The English Defence League (EDL) returned to Walthamstow last Saturday and once again were only able to march through the borough because of the police. Hundreds of riot police, not-so-undercover cops, attack dogs, police land rovers, coaches, trucks, horses and a helicopter were mobilised by the state to facilitate the march, but even this could not stop anti-fascists from making it clear to the EDL they were not welcome in Walthamstow.
We spent time in the run up to the day strengthening our community links and leafleting to promote the protest outside Blackhorse Road train station. We had called for people to gather outside the station to block the EDL march. But the police didn’t appear to be overly keen on this happening, so by the time most of us arrived the protest had already been pushed onto Forest Road, which the EDL were going to march down.
200 anti-fascists from the AFN and autonomous anti-fascist groups were slowly pushed all the way along the route of the march by the cops who repeatedly threw soft cordons around small sections of the protests, re-enforced them and then detained or dispersed those inside the cordon. Had anti-fascists been a bit more organised, this tactic may have been possible to resist but it wasn’t. Several anti-fascists broke away from the march and doubled back on the police while others went and joined the Unite Against Fascism rally outside Walthamstow town hall.
When the EDL last marched in Walthamstow it looked like a complete disaster for the organisation, they had only been able to mobilise 200 people. This time they set off with less than 100. Anti-fascists blocked their route and had to be pushed back by lines of police. The police had surrounded the gaggle of EDL with riot police and then surrounded them with even more riot police, with horses in front and vans behind. Proving once again veteran anarchist Albert Meltzer’s maxim that there is no such thing as a fascist march, only a police march.
The chants of “if it wasn’t for the coppers you’d be dead” were heartfelt, enjoyable and made a pleasant change from the usual anti-fascist repertoire of “alerta, alerta” and “whose streets”. As the EDL held their rally, anti-fascists prepared for their return to the station back down Forest Road. By the time the EDL reached the station the police had to fight back a crowd of anti-fascists who very nearly broke through police lines.
We believe the day was a success, despite the heavy policing. We mobilised a large militant group who slowed down and disrupted the EDL march. The EDL were basically driven through the area like a herd of diseased cattle and prevented from contaminating the area by many hundreds of police. Banned from pubs and being escorted en masse is hardly going where they want.