Posts Tagged ‘anti-fascists’

Tibet, Syrians, Nuclear Melt-Down, Islamophobia & Lions

Tuesday, March 15th, 2022

Tibet, Syrians, Nuclear Melt-Down, Islamophobia & Lions. Saturday 15th March, seven years ago was another typically varied day of protests on the streets of London which I covered.


London March for Freedom for Tibet

Every year Tibetans and supporters in London protest around the anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, ten years after the Chinese invasion of the country. In 1959 the Dalai Lama and 120,000 Tibetans escaped to India and established the Tibetan Government in Exile.

In 2014 they met at Downing St for a march to a rally outside the Chinese Embassy in Portland Place, calling for Tibet to be free and in charge of its own destiny again and for an end to the illegal Chinese occupation. They say China is destroying Tibetan culture, and Tibetans are rapidly becoming a minority in their country as thousands of migrants are brought in. Peaceful protests by Tibetans are met by arrests, torture, death and lies, and China’s economic power means western countries adopt what they have called a policy of ‘constructive engagement’ with China, effectively turning a blind eye to the occupation and to human rights abuses in Tibet.

I left the Tibetans shortly after their march went through Trafalgar Square to photograph another protest.

London March for Freedom for Tibet


Syrians March for International Action

I had met the Syrians before the start of their march close to Hyde Park corner and had left them as they began their march along Piccadilly on the third anniversary of the start of their fight for freedom. I met them again as they came down Whitehall for a rally at Downing St to show their commitment to the cause and their solidarity with fellow Syrians inside and outside Syria.

The marchers from the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and the UK Syrian community called for Assad to go and were appealing to the Britain and the international community to help them to get rid of him. Unfortunately although western leaders condemned the actions of the Syrian government they were not prepared to back up their words with action, and it was left to Russia, who backed Assad to determine the future of the country. Few can doubt that the weakness shown by the west over Syria was not a major factor in Putin thinking he could successfully invade Ukraine.

Ukraine is not of course Syria, but it is hard to read the statement made by the Syrians I quoted in my post without seeing some parallels: “Syria, once proud of its contribution to culture, its distinguished history and its beautiful mosques and churches has been overwhelmed with a brutal dictatorship. Syrian homes have turned to rubble, echoing the unheard screams of its inhabitants. The regime has tried to silence the call of freedom by murdering over 150,000, injuring 500,000, imprisoning 250,000, making 1.5 million refugees and caused over 4.5 million internally displaced people within Syria, and recently started using chemical weapons…” Putin in Syria saved a brutal dictatorship, while in Ukraine it seems his aim is to impose a different regime on the country, perhaps less brutal but requiring similar means for it to be imposed.

Syrians March for International Action


Fukushima Nuclear Melt-down Remembered

Earlier I had been at Hyde Park Corner where protesters had gathered on the third anniversary of the nuclear melt-down at Fukushima to march through London, first to the Japanese Embassy and then on to a short stop at Downing St before a rally in Parliament Square.

I photographed them again at Downing St, but had to leave as they marched away to their rally.

Fukushima Nuclear Melt-down Remembered


English Volunteer Force march in London

The English Volunteer Force is a coalition of various far-right groups and described the protest on Facebook as “highlighting multiple issues from immigration, Islamic hate preachers, sharia law, Sharia zones, Sharia patrol groups, banning the Burhka!, Halal meat, endless applications for more mosques etc.”
They insist that they are ‘patriotic’ and are not racist, and claim not to be against Muslims but simply against Muslim extremists, though I found this hard to take seriously.

The march started outside the Lord Moon of the Mall pub close to the Trafalgar Square end of Whitehall where people were just coming out of the pub as I arrived. Police were taking a great deal of trouble to keep anti-fascist who were intent on stopping the march from getting close to it, but were unhelpful when I complained about an assault by one of the protesters who shouted at me and pushed my camera into my face.

A few minutes before the assault I’d mingled with the protesters as they walked down to Downing St, joking with some I knew from earlier right-wing protests I’d covered previously. They seemed pleased that I was covering the event – and although they were clear we differed greatly in our views had personally invited me to some cover some ‘patriotic’ events as they trusted me to report accurately on them.

