A 25,000 signature petition calling on the police to ban the English Defence League march through the East End on September 3, was handed to Scotland Yard yesterday by the Hope not Hate campaign and Rushanara Ali, the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow
This handing in of the petition followed a statement from the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Luftur Rahman, urging the Home Secretary Theresa May to ban the march. The council has made it clear it will continue to press for the march to be banned right up until the last minute.
On their website, the EDL say they intend to come to Tower Hamlets to “take our message into the heart of militant Islam within our own country.”
They add: “The last two years of demonstrations could arguably have been dress rehearsals for this one. The time has come to show the world that the lion has now awoken, we will no longer be silenced or kettled in by the government or it’s police.”
Scotland Yard has not yet decided whether it will put in a formal request to May for the march to be banned. After handing in the petition yesterday morning, Ali said “The message to the government and police is clear: Tower Hamlets does not welcome extremist organisations like the EDL who want to divide our united community. I hope the police will listen to the voice of the people and help us to safeguard our community.”
Nick Lowles, co-ordinator of the Hope not Hate campaign said: “A democratic society cherishes the right to freedom of speech but with that right comes a responsibility. It is surely not acceptable for a few hundred people to go into somebody else’s community with the sole intention of inciting fear and hatred.”
He added: “Given the events of recent weeks it seems foolhardy to allow a racist march to take place if there is a serious threat to disorder. The communities of London have had enough of trouble and the police and the government should act now to protect us.”
After similar threats took place this time last year, local people, including the East London Mosque and trade unions came together under the banner “United East End” and put on a peaceful demonstration in order to stop the EDL coming to Tower Hamlets. However the day was marred by violence as rumours spread that the EDL was on its way.
This year, United East End again intend to show a similar response against the far right organisation. Glyn Robbins who heads United East End said: “We need to proceed on an assumption that they are coming. We need to show the world that we are united and we are not going to accept racism.”
United East End is not just a Muslim mobilisation, he said, adding: “It is about defending the community, it is about community solidarity and community defending each other. If local youngsters find out that the EDL are coming they will go out and there will be trouble. This is why it is important to encourage youngsters to join the adults of the community. It is more important to stand beside young people rather than against them.”
Others living and working in the area are concerned about what might happen if the EDL demonstration is not banned. Mumtaz Karim, 22, a market researcher, said: “It’s really saddening and worrying that this demonstration will be taking place on my doorstep”.
Alison Price, 26, who has lived most of her life in the area told ELL: ”What worries me the most is the violence which is likely to take place, this is our home we don’t want it turning into a war zone. I’ve got kids and I don’t want them being exposed to such disgusting behaviour.”
By Seema Hakin and Lizu Begum