|Volume 47 Number 6, March 25, 2017||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
South Tyneside Unites Against Fascism (STUAF) has been formed for a second time (the first in 2013) by local people, trade unionists and political groups and organisations opposed to the targeting of communities in the area with racism and Islamophobia. It remobilised to draw attention to the threat posed by a march in South Shields on March 18 by the EDL, whose sole intention was to try to intimidate and persecute the Muslim community in the town.
The EDL demonstration was a deliberately targeted attack against a local family using the excuse of a spitting incident involving a small child and a local man with mental health issues. As an attack of religious persecution, the march was also an attack on all. Given the specific personal and religious targeting of the march and its potential to lead to racially-aggravated violence, there were legal grounds to prevent it taking place. STUAF wrote to the police to demand that this march be stopped on this basis, but they refused to do so.
Having been routed right around the centre of South Shields, the march was a serious provocation to the peace-loving minority communities who have for decades lived there in harmony with their neighbours. Historians trace the Arab community in South Shields back to the 12th Century. Certainly, Muslims originating from the Middle East, Africa and Asia have settled here for more than a hundred years. Today, this community of working people, seamen, and small businesses is fully integrated into the make-up of the town. More broadly, South Tyneside has many health and public service workers who originate from minority communities and from other countries who serve the people of the borough. It is also an area in which Catherine Cookson wrote some of her most famous novels which reflect people's condemnation of racism and religious discrimination.
The march was therefore a deep affront and provocation to all people of the region. No organisation can be allowed to attack people's right to exist and the march was something that should not be permitted in a modern society.
A spokesperson for STUAF said: "This demonstration by the EDL goes against the whole democratic tradition and values of the people of South Tyneside and the North East, which uphold the rights of all people and their communities. South Tyneside Unite Against Fascism has organised a peaceful and orderly counter-demonstration to defend the rights of all against this attack on our communities - we are one race, the human race! Join us to show solidarity and send a clear message to the EDL that the people of South Tyneside and the North East will not accept the incitement of racial or religious hatred against our communities."
Nearly 100 people from South Tyneside and elsewhere, and from all communities, assembled at the Town Hall, far outweighing the twenty or so brought in from outside by the EDL. The EDL were allowed to march from the Scotia around into Anderson Street, Beech Road and back through Winchester via Anderson street to the Scotia for a rally. By the time of their return, the counter-demonstration had been allowed to march down Fowler Street for a rally near the Scotia.
The counter-protest expressed the unity of the community against the promotion of overt fascism and attempts to divide people on racist and religious grounds. It also expressed the principle that there can be no "democratic right" to target Muslims and even individuals as in this case, condemning the authorities that allow such forces to propagate their intimidation and hatred. Slogans such as "Whose streets? Our streets! Whose town? Our town!" represented the positive message that the rights of all people should be defended from whichever community they come, and rejected the scapegoating of Muslims or any other section of the people for the problems in society, which is being carried out at a time when all communities are under attack by the ruling elite.
The Muslim Community is Our Community! Defend the Rights of All!