There were several groups of counter-protesters but generally they were kept apart by police – and by stewards in an official protest area against the EVF opposite Downing St. There were a few arrests both of anti-fascists and of EVF marchers who tried to attack them, and one of the larger groups of anti-fascist was kettled by police on Parliament St.

English Volunteer Force march in London


Save Our Lions – Ban Canned Hunting

Finally I walked back up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, where hundreds had come for the Global March for Lions, marching from different starting points to meet and call for a ban on the ‘canned’ hunting of captive lions by wealthy trophy tourists.

Legal but unscrupulous, ‘canned hunting’ is big business in South Africa, with more than 8,000 lions in captivity, bred on lion farms. Rich visitors pay large sums to take part in lion shoots, where the targets are unable to escape, often raised to be tame and used to human presence and drugged to make them easy kills. Over 160 lion killing camps have been set up in South African in the last 15 years.

As I commented: “It is a terrible way to treat a wild and noble animal, but it also greatly threatens the wild lion population. To prevent the inbreeding that is rife in captive lion populations, wild lions continue to be captured, while the growth in the Asian lion bone trade increased poaching.”

Save Our Lions – Ban Canned Hunting


More about all these events on My London Diary:
Save Our Lions – Ban Canned Hunting
English Volunteer Force march in London
Fukushima Nuclear Melt-down Remembered
Syrians March for International Action
London March for Freedom for Tibet


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BBC Ignores Turkey’s War On Kurds

Sunday, March 6th, 2022

BBC Ignores Turkey’s War On Kurds. Six years ago today, on Sunday 6th March 2016, thousand of Kurds marched from the BBC to Trafalgar Square calling for an end to the silence from Turkey’s NATO allies and the western press over Turkey’s increasing war against Kurds since the political successes of the Kurdih political party and the formation of the popular progressive democracy of Rojava in Northern Syria.

Marchers sat down briefly at Piccadilly Circus

On My London Diary I posted a list of over 30 UK groups supporting in the protest including the National Union of Teachers, the PCS and RMT as well as other trade unionists and branches, the Stop The War Coalition, the Green Party, Unite Against Fascism, many left wing parties and political groups and of course Kurdish organisations.

The repression and marginalisation of Kurds by Turkey is as old as the Turkish state, formed in 1923. For many years the state even denied their existence, describing them as “mountain Turks”, and it outlawed their language and clamped down on their cultural events such their Nowruz New Year Festival and on the wearing of their traditional dress and Kurdish names. Even the words Kurds and Kurdistan were banned.

The crowd stretched some way past Broadcasting House

The 1990s and early 2000s saw some relaxation of the repression of their language and community celebrations, but it remains illegal to teach in Kurdish and there is still limited freedom of expression. In 1978 Kurds formed the militant Kurdish Workers’ Party, PKK, which launched a military freedom fight against Turkey in 1984. PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan was captured in Nairobi in 1999 by Turkish agents assisted by the CIA and flown back for trial in Turkey. He was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life imprisonment when Turkey abolished the death penality and since then has been held in a Turkish high-security island prison.

Öcalan had argued for a political solution to the conflict since 1993 and even in prison remains the leader of the PKK. Subjected to long spells on isolation there have been periods where he has been allowed visits and has been in negotiations with the Turkish government. He has also written about the democratic confederalism which is at the heart of the constitution of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, widely known as Rojava, founded in 2012.

Rojava’s decentralised democratic form of government recognises and includes the various communities in the area – Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Yazidis, Assyrians and others as well as promoting the equality of women.

The main ground forces which have been effective against Daesh (ISIS) in the region are from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, men in the YPG and women in the YPJ, who with the help of US air support defeated the Islamic State in Northern Syria.

Turkey regards the YPG and YPJ as being a part of the PKK, regarded by them and many countries as a terrorist group and widely banned. Since 2016 it has used its overwhelming military power (supported by NATO and Russia) to try to crush the Kurds and to capture Rojava, occupying large areas. Together with Syrian allies (including some former ISIS fighters) they are carrying out a policy of ethnic cleansing against the Kurds, and have been engaged in a wide range of war crimes.

