The Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, has attacked plans by the English Defence League to march through the borough in August.In a strongly worded statement published by the council, the Mayor called for local politicians and communities to “work with me to unite our borough in response to the provocations of the EDL.” He also claims the League dislike the borough because it “offers a successful multicultural model with many different communities and lifestyles living side by side.”
Meanwhile, the League’s online activity has been rising in recent weeks, in anticipation of the march on August 27. The ‘Millwall Division’ of the group say on their Facebook page that they will “take back our streets” by “peaceful or non peaceful actions” on the day. Comments posted by potential attendees of the demonstration include: “Can’t wait to tear up Hamlets” from “Macca Saddler Infadel Morris”, and “they will take their last breath before getting thrown in the thames” by Robert Hill.
The group are targeting the area because of its large Bangladeshi community, which makes up 34 per cent of the borough’s population and is the largest single minority group in London. League supporters on Twitter have branded the borough the “Islamic Republic of Tower Hamlets”.
The League have also coupled online publicity with the badge of Millwall Football Club, who refute any affiliation with the controversial movement. Deano Standing, spokesperson for the club, said: “They don’t have our permission to use it.” However, he also added that the club were reluctant to take drastic action: “If we make too big a deal of it we give them the oxygen of publicity they so badly want.”
The far-right organisation have never demonstrated within the borough, although a protest scheduled for June last year was abandoned after they admitted it would have been a “suicide mission”. Some 5,000 people marched in defiance against the League in what would have been a direct counter-protest organised by Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and United East End.
UAF will be hoping for a repeat of last year’s strong counter-demonstrations in Tower Hamlets and nationwide. Raymond Bennett, spokesperson for UAF, said: “We’re planning a major demonstration in central Tower Hamlets. Last year it [the demonstration] was short notice, but this year community organisations, different faith groups, trade unions and schools will have all that time to mobilise.”
UAF are seeing support from new local groups, adding to a resolute interfaith and multicultural standing- something the organisation see as paramount. Mr Bennett said he hoped that “the EDL realises the community is too united to be bullied […] we will give them no space to build on and cause mischief.” He added: “It was suicide then and it’s suicide now.”
Echoing the Mayor’s sentiments, the UAF and partner antifascist organisations are urging communities to mobilise against the “EDL’s summer of racist hatred.” Mr Rahman himself has made it clear: “The EDL are not welcome here.”