Nearly 200 local people and trade unionists demonstrated against the English Defence League (EDL) in Portsmouth on Saturday 17th August 2013. Sylvia Courtnage, NUJ member and delegate to the Portsmouth Trades Council, reports on the successful counter-EDL march, which far outnumbered that of the EDL.
Nearly 200 local people and trade unionists demonstrated against the English Defence League (EDL) in Portsmouth last Saturday (17th August 2013).
The EDL planned a march and bussed in supporters from other areas to protest against a planned Muslim faith school in Fratton. In the event, they managed to assemble only about 50-60 supporters – some from as far away as Croydon and Hastings.
The counter-demonstration was organised by the local Unite Against Fascism and supported by Portsmouth Trades Union Council with more than 150 people assembling in the Commercial Road shopping precinct before a short rally with speeches.
Local teacher and Socialist Appeal supporter, Sion Reynolds, was one of the speakers. He said that education should be free and high quality for all. He did not believe that the Tory-implemented ‘free’ schools were the answer. But he said: “The labour movement must mobilise to defend anyone who is subject to fascist and racist attacks.”
The counter-EDL march then moved off through the precinct and marched to a site opposite the new school, by which time numbers had swelled to about 200. There was clear support for the anti-EDL demonstration from local residents and passing drivers.
The atmosphere of the anti-fascist march was calm and confident and the police presence was sympathetic. Their main efforts were concentrated on controlling the EDL when they emerged from the pub where they had assembled and marched noisily up Fratton Road with flags flying.
The police penned them in to a small corner space from where they proceeded to set off fireworks, one of which they threw at a police officer. They provoked two arrests, one from this incident and one for being drunk and disorderly.
Socialist Appeal supporters received a good response to our ideas, with anti-EDL protesters keen to take leaflets we had prepared explaining the Marxist perspective on fighting the far-right and the fascists.