Peter Tatchell

As well as calling for an end to attacks by Turkey and for full and un-biased reporting of Turkey’s attacks on the Kurds the marchers want the UK to end its support for the Turkish aggression and also to repeal the ban on the PKK under the Terrorism Act 2000. It is banned in most other western countries including the EU, where several court verdicts have found its proscription to be illegal but it has remained.

The march sat down for a few minutes stopping traffic at Piccadilly Circus, then went on the a rally in Trafalgar Square, where I left them. There were no reports of the march on the BBC or in other UK mass-media, though I think it was covered by some foreign news services and our minuscule left-wing press.

More at Break the Silence! Turkey’s War on Kurds.


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EDL Saved by Police in Slough

Tuesday, February 1st, 2022

EDL Saved by Police in Slough – 1st February 2014.

Berkshire Anti-Fascists were among those trying to stop the EDL marching

I don’t often go to Slough. While I wouldn’t entirely share John Betjeman’s sentiments “Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough! It isn’t fit for humans now” it isn’t one of my favourite places, and although its only a fairly short bike ride or bus journey away, I seldom feel moved to go there.

Back in the 1990s I did go to take pictures, particularly on the trading estate, the largest industrial estate in single private ownership in Europe. I was then working on a project related to Thatcher’s de-industrialisation of the UK, as well as beefing up the almost non-existent selection of industrial buildings in one of our national collections.

And later in the 2000’s I rode there a couple of April Sunday mornings to photograph the annual Sikh Vaisakhi procession from the Gurdwara in the north of the town, always a very enjoyable experience. Most recently I went to reclaim my phone which I’d dropped on a bus journey and was handed in at the bus station after the driver found it at the end of the route. And I’ve been driven through Slough a few times on the way back from walks in Burnham Beeches and other sylvan walks in the countryside on its fringes.

But on February 1st eight years ago I was there for a very different reason. A couple of hundred EDL supporters from around the country had come to march to a rally in the centre of Slough in an anti-Muslim protest over plans for a new mosque and Islamic community centre.

Large numbers of local people along with a few activists had gathered to opposed them, probably outnumbering them by around 10 to 1. As well as local Asian youths and trade unionists there were black-clad anti-fascists and supporters of Unite Against Fascism. There were two distinct large groups both holding rallies and hoping to prevent the EDL from marching through the centre of the town to hold their rally.

Unusually, as I wrote:

The EDL seemed determined to show they could behave rather better than on many previous occasions, and had banned drinking on the protest. There were plenty of EDL stewards on hand having an occasional word with anyone who seemed to be getting out of hand. A man who started to shout out their well-known chant “Allah is a pedo” was greeted by shouts to stop and quickly grabbed, though later things seemed to get a little out of hand with a large group if not the entire protest joining in with chanting “Allah, Allah, who the f**k is Allah.”

EDL Saved by Police in Slough

There was also a very large police presence, including a number of mounted police, and they very physically cleared a way for the march, with a number of charges by police horses and some very rough handling. As I wrote: “There were a number of minor injuries caused by police and protesters, and I was hit by a barrier thrown over by EDL supporters as well as a plastic bottle thrown by an Asian youth, as well as getting a few bruises from the pushing, mainly by police.”

The barrier hit me as I was attempting to photograph the EDL rally from outside the barriers and police around it. It hit me on one ankle and was extremely painful, and for a few minutes I could hardly walk. But soon I decided nothing seemed to be broken and managed to hobble around and take just a few more pictures.

Then I decided I’d done enough and needed to rest my ankle. Fortunately I’d come by bus, as cycling home would have been agony, and I was able to leave the town centre and sit on the bus for the longish ride home. Fortunately it isn’t a very long walk from the bus stop.

More on My London Diary at EDL Saved by Police in Slough.


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Women March, Bolivians Protest, Antifa Solidarity

Wednesday, January 19th, 2022

Women March, Bolivians Protest, Antifa Solidarity
Saturday 19th January 2019 was another day of protests in London.

Women’s Bread & Roses protest

Inspired by the Bread & Roses protests which revolutionised workers’ rights for women in 1912, Women’s March London marched from the BBC to a rally in Trafalgar Square. The march was a part of an international day with women marching in many countries across the world and particularly in the USA.

