Antonia Bright and Movement for Justice on the march
After the narrow referendum vote in favour of leaving Europe, the People’s Assembly and Stand Up To Racism organised an emergency demonstration against the xenophobia the ‘NO’ vote appeared to reflect and encourage, and calling for an end to austerity and for the defeat of the Tory government. Thousands marched to support people from abroad who live in this country including refugees and asylum seekers.
It wasn’t a huge protest, organised only shortly before and in a rather busy month when the university term was over and many people were either already away on holiday or getting into holiday mood, but even so the roughly ten thousand who made it dwarfed the rival counter-protest by the EDL. I left the main march to photograph a brief ‘flash-mob’ by cleaners and supporters at the CBRE main London offices close to the march route, and then hurried down to Marble Arch to try an find the EDL.
There were so few it would have been hard to find them without the police escort which was keeping it safe from anti-fascist – and easily outnumbered the EDL marchers, a rather dejected looking group of well under a hundred. There was no sign of them at Marble Arch where they were due to gather, but I saw the police a couple of hundred yards away down Park Lane and hurried after them to find they were leading the EDL a short distance down Park Lane to hold their rally inside Hyde Park.
EDL in Hyde Park
In the park the EDL rejected the pen the police had provided, telling the police they were not animals, and instead held a rally just in front of it, the speakers standing on the barriers and the small crowd surrounded by several ranks of police. My picture above shows of a man who was arguing with the police who were protecting the protest, mainly from the press and was I think complaining about us being allowed to take photographs. A woman walked past on the opposite side to where I was standing and shouted ‘Black Lives Matter’ and was handled roughly by EDL stewards while police turned their backs, but most of the anti-fascists had already left to join the larger march, and after a few minutes when there seemed to be little of interest happening I left too, catching the tube to arrive in Parliament Square for most of the rally.
Relaxing in the sun before the rally in Parliament Square
I caught the tube to catch up with the main march and photograph the rally in Parliament Square, where the atmosphere was very different, with people relaxing in the sun. The event seemed very much a pro-Jeremy Corbyn event, with posters, banners and hats supporting him.
Zita Holbourne of BARAC and PCS holds her drawing ‘We Stand with Jeremy Corbyn because he stands with us’
The event came at the end of a week in which both Angela Eagle and Owen Smith had announced they would challenge Corbyn for the Labour leadership (though Eagle withdrew a few days afterwards) but there was no doubt who those at this even supported – and so to did over 60% of those who were allowed to vote when the election took place.
The challengers only hope had been that Corbyn would not be allowed to take part, and 4 days before the march the NEC had decided they had to follow the very clear rules that the incumbent leader would be on the ballot without needing to gain the nominations of MPs and MEPs required to challenge him. Even the NEC’s desperate attempt to ban some 130,000 recently joined members (against party rules, but an appeal court ruled they could change the rules) seemed unlikely to affect the result.
Another member of the press as we were standing together photographing the speakers asked me how long I thought Corbyn could hang on. “Until 2020” was my reply, “and longer if he wins the election“. Now the election is coming rather earlier than expected, and his future will depend on the vote. Perhaps he will be Prime Minister until 2022, but if Labour fail disastrously he may be forced out earlier and the party could be faced with crisis; it’s hard to see how it can continue with MPs and a party apparatus that is so out of line with the views of the vast majority of its members.