Posts Tagged ‘hate’

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



Stop the Fascists

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

London has a long tradition of standing up to attempts by fascists to march through the city, not least of Cable St in 1936 and the battle of Bermondsey a year later.

Of course it’s also true that many of the supporters of Mosley were Londoners – and Bethnal Green in particular was one of their stronger areas with Mosley claiming 4,000 members there. And many of those who came to Shoreditch in 1978 when the National Front moved its HQ there were also Londoners, as were the 2000 who packed the top of Brick Lane attempting to stop them.

More recently anti-fascists have come out on the streets to stop the marches of the EDL in Walthamstow and Whitechapel and against supporters of Tommy Robinson.

While the crowd were trying to defend Brick Lane in Shoreditch in 1978, the Anti-Nazi League, formed by the Socialist Workers party and others was holding their event in opposition to the NF, a much larger Carnival Against the Nazis miles away in Brockwell Park, Brixton, seen by many in East London as a diversion from the real fight against the fascists.

On this occasion there was a similar split of the opposition to the ‘Free Tommy’ protesters, but at least they were roughly in the same place, with London Anti-Fascist Alliance meeting around Eros in Piccadilly Circus and across the street on the wide pavement outside Boots and Barclays was a small rally by Stand Up to Racism.

And once the London Antifascists began the march up Regent St towards the Free Tommy protesters who were gathering outside the BBC, most or all of the Stand Up to Racism supporters joined in behind them. Police stopped the combined march at the junction with Hanover St. The anti-fascists made a tentative effort to turn into Great Marlborough St, but were blocked by a police line in front of a row of police vans. They then left as directed by the police who took them down Hanover St, and from Hanover Square turned up to cross Oxford St and go up to Cavendish Square.

Police again blocked an attempt to turn right and return to Regent St and the march came to a halt. I left at this point, first to go and briefly view the ‘Free Tommy’ protesters who were being held by police in front of the BBC, and then to photograph a small protest taking place at Downing St.

I returned to the BBC around an hour later, and the right wing protesters were still there, fed up with the police not allowing them to march. By that time the anti-fascists had apparently come close enough to make their presence felt and after some spending some time shouting appeared to have dispersed. I felt it was time for me to go home as well.

After I got home I heard that finally the police did allow the fascists to march, several hours later than intended. There were apparently a few incidents on their way, and some of them attacked pro-democracy protesters outside the Algerian embassy, presumably because they were foreign.

More at Anti-Racists march against the far right and ‘Free Tommy’ protest.


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