Women were marching against economic oppression, violence against women, gender pay gap, racism, fascism, institutional sexual harassment and hostile environment in the UK, and they called for a government dedicated to equality and working for all of us rather than the few.

It began rather oddly outside the BBC with a carefully organised and scripted rally by a TV crew working for the BBC to produce what they called a documentary, though it seemed to have little real connection with the event that was taking place.

I walked with the women photographing them as they marched to another hopefully less scripted rally in Trafalgar Square where I left them to go to another event.

Bolivians protest against Morales

While in Trafalgar Square I photographed another protest taking place on the North Terrace, where Bolivians from the 21F movement had gathered against the ruling by Bolivia’s Electoral Tribunal that President Evo Morales could stand for a fourth term in office. Morales was first elected president in 2005, and supported the 2009 constitution which only allowed two consecutive terms in office. But later he tried to change this and the matter was put to a national referendum on 21st February 2016 which narrowly rejected the change.

Morales then went to the courts and they ruled that the limitation to two terms was an infringement on human rights and allowed him to stand again,, and he won a third term in office. The protesters were from the 21F movement, named from the referendum debate who accused him of corruption and interfering with the court system and say he is behaving as a dictator by trying to remain in power for a fourth term. He stood and won in October 2019, but a coup attempt in November 2019 forced him to flee the country, though he was able to return after MAS candidate Luis Arce won a clear victory in the 2020 general election and was sworn in as President.

Morales, the head of the Movement for Socialism party (MAS) while in office implemented leftist policies, reducing poverty and illiteracy and combating the influence of the United States and multinational corporations in Bolivia which has made him very unpopular with many of the middle class who were used to running the country – as well as the USA who have encouraged and financed opposition to him. Perhaps the 21F protest was really more about his policies than a concern for the integrity of the constitution.

Solidarity with Russian anti-fascists

From Trafalgar Square I made my way to the Cable Street Mural on the former Stepney Town Hall in St George’s Gardens Shadwell, where Anarchist and Anti-fascists were gathering to march to oppose racism, xenophobia, fascism and the upsurge of far-right populism and to show solidarity with Russian anti-fascists who have been arrested, framed and tortured in a brutal wave of repression.

There were speeches by Russian and Ukrainian comrades and a message from some of those under arrest in Russia. Six were arrested in 2017 by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and charged with belonging to a non-existent organisation, ‘The Network’. They have been and beaten and tortured in the pre-trial detention facility using electrical torture and hanging them upside down to get them to sign confessions, which they were forced to memorise.

Five more anti-fascists have been arrested since and also tortured to admit they were members of ‘The Network’, which the FSB claims were planning explosions during the Russian presidential elections and the World Cup. They could be jailed for up to 20 years for membership of the fictional group.

Stanislav Markelov, murdered by fascists in broad daylight on January 19th 2009.

January 19th was the 10th anniversary of the brutal murder on a Moscow street in broad daylight of two Russian anti-fascists, journalist Anastasia Baburova and lawyer Stanislav Markelov. Russian anarchists and anti-fascists hold events to remember them on this day every year.

From the fine mural celebrating the 1936 Battle of Cable Street, when the East End rose up to fight the police who tried to force a way for Mosley’s Blackshirts to march through the Jewish East End, the protesters marched to Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel, re-named after a young Bengali textile worker, 24 year old Altab Ali, who was murdered here on May 4th 1978 in a brutal unprovoked racist attack by three teenage boys as he walked home from work.

More on all three protests on My London Diary:
Solidarity with Russian anti-fascists
Bolivians protest against Morales
Women’s Bread & Roses protest


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Tower Hamlets Against the EDL

Tuesday, September 7th, 2021

On Saturday 7th September 2013 the English Defence League led by Tommy Robinson tried to march into Tower Hamlets. Police had laid down strict conditions for their protest which included an exact route for their march, a limit on length of the rally in Aldgate and a prohibition on going across the border of the CIty of London into Tower Hamlets.

When I arrived well before their march was due to start those EDL supporters present were generally in a good mood and happy to pose for the press and we were able to move and photograph freely. Gradually things got a little edgier, though I was still able to photograph standing next to Tommy and the other leaders when they arrived.

