This is written from a subjective view-point that captures the craziness and chaos of what happened from someone directly involved. For one of the very few videos with footage of the UAF rally, click [here]. Skip to 02:42 for the speech by Martin Smith ❤ The BBC nor any other channel will ever broadcast it. I urge you to listen to what he has to say.
Saturday 5th 2011, a group of us from Southampton went to up join the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) members in Luton. The cause was to stop the English Defence League (EDL) from vandalising the local mosque, harming foreign-owned shops and acting as if it is OK to drive out the Muslim community. As we drove down the M1, we could see the EDL men in coaches were already sloshed on cans of beer.
There were two separate rally points, one for the UAF and one for the EDL. I suppose, by sheer coincidence, the EDL rally was accidentally placed closest to the mosque.
We arrived at the festival of pro-multiculturalism (reggae music blaring) and joined the plot to escape the square. The police were waiting for everyone to turn up so that they could confine us (kettle us) to the square. I had brought a friend, Elijah, to the event and we warned him that if he joined us in escaping, things would be hairy. He chose not to stay in the square and despite what happens next, I’m sure, in hindsight, he enjoyed the craziness of it all.
Taking police by surprise, around 300 of us casually marched past and out into the streets of Luton. We marched out onto the dual-carriage-way, keeping a fast pace and checking everywhere as I endeavoured to keep my eyes on Elijah, Alex, Maji, Peter and Billy. I felt in part responsible for Billy, as well, because he is not familiar with demos and kept turning to me as if hoping I’d lead the way.
We were heading to Bury Park to cut off the EDL from reaching the mosque. We were a peaceful parade and didn’t have much to chant. Many were holding placards that spoke of pro-multiculturalism. We weren’t even five minutes down the carriage-way when Alex turned to me with wide eyes, grabbed my hand and cried, “Run!” Whether from the EDL, police batons – I had no idea at the time.
Just thinking about how panicked that made me sets my heart racing again.
He made me run a good stretch up the road before slowing down. I was most worried about Elijah as he was my responsibility for the day.
We slowed to yell abuse at members of the EDL as we feel no obligation to be polite to them. We wished to tell them that their racist views are not tolerated. Our short outburst was cut off as the police charged for us again.
I grabbed Elijah’s hand and ran for it. I steered him through the crowds and falling people, pushing him out of way of being harmed by policemen. I kept a constant eye on Alex a few paces ahead. He was my beacon through all the chaos. Maji and Peter I kept losing and finding, but we couldn’t slow down or we’d be caught. I’m no expert at ‘dodging police’ so I could only imagine what would happen if we were aprehended.
Much further up, in the middle of the road, there is a metal barrier that comes up to my chest and splits the road in half. We raced up one side of the road, not far from Bury Park, but policemen on horseback headed us off. They tried to kettle six of us.
We were cut off and in a tiny group, squashed together by horses and I knew we were easy pickings for arrest it that’s what they wanted to do. Alex had already escaped – just before the kettling. Somehow, I spotted a way past the horses. I grabbed Maji, pushed her in that direction – pointing out the slot to her – then seized Elijah and thundered through the opening.
I later found out that the reason we had been forced to run was because the police had trapped off the rear half of the UAF march. But by this point, they had escaped and were now sprinting down the road on the other side of the barrier, yelling and overtaking the police.
I helped one girl over the barrier, ordered Elijah to get over too and then tried to jump myself. My foot got caught in between the railing. It was difficult not to panic but I kicked my foot free and made it to the other side. Again, I grabbed Elijah and we ran for it.
The police were getting violent now. True, I think some idiots were trying to antagonise them and piss off the horses, but the mass is not responsible for each individual’s choice. I kept my eye on the group. I could tell that Elijah was more than a little worried from the serious amounts of running and people stumbling into the floor, but I could only hold his hand. It still surprises me how confident I remained throughout the chaos. We were resisting authority for a reason.
Chant: “Who protects the Nazis? POLICE protect the Nazis.”
Driving Elijah out the way of shoving and beating policemen, I lost sight of Maji, Billy and Alex. That was the first time I began to feel afraid but also the first time I knew what to do. Keep calm, avoid being hit, keep the destination in mind: stand between the EDL and the mosque.
