The Football Lads Alliance had a rally in Manchester, but there were more anti-racist activists that mobilised against them reports Karen Buckley
There was a good turnout on Saturday in Manchester against the FLA. The FLA were supposedly demonstrating against the Arena terror attack in Manchester a year ago. There were approximately 5-600 anti-racist campaigners from a number of groups and trade unions. It was definitely a united front.
I saw lots of UNISON banners from Manchester, the north and north west, including the regional convenor of UNISON North West, Paula Barker. There was Unite, Trades councils, NEU, GMB, CWU, FBU, the new left wing Labour representatives (local councillors), LGBT+ groups, Communist Party, Muslim representatives, the brother of one of the arena bombings, many SUTR representatives, and I’m sure many others I didn’t get to see.
The rally was before the demo and had a range of speakers from the different groups and had SUTR’s Weyman Bennet speaking at the end of the rally. I’m told there were 3-400 from the FLA. We were kept very separate by the police (who were there in big numbers). This meant it was difficult to see or hear the FLA.
A friend and I decided to put down our placards and walk to the ‘FLA side’ (pretending to be tourists). They had been in Castlefield basin and the space swamped them due to small numbers. They were dispersing as we arrived. Overwhelmingly they were white middle aged males and some younger men. Very few women. I’d say they were mainly working class males. They didn’t get to do the march they were supposed to be doing. The only ones marching were the anti-racist and anti-fascist campaigners.
My friend asked one man walking near us what was going on (he was a man on his own) and he went on about the ‘danger of Islam’ and it’s going to get out of hand within 2 years if not stopped. We thought it better not to question or challenge him! Unfortunately, there’s another demonstration planned by the DFLA in Manchester on 2 June.
I’m told the FLA have clearly suffered due to the splits within their ranks. However, the DFLA have Tommy Robinson who has a lot of followers and influence. Additionally, the DFLA have a lot more money (judging by the demo resources they had at their recent London demo). So the next demonstration might have a much bigger turn out, which could outnumber the counter protest being organised (by SUTR). That makes it all the more important for anti-racists in Manchester to mobilise in big numbers on 2 June to make sure we can once again show that opposition to the far-right is stronger than support for it.