Then the police arrived in large numbers, surrounding the marchers and moving the press away from them. Photography of the march when it began was difficult, with police stopping us going close to it. I was able to take some pictures with a longer lens than I like to use, but police kept moving us further and further away, preventing us from doing our job.

I gave up, and went away in search of the anti-fascists who I knew would be trying to disrupt the march, and had set off some smoke flares in the distance. Police had blocked their route with police vans and were keeping them kettled several hundred yards from the march route. The EDL were still some distance away when I walked out past the police at the north end of the group of protesters to go down a side street and join the EDL. I wasn’t stopped there but did have to show my press card to go through two other police lines before getting fairly close to the march.

I joined on to a small TV crew and we found a raised position from where we could photograph the marchers as they came up to Aldgate, and was then able to move to where I could see the rally beginning. Fortunately I managed to get close enough to make some decent pictures with my short telephoto zoom, working on DX format to get a longer equivalent focal length of arond 158mm. I liked using DX format on the full-frame Nikon D800E as it allowed me to see what was happening outside the image frame and still gave an entirely usable 15Mp image.

I soon tired of hearing the angry and ill-informed Islamophobic speech by Robinson (and the racist comments from the crowd) and moved away. It wasn’t easy to get past the half a dozen police lines between the rally and the people who had come to Whitechapel to oppose the march, even with a UK Press Card and I had to find a senior officer or try again on the other side of the road in some places to get through.

Here a large crowd had gathered including many from Tower Hamlets including the then mayor and many councillors as well as religious leaders, and they were supported by trade unionists and others from across London. The atmosphere here was so different from the hate a block to the west with people defiant but in good spirits and happy to be photographed.

The huge police presence kept the groups apart, and prevented all but a very few minor incidents, and without them there would certainly have been a great deal of violence on the streets with the EDL being heavily outnumbered and forced to flee. It would have been something like a repeat of the humiliating defeat of Mosley and his fascists in 1936 when the police tried to force the march through, but failed. Although this time the police did make the EDL march possible, they also very sensibly stopped it on the edge of the City before it could reach Tower Hamlets.

More text and pictures on My London Diary:

EDL March returns to Tower Hamlets (or rather it tried to but didn’t quite make it)
Anti-Fascists Oppose EDL
Tower Hamlets United Against the EDL



Londoners Defeat the EDL: 2012

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

Londoners came out to defeat the racist EDL when Tommy Robinson decided to hold a march to a rally in Walthamstow against Muslims and Sharia Law. The area is one of London’s more ethnically diverse, with a large Muslim population as well as others of Asian and Caribbean origin and, at least in 2012, many from Romania, Poland, Hungary and other EU countries. Roughly a quarter of the population of the borough of Waltham Forest call themselves Muslim though around twice as many identify as Christian.

The ‘We are Waltham Forest’ campaign brought together many groups from the community to oppose the march, including many from the churches and mosques in the area as well as the main political parties and trade unionists as well as more active anti-fascist groups including Unite Against Fascism.

From a well-attended rally in the centre of Walthamstow people marched to block the road along which the EDL intended to march. As they marched people came out of shops and houses to applaud them and it was clear they enjoyed wide community support.

When they reached the crucial road junction, many of them sat down on the street, while others stood and watched. A samba band played and people danced and it was clear that there were more than a thousand people determined that the EDL were not going to be allowed to pass.

I went to meet the EDL march on its way into the area, and found a group of perhaps 200 surrounded by a police escort which made taking photographs difficult. But since I was getting sworn and and threatened by the marchers the police presence was welcome, and they held back one man who made a determined effort to assault me. I followed their march for some distance; there were a few protesters at the side of the road against them, but police stopped them coming close. Along around half a mile only one person shouted support, leaning out of a first floor window, and was met with a huge response from the marchers.

Police took the EDL along some back streets that led them close to the site where they had intended to hold their rally but then kettled them. Tommy Robinson and the other EDL leaders had set up a PA system but the police held the marchers a short distance away and it soon became clear that a rally there would be impossible. Although most of the opposition was non-violent, stones and other objects were soon flying through the air, and the EDL leaders had to retreat, as I did too, watching from the sidelines.

