A controversial few weeks on the streets of Whitechapel culminated on Sunday with a complete no-show by the EDL (not surprising given that their “leadership” had spent the last week urging their members not to attend Sunday after the cancellation of the UK-IC conference at the Troxy). However, there was a strong turn out from local people prepared to defend their community from an opportunistic attack by the EDL, whose central London movements had been monitored by WAG spotters.
The presence, on Tuesday, of up to a dozen EDL members in Whitechapel had lent credence to the hysterical claims of the UAF that thousands of EDL supporters would run rampant through Whitechapel on Sunday. Upon reflection WAG believes the UAF, who had spent the previous few weeks scaremongering, behaved irresponsibly in what turned out to be nothing more than a sensational recruitment drive. Despite organizing a 5000-strong march, they obviously felt no sense of responsibility towards local people once they had realized few were willing to be recruited– fleeing Whitechapel for the provinces after giving their speeches and selling their papers. A few hours after the march ended they were nowhere to be seen, leaving the police and locals in a tense stand-off.
WAG’s position is not one of complacency with regards the EDL but one of realism. The 20-or-so EDL trailing from Edgware down to Whitehall, where they all got themselves nicked, represented little physical threat to the local community – who had assembled en masse. At this point, WAG members were more concerned for the safety of those protestors left behind on the streets outside and around the Mosque. Thankfully, the initially heavy handed and provocative policing gave way to a more hands-off approach as the police realized people were in no mood to be pushed around. There was, however, some arrests and reports of injuries sustained by youths from police truncheons.
WAG members were at all times present on the streets in and around the Mosque (the central focus of people’s attention), talking to people in the crowd and distributing flyers containing basic legal information to those who wanted it and ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors against provocation.
One note of concern was that rising tension had seen misdirected anger focused on an unfortunate van driver and a lone “skinhead” who was rescued from an angry crowd by marshalls from the Mosque. It is unclear what exactly the spark for these incidents was but the EDL might like to reflect on such events before deciding on future provocations in the area. Despite these isolated events WAG encountered no hostility, chatting freely with youth from both Tower Hamlets and Newham. It is important to note that despite EDL claims on internet forums Whitechapel was NOT a “no-go area” for white people on Sunday.
With the coming of darkness most people began to head homewards and we hope the nascent friendships formed on day will blossom into productive working relationships in future.
Tower Hamlets, as an economically deprived borough, will suffer more than most in the coming round of cuts promised by the coalition government of Eton-bred elitists. Intolerance and bigotry do not spring up out of nowhere and in a harsh economic climate we need to be on guard against Fascism in whatever form it occurs. The wellspring of unity lies in the common ground that we share and the action we are prepared to take in the fight for a better future for all; regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexuality or religion. Solidarity is our weapon and our message is clear: CLASS WAR NOT RACE WAR!
URGENT: If you or someone you know has been arrested or attacked by the Police during Sunday’s events, write an account of what happened in as much detail as possible and bring it along to the Legal Defence Meeting on Tuesday 22 June, 7pm.
The meeting will take place at London Action Resource Centre (LARC), 62 Fieldgate St, Whitechapel, E1 1ES.
There will be people there to offer help with your case.