Maji later told me that she had taken charge of Billy (she’s such a mum). Apparently, when the horses came charging around one particular corner, she had had to push Billy out the way.
Just off Bury Park, however, the police eventually headed us off and we were kettled for around half an hour. This wasn’t so bad – time to catch our breath, calm our nerves, drink water and sing songs and chants. The Sheik community (who are always told never to join us, the UAF) came out to show their support beyond the chain-link. Many cheers and songs went up from us who were kettled.
Sung to the tune of, She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes.
We are black, white, Asian and we’re Jew.
We are black, white, Asian and we’re Jew.
We are black, white and Asian.
Black, white and Asian.
We’re black, white, Asian and we’re Jew.
AND WE’RE GAY.
We were escorted back to the square where everyone enjoyed the music and homemade sandwiches for a while. Sheiks against the English Defence League turned up and they were greeted with cheers and applause. Why should they be told to hide themselves away on such an occasion that needs their input? They should not be discriminated against, and they should feel they can stand up and say, ‘we won’t tolerate it’.
Around an hour later, the EDL came to try and ‘beat us up’ (lul) but we stood our ground and pushed back police horses. I wasn’t a part of it this time around. I watched, wondering why the UAF were pushing to go in the direction of the EDL, but it was impressive that they pushed back police horses, nonetheless.
After a long, two and a half hours of wondering around the square, listening to practically the same pro-multicultural speech over and over, it started to get tiresome. A fleeting game of Quiz (made for nerds of obscure topics) happened, courtesy of Alex’s iPhone.
When we learnt the EDL had broken free of their rally-point and were heading to vandalise/burn the local mosque. The police had trapped us into the square since they’d escorted us back by creating impenetrable lines of human bodies. There was no way out other than through.
In one movement, we drove down the narrowest street out. Totally squashed. I’m not a very tall person; 5 foot flat; but boy did I feel smaller than normal as everyone surged at the police line. I was four lines back from the front, too. I had to keep my head tipped back to avoid having my face flattened into the person in front, but I had hold of everyone in our group, and Alex in my field of vision. Again, there was much chanting at the police. We demanded to know why they weren’t defending the mosque from the EDL and ‘monitoring’ us instead.
We pushed (squashed me) a good few times at the police. I was worried about Maji though who seemed to be having a breathing fit every so often. There was a huge surge and Alex got through to the other side where horses were waiting. I was confronted face-to-face with three policemen. I at once grabbed Elijah and pulled him from their grasp before they could nab us and perhaps try and claim someone for arrest. As much as it’s nice to know we have a lawyer, I’d rather not need to meet him.
We returned to the music and sat and waited. The song “zombie” by the Cranberries was sung (badly) and the usual speech yelled. At last the ones who had broken through were escorted back and Alex was reunited with our group. He said they hadn’t gone far; kettled at various places around the block. But according to unknown sources, the EDL had been held back from the mosque and a few arrested for carrying weapons or assaulting police.
To round off the event, a fantastic speech was given by Martin Smith. I couldn’t help but wish and hope that his words sunk into at least one of the many policemen standing guard.
Martin Smith is a leading member of the Socialist Workers Party who speaks openly about his politics with theory, evidence and passion. My aim is not to intentionally convert anyone who reads these blog posts. I’m just speaking up from the corner of society that is always pushed from the limelight to favour of parties like the Conservatives or EDL. The UAF members outnumbered the EDL yesterday, but that wasn’t reported. So far, the people involved with left-wing politics have no internet voice. The majority of reports I find are given by people who were either not at the event, not directly involved or by (far) right-wing people, such as the EDL.
I hope I didn’t need to say in this post that the EDL are racist fascists. I’m sure you could see that for yourself. If the EDL encapsulate what it means to be British, then I am ashamed to be British. Perhaps I should mention that they often give the Nazi salute, and they do it knowing full well that it’s the Nazi salute. If you’re unsure how literally I mean that, here’s a photo:
But that’s not the point. No shops were vandalised by the EDL (like the Polish building in fig.10), the mosque is still in-tact, there was no punch-up between groups, and overall, we told ‘em to fuck off.
When home at last, it was sushi and beer for me with a blitz at Half Life on the PS2. The End. For now.