I’d decided long ago that I was not prepared to wear the kind of protective armour that many photographers use to cover protests – including various kinds of helmet, bullet proof vests, shin pads and more. Fortunately such things are seldom needed at protests in the UK, though photographers have often been targets, particularly at extreme right protests. Here it was the anti-fascists who were throwing things, not at photographers but towards the EDL, but many were falling short.

It seemed to me that a stalemate had been reached and that nothing of interest was likely to happen and I decided to go home. For once I was right – often my leaving seems to be a signal for things to kick off – but this time little more happened. Eventually the police escorted the kettled EDL march away to an Underground station so they could safely leave the area.

More about the event and many more pictures at Waltham Forest Defeats the EDL.


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Edinburgh against Fascism: 2013

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

I seldom photograph protests outside London, and I hadn’t gone to Scotland to take photographs, but we had been invited to spend a week there during the Edinburgh festival. We’d never been to the festival before, and had timed our two previous stays in the city deliberately to avoid it, but decided to go and see what it was like. We did actually enjoy the week, but haven’t felt it was an experience we need to repeat.

On Saturday 17th August we rushed out after breakfast to attend a play about a male clergyman and a female quantum physicist, time travel and religion; clever and quite funny but it was too early in the morning for me. However it was conveniently close to where Unite Against Fascism and others were gathering to oppose a march by the fascist Scottish Defence League, and while Linda went to listen to a classical concert I made the short walk to cover the protest – my first in Scotland.

Like many such events in London it was slow to start. The assembly time was a couple of hours before the SDL were expected to march and the Scottish police were determined to keep the two groups as far apart as they could. But it gave me more than enough time to take pictures of the marchers and their banners and placards.

At the time all of my work on protests was made using Nikon DSLRs, but I’d left them at home when I came away for a week’s holiday, and all of these pictures were made using the relatively light and compact Fuji X-E1 and a single lens, the Fuji 18-55mm zoom. It was the first time I’d used the Fuji camera for a protest, and I did it a little less responsive than the Nikon, with slower auto-focus and sometimes a perceptible lag between shutter press and picture-taking.

The electronic viewfinder couldn’t match the Nikon’s optical one either for clarity, and sometimes was noticeably slow to react when I moved the camera or zoomed the lens. And having just an equivalent focal length of 27-83mm I found limiting, missing both the extreme wide-angle and longer telephoto I usually worked with. But despite this I was reasonably pleased with the pictures from the day.

Eventually the march moved off and was escorted by police who kept them well away from the SDL as they marched to a large pen on Horse Wynd at the back of the Scottish Parliament. Approaching a thousand people had come to oppose the racist march.

There was still no sign of the SDL, but I avoided the pen and walked back up Canongate to meet them coming down. Through a tight police cordon around the group of around a hundred I saw quite a few faces familiar from EDL protests in London – and some of them obviously recognised me and made threatening gestures.

Once police had led them into a separate pen far enough away from the anti-fascists to prevent the two groups throwing missiles at each other but within shouting distance, it got a little easier to photograph some of the EDL. Although there were police lines stopping either fascists or anti-fascists from getting closer to each other a few anti-fascists found their way though the entrance area to Hollyroodhouse and were then arrested as they approached the EDL.

I left as the two groups were still shouting at each other to go to the Postgrad show at the College of Art before it closed, then on to a comedy show and finally to a meal with the dozen of us who were sharing a large flat at a convenient Thai restuarant. We were up early the next morning to catch a train back to London.

SDL and UAF in Edinburgh

One Law for All

Sunday, June 20th, 2021

Islam is now the UK’s second largest religion, with 2018 Office of National Statistics figures for Great Britain of 3,372,966, around 5.2% of the population, still considerably lower than the 36 million who declared themselves Christian in the 2011 census.

Along with the rise in numbers we have also seen a dramatic rise in Islamophobia, partly driven by the exploitation of the fear and hate against the terrorism of small groups of extremists here as well as in the US and France, and more recently by the rise of ISIS in Syria – where many of those who fought against and defeated ISIS there were also Muslims.

