Groups of Asian and Black youth were among the protesters. There were also contingents from the teachers union in Scotland, the UNITE union, the UNISON public workers union, and the Fire Brigades Union. Protesters came from several cities across Scotland.
The SDL is an offshoot of the anti-working-class English Defence League (EDL). The group says it is against militant Islam. One Islamist group they targeted, Islam4UK, was recently proscribed by the government, a move the EDL claimed credit for. The EDL has also called for a ban on the building of new mosques in Britain and on wearing burqas, a form of dress worn by some Muslim women.
The SDL Web site features calls for pride in being British or Scottish and support for the British rulers war in Afghanistan. The right-wingers deny being racist. The EDL invited both a Black and a Sikh speaker to address their recent rally in Stoke-on-Trent in England.
The main counterprotest was organized by Scotland United, an umbrella group including the Scottish Trades Union Congress and supported by Unite Against Fascism, a United Kingdom-wide organization. The Edinburgh Anti-Fascist Alliance led a breakaway march to a pub where some SDL supporters gathered, protected by the police. According to the SDL, many of their supporters were prevented from entering the city by the police.
The Scotland United rally held here included speeches by representatives of all the main capitalist parties. Their talks were marked by calls for a multicultural Scotland, placing trust in the police, and for laws that undermine the right to freedom of the press and association in order to deal with the threat of fascism. March organizer Aamer Anwar, of Scotland United, hailed the police use of Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act against the SDL. This law gives police a range of arbitrary powers.
Paul Davies, Communist League candidate for Bethnal Green in London, traveled north for the protest. It was great to see so many come out onto the streets to oppose these ultraright forces, Davies, who is a meat worker, said. That bodes well for building a movement that can resist employer-backed assaults on workers organizations and fight fascist street gangs in the future.
At the same time, Davies added, It is very dangerous to place any reliance on the capitalist state and its police. These are the very forces that are undermining workers rights today and will nurture and protect fascist forces in the years ahead.
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