Saturday's "One Dudley - Many Cultures" event celebrated the diversity of multicultural Britain and highlighted the need for unity in the face of Islamophobia, racism and fascism.
The “One Dudley - Many Cultures” event, to celebrate the diversity of multicultural modern Britain, began at 11.00am. A stage had been set up and people were chatting amongst the paper sellers from the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party and others.
Throughout the crowd and around the perimeter were many banners from various trade union organisations, Stop the War, UAF, Love Music Hate Racism, the Muslim Council of Britain and many others. The wide range of anti-fascist slogans ranged from the colourful ("Show the EDL the Red Card") to the obscure ("Bring back gardening - weed out fascism").
Speeches from the stage came from local Christian, Muslim and Sikh faith leaders as well as UAF representatives, a representative from the Black Students Union, and a local Lib Dem councillor. The speeches emphasised amongst other things the need for unity and the need to oppose racism and fascism in the community and in the workplace.
One highlight was the appearance of Weyman Bennett, Unite Against Fascism's national convenor arrested in Bolton, who was not deterred from turning up and speaking to rapturous cheers and applause.The event had a carnival theme and proceeded peacefully with speeches interspersed by a diverse set of music performances including hip-hop, bangra and drum and bass.
Over 1000 people attended the event ranging from vicars to grandparents, from trade unionists to socialists and a large number of local Muslims and elders. Contrary to the Bolton demo, the police took a much more hands-off approach, situating the UAF rally on the opposite side of town to the EDL demo, preventing the two groups from meeting. Some in the crowd were frustrated with this, and throughout the day there were rumours that the EDL were going to try and attack the rally from this side or that.
The more vociferous elements of the crowd rushed from one side to the other seeking phantom EDL confrontations. Such was the determination of some people to confront the EDL that a veteran anti-racist campaigner was subjected to torrents of verbal abuse - his shaved head had led some to believe he was an EDL infiltrator. Thankfully the stewards stepped in and eased the situation.
For the most part of the day the police had little to do, aside from watching a man climbing a tree to display placards in a more prominent position (provoking jokes about him being a member of Special Branch). However, after the official EDL rally across town had been dispersed, and as coaches were starting to leave from the UAF demo, small groups of EDL supporters (mainly youngsters) approached the UAF protest and shouted abuse.
They were chased off by hundreds of local Muslims and anti-fascist activists. Although I didn't see any actual violence, it seemed likely that the game of cat and mouse would continue into the night. As our coach pulled away I received a call from a fellow protester saying that fireworks had been thrown at them as they left the demo. Our coach left around 5pm and at that time there had been no UAF arrests, although we heard reports that seven EDL had already been arrested.
Throughout the day emphasis was on putting forward the political arguments needed to counter racism and fascism including the need to build more council houses, provide greater help for working class people of all colours and to protect workers’ rights.
In conclusion, the turnout was not as big as in Bolton, but the atmosphere was completely different. In Dudley there was a greater emphasis on putting forward the political arguments needed to counter racism and fascism - build more council houses, more help for the working class of all colours and protection of workers rights.