The ‘Prevent’ strategy introduced by the Labour Government after the London bombings as an aspect of counter-terrorism was essentially aimed at de-radicalising young Muslims through community-based programmes. It stigmatised the entire Muslim community – and did so at a time when extreme right-wing organisations were growing strongly and provoking racial tensions, and removed any real attention from their illegal behaviour – and the terrorist threat they posed.

The coalition government changed ‘Prevent’ radically. No longer was it concerned with attempts to promote integration though community programmes but shifted to a police-led system to indentify individuals who might be vulnerable to ‘radicalisation’ and to provide intervention packages for them. Unfortunately there seem to be no reliable indicators of such vulnerability.

The 2015 Counter-Terrorism and Security Act (CTSA) made it a legal duty for “teachers, doctors, social workers and others to monitor and report people they consider vulnerable to extremism, embedding discrimination in public services.” As https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/fundamental/prevent/ Liberty point out, “The definition of extremism under Prevent is so wide that thousands of people are being swept up by it – including children engaging in innocuous conduct, people protesting climate change, and a nurse who began wearing a hijab.” They say the Prevent duty must be scrapped.

One Law for All, a campaigning organisation against religious based laws and in defence of equality and secularism, and in particular calling on the UK government to put an end to all Sharia courts and religious tribunals, and had organised a rally opposite Downing St om Sunday 20th June 2010.

Although the Church of England’s courts are now restricted to matters inside the church, courts based on Islamic Sharia Law and Jewish Beth Din courts still have official recognition as arbitration tribunals, particularly related to marriage. The Jewish courts work under the principle that “the law of the land is the law”, giving precedence to English law, but this is not always the case with Sharia courts.

A small group of Muslims dressed in black with a very powerful public address system had come to oppose the One Law for All protest. The claimed to be ‘Muslims Against the Crusades’ or ‘Muslims Against Crusaders’, a group widely thought to be a reincarnation of the banned ‘Islam4UK’ (itself a relaunch of the banned Al-Muhajiroun.)

Maryam Namazie of One Law for All made clear they were not anti-Muslim:

“The battle against Sharia law is a battle against Islamism not Muslims, immigrants and people living under Sharia law here or elsewhere. So it is very apt for the Islamists to hold a counter-demonstration against our rally. This is where the real battleground lies. Anyone wanting to defend universal rights, secularism and a life worthy of the 21st century must join us now in order to push back the Islamists as well as fringe far Right groups like the English Defence League and the British National Party that aims to scapegoat and blame many of our citizens for Islamism.”

And around 20 members of that fringe right-wing group the EDL were there to protest against the Muslims.

After a while police took them to one side and searched them, threatening me with arrest when I went to take pictures, before leading them away.

Half an hour later several hundred young British Asians arrived from a rally in Whitechapel against the EDL – but they were too late to confront them as the EDL had already been removed by police.

Soon the One Law for All rally ended and they marched off towards the Iranian Embassy in Kensington. I walked with them to Victoria and then went home.

UAF Arrive to Oppose EDL
EDL Oppose Muslims Against Crusades
Muslim Crusaders For Sharia
No Sharia – One Law For All

November 2014 (4)

Saturday, November 28th, 2020

One of the more disturbing trends in Britain over the past ten years has been the rise of fascism, both in mainstream politics and also in the rise of various extreme right groups. We have a government which is increasingly prepared to act outside the law – prime examples including the Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ set up by Theresa May, Boris Johnson’s attempt to close down Parliament and more recently to renege on parts of our agreement with the UK – and whose actions have encouraged extremist overtly racist and Islamophobic groups. But it isn’t just in the UK, and Germany, Poland and Greece are among other countries to have seen similar movements on a larger scale.

One of the nastier to crawl out from under the stones is the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece, where 50 leading members were then on trial in Athens for violent attacks, firearms and other offences. In the UK, New Dawn was set up in 2013 in support of the Greek organisation and, together with Polish neo-Nazis in the UK and British ‘White Pride’ supporters they had planned to march in London to the Greek Embassy to call on the Greek government calling on them to drop the charges and release the Golden Dawn leaders.

Their march was facilitated by the police and opposed by UK anti-fascist activists including Antifascist Action for Greece, Unite Against Fascism and many trade unionists, who gathered opposite the Greek Embassy an hour before the Golden Dawn supporters were due to arrive.

