Charlie Hore reports
On Saturday afternoon (18 April) a number of small nazi groups tried to hold an antisemitic rally in Stamford Hill, Hackney. They failed, managing nothing more than walking a couple of hundred metres along the pavement, and then back again to their starting point, barracked every step of the way by a much larger gathering of anti-fascists and locals.
Stamford Hill is a district in north Hackney and south Tottenham which is home to the largest orthodox Jewish community in Britain – at the 2011 census, my ward was 25% Jewish. In the last year, groups on the fringes of the fascist scene have targeted it in a reversion to their roots. There was an attack on orthodox Jews in a park in south Tottenham last year, and more recently a synagogue in the same area was attacked by drunks during a Passover service. In both cases North London Unite Against Fascism responded quickly and well.
Last month one isolated nazi tried to organise a rally in the heart of the community, but after being arrested for anti-Semitic tweets against a Labour MP, was barred from London as part of his bail conditions.
But last Saturday was the first time actual nazis – a ragbag including Britain First, some Golden Dawn supporters and Martin Webster, National Front leader in the 1970s – have set foot in Hackney for several decades. They arrived under a very heavy police escort at Clapton railway station, which is a mile south of Stamford Hill itself, to be joined by a small contingent of Polish nazis.
The police marched them south, away from the main Jewish area, but towards the largest mosque in Hackney. They were stopped just out of sight of the mosque, stood still for 20 minutes or so, and then turned around.
The Nazis were opposed by around 100 people – a mixture of London Anti Fascists, Unite Against Fascism, Jewdas (Jewish anti-fascist network) and a growing number of locals who had come out to defend our community. Two anti-fascists were arrested but in general the police were cautious, possibly because of the large number of locals mobilised.
The mobilisation could and should have been bigger. London Anti Fascists knew about the plans on Thursday, but decided to go for a low-key mobilisation to disrupt their starting point – a tactical error which hopefully won’t be repeated. Unite Against Fascism discovered the plans on Friday, and mobilised well, through Facebook and Twitter (see the report on their website that has useful information on the make-up on the nazi mob).
More importantly, ‘community leaders’ had been told by the police earlier in the week that this was happening, and had decided against publicising it. Hopefully the sight of actual nazis on our streets and getting close to the Clapton mosque will now start to shift that mindset.
The spirit of the demo was summed up by a tweet from @Hackney Muslims ‘@ShomrimOfficial on the day your team cant (understandably) watch our backs… we all got yours #Hackney #demo #stamfordhill‘ (Shomrim is an Orthodox Jewish community patrol which works very closely with local Muslim organisations, and ‘on the day’ refers to the fact that Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, when orthodox Jews may not work).
Local anti-fascists are now planning a protest letter to the police for having allowed our community to be defiled like this, which it is hoped Diane Abbott will sign. There will also need to be a better integration of the different local phone, email and other trees that mobilised so many locals so quickly. And there needs to be a good contingent from Hackney on 9 May to oppose the English Defence League’s attempt to march in the neighbouring borough of Waltham Forest.