We are Waltham Forest!

2nd September 2012

Simon Deville and Ally Dee report on the maginificent counter-mobilisation against the EDL in Waltham Forest

Saturday’s English Defence League (EDL) march in Walthamstow was dwarfed by the counter-mobilisation from the local community and has left the racist organisation reeling.

We are Waltham Forest was formed as a coalition of local religious, political and community groups in alliance with Unite Against Fascism, in response to the far right EDL’s announcement that it would march through Walthamstow. Originally the EDL was due to march on 18 August; this date was postponed until 1 September. Many suspect this was due to the likelihood that they wouldn’t be able anything but an embarrassingly small turnout. The postponement didn’t seem to make much difference on the day as the EDL were only able to mobilise around 200 people.

In contrast there was a magnificent turnout for the We are Waltham Forest rally and counter demonstration. The rally was addressed by a range of speakers including Stella Creasey MP, Jeanette Arnold MEP and Green Party London Assembly member Jean Lambert, alongside numerous religious and community activists, trade unionists and campaigners. Unite Against Fascism’s Weyman Bennett criticised council leader Chris Robbins’ call to just ignore the EDL march “When we have ignored them (the EDL) they have attacked us”. He pointed out that when the EDL were ignored previously in Redbridge, the EDL stepped up their hate campaign, walking into the local mosque to attack the Imam.

Fortunately most people didn’t take Robbins’ advice and thousands attended the rally with locals enthusiastically supporting the march as it moved along.

The lively and very mixed crowd organised a sit down protest where the demonstration intersected with the planned route of the EDL march. Despite the police forming a kettle around the sit d town down protest, many other protesters were still able to ensure that the EDL march faced local opposition.

The original route of the EDL march was already in a fairly non-visible location, but in the end they were only able to reach the Town Hall with the help of a large police guard escorting them around the back streets. Immediately following the demo the EDL’s Facebook page was filled with in-fighting, people saying they were leaving the EDL or were never going to go on any of their demos again.

The demonstration was upbeat with an excellent turnout from the local mosques. These alliances need to be strengthened now around campaigns that address the austerity programme of the Tories. It is their policies of cuts and the privatisation of our public services that are causing the real divisions in society.

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