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Archive for September, 2011

As the dust begins to settle after Saturday’s strange events, I’ve been made aware of this email which was sent out on Friday by Jack Gilbert, one of the leaders of Rainbow Hamlets, which represents LGBT people in Tower Hamlets. As you’ll see, Rainbow Hamlets had been part of the United East End coalition – a body that includes Mayor Lutfur Rahman, ex-Respect chair Glyn Robbins and the Rev Alan Green, who leads the Tower Hamlets Inter-Faith Forum and the IFE.

Here’s a couple of pictures taken by Fokrul Hoque on Saturday:

This is the above trio with Wapping’s independent Labour councillor, Shafiqul Haque, a man you might well have wanted on the front line if violence erupted.

And here’s Lutfur thanking the IFE brigade after the march.

It seems that Rainbow Hamlets, on the eve of the demo, withdrew their support. Here’s the email:

RAINBOW HAMLETS UPDATED ADVICE REGARDING 3 SEPT DEMONSTRATIONS

ISSUED FRI 2 SEPT

Rainbow Hamlets has played a strong role in developing an inclusive United East End coalition, which reaches beyond UAF and into other local communities. We also worked hard to ensure the dual approach of a cross-community event and a ban was adopted, and have actively supported both publicly.

We remain unambiguously opposed to the EDL, to all forms of fascism, to all forms of hatred and to any prejudice and discrimination.

However, we regret to report that activities undertaken in the name of United East End since Friday have not been the subject of any consultation with us. Indeed, we were shocked to discover we had not been party to key discussions, that literature bearing the UEE name giving false information was being circulated, and that misleading information about LGBT matters was being communicated at UEE/UAF events.

Ensuring mixed public meetings are safe spaces for LGBT people, given the recent history of the area [see here], cannot be dealt with in such a tokenistic manner. We cannot have confidence this will be a safe space for LGBT people and therefore cannot continue to call for mass participation.

In addition, a number of our members have voiced concerns about the UAF tactics themselves. To many, it appears likely this event will provoke a flout of the ban on marches and public disorder. Others argue that this is not the community-inclusive, family-friendly event originally envisaged and agree with the many political figures, who argue that this event is not the best way to oppose the EDL.

Nonetheless, several members wish to attend because they want to make a clear statement against the EDL by being present. We all respect that and support their right to demonstrate, free from violence and any type of harassment.

Our message to them is: do not go alone; stick with a few friends; keep away from the front lines; ensure you have used facilities just in case your movements are restricted; leave at the first sign of any trouble; if you experience harassment of any type, report it.

We continue to work with community partners, the local authority and the police to ensure rights to demonstrate peacefully against the EDL are protected and to ensure the potential damage to the borough and to community relations is minimised.

We hope Saturday goes off peacefully and that a strong message of opposition to the EDL remains.

But what are the politics of Saturday? The images of Lutfur forming a barricade against a racist invasion into Tower Hamlets are sure to figure prominently in his re-election material in 2014. They will play brilliantly with his core supporters and fuel the spin that he’s the man of the people who stands up for his principles.

He deserves praise for seizing the opportunity and the EDL are probably too thick to understand that they’ve played into his hands.

But let’s not be fooled about who really stopped the EDL – it was the police. And why were the police out in such numbers? Partly because Unite Against Fascism, helped by Respect and tacitly supported by UEE, had bussed in several hundred people from around the country, many of whom would have been itching for a fight.

The cost of the police operation will no doubt come out in due course but I imagine we’ll be talking serious numbers. As Labour had called for the UAF/UEE counter-demo to be cancelled, they will be able to exploit those numbers when taxpayers realise what they’ve had to fork out.

However, the email from Rainbow Hamlets is fascinating. If anyone can shed light on why they were excluded from the discussions, do share.

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EDL demo – over to you

Sadly, I’ve been tied to my desk all day, so the closest I got to the EDL march was a view of them being marshaled across Tower Bridge. As soon as they were over it, the bridge was raised and that seemed to deter any return.

From what I’ve read on Twitter and from talking to those who were there, the police operation seemed to be massive. Given no large scale violence flared, their expensive tactics – our photographers reported seeing dozens of vans from forces in Wales and Scotland -seem to have worked.

I wonder what the day cost? It’s one of those days where everyone is claiming victory, apart from perhaps the taxpayer.

Let’s just hope that the EDL take home the message that Tower Hamlets is not as bad as they might have read. Those of us who live here are more than capable of looking after ourselves and our own problems, thank you very much.

Anyway, feel free to give your views of today’s events.

 

 

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I warned yesterday about the bleak prospects for peace in Tower Hamlets on Saturday as both the EDL and Unite Against Fascism bus supporters from across the country to Whitechapel.

One reader of this blog pointed out that both “protests” are due to be staged next to Sainsbury’s and Whitechapel Market on the busiest shopping day of the week. The probability of mayhem and major disruption for ordinary people wanting to carry out their chores is growing.

While Respect’s Fozol Miah is helping to organise the counter-demo, the Labour party in Tower Hamlets, including Josh Peck, Rushanara Ali and John Biggs, is taking a different and wiser line. They have just issue the below press release:

       Labour calls for calm                                                                                        

After leading the campaign to ban the EDL marching through Tower Hamlets, the East End’s Labour politicians have now called for counter demonstrations to be called off

The Home Secretary banned the EDL from marching in Tower Hamlets after a successful local campaign, led by Labour, including delivering a 25,000 strong petition to the Metropolitan Police and Cllr Joshua Peck, Rushanara Ali and Jim Fitzpatrick MP’s and John Biggs AM writing to her to personally to ask for an intervention.

The EDL have vowed to come to Tower Hamlets on Saturday regardless and hold a static demonstration.  Campaign group Unite Against Fascism (UAF) have indicated they will gather to oppose the EDL’s visit.

Additional police will be drafted in to help deal with any potential incidents.

Joshua Peck, Labour Group Leader said:

‘It is important that residents stay at home and let the police deal with any visit by the EDL and they should be reassured that extra officers will be in place to help this weekend pass without incident. I would ask that anyone planning to hold or attend a counter demonstration reconsiders – the safest thing for everyone is to remain calm and let the police do their job’

John Biggs AM said:

‘I know how strongly many people feel about this event. It is important that we react with dignity and restraint and trust the police to tightly manage the demonstration. I have confidence that they are able and prepared to do so. What will destabilise this will be any outbreak of disorder.’

Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow said:

‘I urge people to remain calm and level-headed. I don’t want the EDL in my constituency in any form, but the best answer is to turn our backs on these people and let the police deal with them.’

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