August 26, 2011

EDL ban cuts both ways

The application from the Metropolitan Police to the Home Secretary to ban an English Defence League march through Tower Hamlets on September 3 is a double-edged sword.

Clearly, the EDL intention is not to raise questions of theological dispute with Islam. It is to swagger through areas hosting large communities of Bangladeshi and other Asian descent, stirring up hatred.

There is no reason why the good people of Tower Hamlets and neighbouring boroughs should have to put up with the EDL and its ignorant, bigoted followers. Anti-fascist campaigners Hope Not Hate, civic leaders and local community organisations are to be congratulated on securing police support for a ban, backed by a 25,000-strong petition.

Doubtless the EDL will now try to organise a "static" demonstration which would still pose a threat to public safety. If so, the duty of trade unionists, socialists, anti-racists and anti-fascists will be to stand in solidarity with the local people of Tower Hamlets and east London on September 3. The duty of the police will be to deny EDL supporters any opportunity to disturb the peace with their provocative, racist behaviour.

But the Met application also seeks to ban all marches in five London boroughs over a 30-day period. This could include anti-fascist, trade union and other progressive marches. Whether the blanket will be thrown over the proposed Cable Street 75th anniversary events is not yet clear.

Police permission has already been granted for a march on October 2 from Aldgate East to Cable Street, supported by more than 40 organisations including national trade unions, trades councils, Searchlight, the Communist Party, the Jewish Socialist Group and a host of Bangladeshi and other local community bodies.

In October 1936, the police refused local pleas to stop Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts from marching through the area. Hundreds of thousands of people took their lead from local communist, socialist and Jewish bodies to block the way. Their slogan, borrowed from the defence of Madrid in Spain's anti-fascist war, was "No Pasaran!" - the fascists shall not pass.

The EDL cannot be allowed to pass on September 3. But nothing should stop thousands of people turning out on October 2 to celebrate a famous victory over the British Union of Fascists in 1936 and, it has to be remembered, over the Metropolitan Police too.

Net result

When confronted with social protest or upheaval, the gut instinct of the Britain's ruling class politicians and commentators is to reach for the big stick.

In the aftermath of the recent riots, Prime Minister David Cameron led the way with calls for social networking media to be more tightly policed if not shut down altogether. It seems that cyberspace freedom is an essential accoutrement of democracy in north Africa or China, while in Britain it is a threat to be suppressed.

Wiser heads appear to have prevailed in Thursday's meeting between Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry bosses and Home Secretary Theresa May. There will be no shutdown in times of unrest. Even so, proposals to monitor such communications more closely could mean that demonstrators organising the peaceful occupation of a tax-dodging chain store, say, or trying to avoid oppressive police kettling, will be shopped to the authorities. That's democracy, British-style.

Morning Star


Anonymous said...

Dammit. Should have anticipated that really: any time the racist, corrupt, out-of-control Met do ostensibly the right thing there HAS to be some sort of ulterior motive.

Anonymous said...

I think we have to be very careful about asking for EDL marches to be banned. Personally, I have always refused to support such calls for a number of reasons.