Sunday, September 13, 2009
Still, with that in mind, a small number of antifascists (I counted 40 or so in total) responded to an emergency alert and gathered in Trafalgar Square from approximately midday. Meanwhile, the Quds protest gathered at Marble Arch and prepared to march toward their new destination. As we awaited developments, a number of people whom one assumes were EDL spotters took our photographs and monitored us. It did occasionally look as if they might actually stage a sort of 'flash mob' and try to attack us. I have to say, their easily identifiable cadres - identifiable because they swaggered about, smirking, right in front of us - did look like they were ready for what the football hooligans like to call 'mischief'. Their declared intention of stageing the rally in Trafalgar Square was, though, a ruse. Those who weren't drinking in nearby pubs were milling around Piccadilly Circus, near the 'Quds' march route. They were apparently trying, unsuccessfully, to blend into the crowd, so that they could descend on the rally when it passed. But they are a conspicuous bunch, many of them probably already well known to the police, and about twenty of them ended up being 'kettled' near the Statue of Eros. Others continued to wander around in groups of ones and twos, communicating by mobile phone. We considered marching to Piccadilly Circus, essentially to place ourselves between the fascists and the rally, but this brought police warnings that they would be 'unable' to guarantee our safety if we did that. The only realistic option was to gather where the rally was to take place and defend it in the event of an attempted attack. The issue was not really physical force, since the EDL's members are thugs who enjoy a spot of ultra-violence, and we are not. Besides which, the police can easily contain a few dozen violent fascists if they choose to. It was simply about showing solidarity.
The reception we received from the pro-Palestinian protesters when they arrived was amazing. They had passed the kettled EDL members who were shouting the usual racist slogans. And they looked extremely pleased to see us. They slapped hands, shook hands with us, bigged up 'the socialists' and so on. Very visibly, meanwhile, the unkettled fascists did start to emerge from the woodwork. However, if they were still intent on attacking the rally, they were certainly outnumbered, even if the police somehow failed to stop them. They may have been intending to pick off small groups of people to attack after the rally. But the Met obviously couldn't risk having such a situation take place in the middle of the West End: too many people to answer to. So, the fash were collared and moved on. They failed to make good on their debacle this Friday, and I think they failed in large part because they once again chose the wrong target in the wrong place. As dangerous and vile as these people are, one thing they obviously lack at the moment is organisation, cohesion and political clarity. They have tried to stir things up in Birmingham, twice, and were beaten back. They tried in Harrow, and didn't even get within a hundred yards of their target. They tried today, and got nothing for their trouble. This should keep happening until even the few dozen people they consistently draw to such events decide to call it a day.
Update: here's the 'Quds' protest arriving: