By Jane West
This coming Saturday the racist English Defence League are calling demonstrations up and down the country – they are aiming to hold 70 separate events – exploiting the horror at the murder of soldier Lee Rigby to mobilise support for racism and Islamophobia.
Last weekend saw the largest EDL mobilisations for two years – including around 1500 in Newcastle on Saturday and 800-1000 at Downing St on Monday. This re-emergence of support for the violent extreme right is due to the hostile climate that has been allowed to develop since the Woolwich murder.
The embattled Tory government is only too willing to shift the agenda onto security and terrorism, and away from their failing economic policies. No senior Tories have focused on opposing Islamophobic attacks or on defending the Muslim community from the slander that Islam itself breeds the ideas that lead to the murder.
As result Islamophobic attacks have multiplied to ten times their average rate in the days following the murder and a number of Mosques have been violently attacked.
This Saturday the neo-fascist BNP are also attempting to get in on the act by organising a rally in Woolwich and then a march to the Lewisham Islamic Centre.
Both the BNP and EDL had been suffering a series of setbacks this past year, but are now clearly aiming to rebuild themselves from the fall-out of the Woolwich events.
Despite the silence from the government, the whipping up of racism and Islamophobia has not gone unchallenged.
Following the publication of its statement calling for unity against racism, Unite Against Fascism’s Facebook page had over 100,000 hits and it has added over 400 to its followers on Twitter in one day.
In a welcome move, the charity, ‘Help for Heroes’, has said it is refusing donations from the EDL.
But this is not what we are hearing from the Government and City Hall.
Unlike after the terrorist attacks in London on 7 July 2005, when Ken Livingstone, as Mayor, led the city in rejecting division and recriminations against whole communities, all we’ve had Boris Johnson, the platitudinous current Mayor, is a repeat of the mantra that it was ‘nothing to do with British foreign policy’ and calls for resilience, and nothing in defence of London’s beleaguered Muslim population.
Unite Against Fascism has taken the lead in mobilising against the racists’ attempts to exploit Woolwich saying ‘Don’t let the racists divide us’. Its Monday event at Downing St, before the planned EDL lobby, fielded a representative platform, including from the Muslim community, and a strong mobilisation at short notice.
UAF is following this up with two further events in its on-going campaign.
This Saturday,1st June, UAF has called a unity event to reject the BNP in Woolwich: ‘Don’t let the racists divide us : Unity demonstration‘ at 12 noon, General Gordon Square, Woolwich, London SE18 6HX, next to Woolwich Arsenal DLR/Rail station.
On Monday, 3rd June, UAF has called a public meeting: ‘After Woolwich – don’t let the racists and fascists divide us: Say no to the EDL/BNP’, 7pm University of London Union, Malet St, WC1. Initial speakers include: Jeremy Corbyn MP, Ava Vidal comedian, Owen Jones writer and journalist and Daniel Trilling assistant editor New Statesman.
The more people that attend these events the stronger will be the riposte to the attempt to exploit the actions of a couple of horrifyingly violent extremists to divert attention from society’s real problems into a damaging and dangerous scare-mongering campaign that terrorises Muslim communities and encourages a spiral of racism.