The National Front held its annual St George's Day rally in Newcastle on the 23rd of April. The English Defence League showed up to join their friends, but anti-cuts and anti-fascists did not let them take control of the City Centre.
23 April 2011, St George's Day, and Newcastle (upon Tyne) starts the day with the Lord Mayor raising the St George's Cross (England's flag) at the Civic Centre, followed by a parade through the City Centre by the 5th Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, who also have Honorary Freedom of the City.
Unfortunately, I did not get to see the positive start to the day. As I arrived at around quarter to midday there was a sea of St George's Flag - it was the National Front holding their annual St George's Day rally in Newcastle. "Great," I thought "this isn't going to do St George's Day any PR favours." Why would the openly neo-Nazi National Front celebrate a Middle-Eastern man who is associated with England's good values?
Surely if St George was living in England today then the NF would be calling for his repatriation?
Imagine Monument as a square. On the North (facing Waterstones) and East is the National Front, on the South is a festival celebrating England to 'reclaim St George's Day' (progressive patriotism?) and on the West are the left-wing stalls, including Amnesty International and Coalition of Resistance, as well as Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism.
An interesting mix of groups likely to cause some shouting. The National Front kept trying to make their way towards the left-wing stalls, but a heavy police presence stopped them. Then, just as Coalition of Resistance were about to send people off for the planned UKuncut action, a group chanting "E-E-EDL" came from the South West of Monument (Also Known As Grainger Street).
What were the English Defence League, a group that claims not to be racist and doesn't like being likened to the BNP and NF, doing at a NF rally? Like they have done in previous weeks, the EDL targeted the anti-cuts stalls. It has been reported that under a month ago one EDL member commented that he didn't mind bankers getting large bonuses, as long as they were white.
The Police were swift to act, and quickly formed a line between the English Defence League, anti-cuts, lefties and in turn anti-fascists, and the National Front. A shouting match between the EDL and anti-fascists quickly kicked off, with support from their friends in the NF. The video footage, which you can watch at the bottom of this page, shows all of this. You can see that the EDL turned up angry and had just come out to cause trouble.
There was a much happier feeling on the anti-fascist side, as we chanted and even danced a little bit to the celebration of multiculturalism event starting off behind us, playing such songs as "Everybody Needs Somebody" and spreading messages of tolerance. The feeling on the EDL and NF sides seemed to be that of pure hate. They certainly weren't letting of a positive vibe.
After over an hour's stand off, the NF hurdled off together, leaving behind a few EDL members.
St George's Day should be a celebration of this great country of England and all of its good values, not the rotten racism which peaked during the 80s. The St George's Flag is ours. It's not copyrighted to the NF or EDL.
A FRFI activist started off on the megaphone, shouting about how nationalism breads intolerance and that St George's Day should not be celebrated. That sort of message turns people towards the EDL in fear of their losing their identity. Progressive Patriotism must be welcomed on the left so that particularly working class people do not feel like racism is a legitimate alternative.
On a happier note for anti-fascists, even those who do not celebrate St George's Day, the EDL's Facebook page was taken down today.