The racist EDL dubbed their demonstration in Bradford ‘The Big One’ and promised to get 5,000 there. The event turned out to be the ‘not so big one’ with somewhere in the region of 1,000 there.

Video by kelvinjayw

The police figures for the EDL contingent were just 750. The racist thugs made little secret of their intentions to attack Muslims, hurling stones and smoke bombs at a crowd of protesters from Bradford, and shouting their slogans of hate.

‘Allah – paedophile’, ‘We love the floods’ and ‘Allah, Allah, who the fuck is Allah?’ were their slogans of choice.

However, with the police penning them into a walled compound and local Bradfordians applying a good deal of mockery, the EDL had a pretty miserable day.

The largest number of demonstrators in opposition to the EDL were local people who went to shout them down. Roger, an anti-fascist from York, said:

‘There were hundreds of people picketing the EDL as they arrived and left. Many were Asians who refused to let the EDL have their city. When the EDL broke out of their compound all the locals – shoppers and protesters – hurled abuse at them and let them know they were unwanted’.

EDL supporters were stupid enough to throw stones into a crowd of shoppers, and only succeeded in uniting local people further against them.

The We Are Bradford rally was bigger than the EDL protest, with numbers fluctuating between 500 and 1,500 throughout the day. The rally was mainly Unite Against Fascism protesters and had a good number of trade union banners there.

Malcolm Povey, speaking on behalf of the UCU lecturers’ union, made a very important contribution, linking the rise in racism and Islamophobia to the Tory cuts. He said:

‘The sad truth is that many of the EDL protesters are very young, and very ignorant. They are there, not because there is too much education available for them, but too little. They are a testament to the need for education, training and meaningful jobs’.

This was echoed by Jim from East Yorkshire. He said:

‘I went to picket the EDL, and they were clearly led by the worst racist scum imaginable. But there were youngsters in the crowd who we should try to win from them. The chants of ‘England! England’ that they shout make them feel as if they are doing something important.

They say they are protesting against Muslim extremists, but the truth is they are protesting at their own rotten lives, and need someone to take it out on. I think the rally today needed someone they look up to tell them that the EDL does not represent England or English culture.

We need big names to say what the EDL is – footballers, musicians and celebrities. But most importantly we have to campaign for a better future for us all’.

Martin Smith, one of the UAF organisers, explained that the event had been hampered by it being labelled as a ‘counter-demonstration’ rather than the celebration of multiculturalism that it was, with a good range of speakers and music.

As Weyman Bennett rightly told the crowd: ‘The police and media have tried to portray the anti-fascists as the same as the fascists. The police have penned us in as if we were the violent, racist thugs that we have come to oppose’.

Although this is true, some people felt that UAF need to develop some new initiatives to confront the EDL effectively. The EDL is planning further demonstrations in Luton and Leicester, and the councils, police and community leaders are going to tell people there to stay away too.

The EDL will not be defeated by protests alone. We need to tackle the Islamophobia it depends on, and drive a wedge between the kids who want a bit of excitement and the hard core of BNP and Combat 18 thugs who form its back-bone.

Colleges, schools and communities need to hear an effective explanation of what the EDL is all about, and why their racism is a tool of the system that destroys lives around the world. The huge support that schools and colleges have given to Love Music Hate Racism events tells us that we should take every opportunity to raise awareness about, and opposition to, Islamophobia.

John Westmoreland

John is a history teacher and UCU rep. He is an active member of the People's Assembly and writes regularly for Counterfire.