Posts Tagged ‘anti-fascists’

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


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr


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.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


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


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.