Card; DJ/Writer Dave Haslam; Regional Trades Unionists from the CWU, FBU, NUT-NEU, RMT, Unite; and many others.

Manchester City Councillor Rabnawaz Akbar, one of the organisers of the counter protest, said:  ‘We don’t need the Football Lads Alliance coming into our city peddling racism.  It is an insult to the memory of the 22 people who lost their lives and hundreds who were traumatised in the Arena attack last May.  I will be standing here in Manchester, shoulder to shoulder with the people of the city, in unity to make sure the Football Lads Alliance cannot pedal their hatred and bigotry in our city.’

Julie Ward, MEP for the North West of England, said:  ‘As the Labour Party’s spokesperson on Culture and Education in Europe, as MEP for NW England and as President of Greater Manchester Stand Up to Racism, I am very concerned about the threat of far-right Islamophobic group, the Football Lads Alliance.  I am honoured to represent Manchester which is one of the most multicultural cities in the world.  We love our music and our football and we despise organisations such as the FLA who seek to exploit the personal tragedies of those caught up in violent attacks.  Whether you support United or Man City this is one issue where we need to come together and stand firmly against racism and Islamophobia.  We are one, we love Manchester.  Refugees and migrants are welcome.  Racists and fascists are most definitely not!’

Paul Jenkins, from Unite Against Fascism, said:  ‘Key fascists such as ex EDL founder Tommy Robinson have been welcomed on FLA demos, and the FLA’s leadership includes people who have been members of fascist groups such as the EDL.  This shows the real aims of the FLA – to stir up racism, and to try to divide our communities at a sensitive time.  Our protest against the FLA is supported by people across Greater Manchester, including Dan Hett, the brother of a Manchester attack victim.  After last year’s horrific attack on the Arena, the city came together in a thousands-strong vigil, outside Manchester Town Hall, to pay tribute to all affected.   The FLA stand against that.  We urge everyone to join the Stand Up to Racism/Unite Against Fascism protest on Saturday to say no to the FLA, and to show that we will not let racists divide us.’


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