I don’t enjoy photographing extreme right groups, who tend to be hostile, and as usual I was threatened and spat at, though the police presence prevented any physical violence and stopped the press getting really close to the protesters. As a journalist I would have liked to have been able to talk to some of them, but this wasn’t possible, and their approach to the press generally is to shout insults and complain the press treat them badly by reporting their actions. I think we generally report accurately and if reports are bad it is because their actions are reprehensible.

Both police and protesters tried to prevent me and the other photographers taking pictures and, not unusually, I and others were threatened with arrest. A videographer with the protesters made a point of recording those of us who were taking photographs. Those of us who report on right-wing protests have become used to having our pictures posted on the web with the intention of provoking violence against us.

The main speaker at the event was Peter Rushton of the England First Party, associate editor of its magazine, Heritage and Destiny. According to Hope Not Hate he was expelled from the BNP in 2002, joining the more extreme White Nationalist Party, and later the British People’s Party. Reputed to be one of Britain’s leading Holocaust deniers they say he was a close friend of the banned terror group National Action.

I left after photographing Rushton speaking, walking through the police lines to make my way to Holland Park underground station. I thought it wise to leave the area before police allowed the New Dawn protesters to leave.

More at Neo-Nazi ‘Free the Golden Dawn’ Opposed.

Cable St Remembered

Sunday, October 4th, 2020

Back on October 4th 2006 we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Cable St. Then there were still quite a few people present who had their own memories of the day people from the East End fought police and fascist marchers, stopping them from marching.

In my account of the event I wrote (capitalisation added):

The man standing next to me quietly said “I was there” and later told me a little of the event and his life. It was the story of a typical East-ender of the era, 13 when it happened. His parents had arrived from Poland in 1912 and settled close to Cable Street, later moving to Brick Lane. Despite being Jewish he had gone to the Methodist Mission just down Cable Street and paid his penny to watch films of a Friday night. And like the rest of his friends, he went with the crowds to stop the fascists. Later, in uniform, he was a part of the army which went to europe to finish off the job in 1944, getting married shortly before he left. Still married after 62 years, he now lives with his wife in north London.

My London Diary – October 2006

You can read the story of one of the women who was there in 1936, Beattie Orwell in a long post on Spitalfields Life, published in 2018 when she was 100.

Max Levitas (1915-2018), perhaps the best-known of the Cable St veterans, and a life-long communist activist and antifascist fighter in the East End, led the march on the 75th anniversary in 2011 and made a powerful speech at the rally.

2016 was the 80th anniversary and was again marked by a larger than usual event, beginning with a well-attended rally in Altab Ali Park before marching to Cable St.

The march was attended by a very wide range of groups, reflecting the people who had come out onto the streets in 1936. Again on My London Diary I wrote:

It was the community that came out onto the streets. People from the mainly Jewish areas of the East End, trade unionists, communist rank and file and Irish dock workers. Men and women in a grass roots movement opposed to Mosley, people who knew that they would be the victims if he came to power. And of course the battle was not against Mosley, but against the police.

Of course there were communists and socialists among those who came out on the streets, and some who played a leading role. But it was essentially a victory for the working class left, for the anarchists and for many without political affiliations who came together spontaneously to defend their place and their people.

My London Diary – October 2016

Back in 1936 the Labour Party had urged people to stay away from the protest and go instead to Hyde Park, and even the Communist Party had opposed trying to stop Mosley until they saw that the fight was inevitable.

The march rather reflected this official caution, with marchers being told to keep to the pavement rather than march on the road. It was left to the anarchists and some of the more militant left to give a more authentic celebration of the event when they remained in front of the mural when the others left for the official rally at the end of the march.

Class War began their own rally, with Martin Wright as the only speaker giving a detailed account of the events of 1936 and their continuing significance, but this was interrupted when Italian communists and anti-fascist groups began their own very noisy performance with chants and flares.

Many more pictures from these events online at My London Diary:

Battle of Cable St 70th Anniversary 2016
Battle of Cable St – 75 Years 2011
Battle of Cable Street 80 Rally 2016
Battle of Cable Street 80 March 2016
Black bloc rally at the Cable St Mural 2016


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.