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EDL and Voice of Manchester

By Nick Lowles
February 28 2013




This weekend the Defence League circus goes to Manchester. Whereas back in 2010 their protest attracted 1,500 supporters, this event is likely to be pitifully small. However, its purpose of spreading hatred and division is the same.

Manchester councillor and HOPE not hate supporter, Afzal Khan, has written an article for the Manchester Evening News. I think it’s right on the money and deserves to have a wider audience. So here is Afzal’s take on how HOPE should defeat hate in Manchester this weekend.

“If it was up to me, this Saturday’s EDL demonstration would be banned.

“Many of us remember the last time the EDL came to Manchester, in 2009. Not only did the event cause widespread disruption in the city centre, but it also incurred an estimated £800,000 in police and security costs.

“The right to freedom of speech, including the right to demonstrate, is an indispensable component of democracy and genuine citizenship, and a right that has been hard-won in this country – not least in Manchester, where hundreds were injured and fifteen killed in the Peterloo Massacre simply for exercising their right to protest. But what do we do when an organisation uses its right to free speech not as a means of self-determination and expression, but to bully and abuse others?

“I believe in free speech. But I believe also that when someone says ‘I have a right to free speech!’, we then have a right to ask them ‘What are you going to use it for?’

“Are you going to use it to call for greater democracy and social justice, as the Peterloo protesters did?

“Are you going to use it to celebrate the diversity of our great city and the contribution of all of our communities, as I and many others will be doing this Friday evening at the HOPE not hate vigil in Manchester Cathedral?

“Or are you going to waste your right to free speech, as the English Defence League do, on racist football chants, and on praise of the murderer Anders Breivik?

“Although the EDL claim to be an inclusive group, ‘peacefully protesting against militant Islam’, we should judge them by their actions as well as their words. Their leader, Stephen Lennon, or ‘Tommy Robinson’ as he calls himself, was released from prison on Friday – only the day after another supporter was jailed for slashing a pub landlord’s throat. This is not what I understand by peaceful protest.

“Under Nick Griffin, who is still, shamefully, a Member of the European Parliament for our region, the British National Party tried for a while to present themselves as a legitimate political organisation – but time and again their own members and supporters let them down and reveal what they really are: nothing but a tiny minority of thugs, spreading a divisive message of hate, and finding fewer and fewer people prepared to listen.

“The English Defence League is just another manifestation of the shambles that is the far right in Britain. They were conceived in a £500,000 apartment and shaped by people ideologically opposed to Islam – including a director of a City investment fund and a property developer. These people do not speak for the working class of Great Britain, and they certainly do not speak for Manchester.

“This Saturday’s demonstration seems certain to go ahead. But I am confident that, this weekend, the voice of Manchester will speak louder than the voice of hatred.

“I hope that our businesses, shoppers and those out and about in the city centre will go on as usual, without being bothered or intimidated by those who seek to disrupt us. I hope that those who turn out to protest against the EDL do so in a way that is peaceful, friendly, and celebratory. I hope the English Defence League will realise that they have few friends here. And I hope that the unhappy spectacle of the far right flaunting their message of hate in front of our beautiful Town Hall – that well-known symbol of our accepting, tolerant, multicultural city – is one we will never have to see again.”

Originally published by Hope Not Hate 

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