Sunday, June 20, 2010
United East End demo posted by Richard Seymour
There were at least a few thousand people at today's United East End demonstration, an anti-racist gathering supported by the trade unions, religious organisations and local politicians. The crowd mainly comprised local people, kids from the housing estates, a few people from the mosques, churches and synagogues, and a rather small contingent of leftists. It's worth noting that some of those who had expressed opposition to holding the rally nonetheless spoke at it, including the council leader and Bethnal Green & Bow MP Rushanara Ali. It might be relevant to note that there's an East London mayoral election coming up. As far as I could make out, George Galloway received by far the strongest reception at the rally, which was held at Altab Ali park after the demonstration. In general, my impression was that the most popular speakers were well-known local left-wingers such as Rania Khan and Lutfa Begum, former Respect councillors now belonging to the Labour group.
Some, including a few senior Labourites such as Jim Fitzpatrick, had suggested that such a rally could only cause 'trouble'. The logic behind this assertion is obscure, but perhaps it says something about the way the authorities look upon the young Bengali men who turned out in large numbers. Further anecdotal evidence of a peculiar official attitude to said people can be gleaned from the police's provocative behaviour after the event had passed off without disturbance. This included, I am told, refusing to allow white people to walk up Whitechapel because they alleged that Bengalis were violently attacking whites at random. Socialist Worker's report doesn't go quite that far, but notes that police "advised white people not to walk along the road 'because of fears about their safety'", which is ridiculous, nasty, and divisive behaviour. Interesting is it not? When fascists riot, we are told that they are giving expression to "legitimate concerns". When anti-fascists hold peaceful, democratic rallies, we are told they are merely causing trouble. From what perspective, I ask you, can such assertions hold true?