Between 1000 and 2000 anti-fascists protested in Walthamstow (north-east London) on Saturday 1 September, against only 150-300 marchers from the far-right English Defence League (EDL).
The anti-fascist demonstration was a victory. About 200 anti-fascists occupied the square where the EDL were intending to have their rally and surrounded the EDL leader Tommy Robinson. Robinson was treated to a hail of missiles before he was forced back into the main EDL demonstration and the EDL were escorted back to Blackhorse Road Station by the police.
However, while that was going on the remainder of the anti-fascist protest was trapped in a kettle by the police.
Only 200 managed to make it to the final rallying point due to general confusion and misinformation in the main demo. We had occupied a crossroads to prevent the EDL from getting to their rallying point, but then police announced that due to our action the EDL would be taken back to the station and not allowed to have their rally. Some of the stewards were only too happy to relay this to the crowd, telling us we had won an important victory.
Meanwhile the police were in reality escorting the EDL through the back streets towards Walthamstow Magistrates Court for their rally. This did not become common knowledge in the anti-fascist demonstration until after we had been firmly penned in by the police on all sides.
Even then some organisers continued to give megaphone announcements that we had won and that the EDL rally had been prevented. 200 were fortunately able to escape before the police closed all the gaps in their kettle.
The demonstration was organised by We Are Waltham Forest – a broad campaign that grew out of Waltham Forest Trades Council. The value of this type of campaign was demonstrated by the good turnout from the local community. However, confusion on the day was perhaps exacerbated by the dishonesty and sectarianism of some sections of the demonstration's organisers.
The local Labour Party and some of the local Muslim community leaders apparently negotiated separately with the police, both before the demonstration and actually on the day itself. Their clear desire was to make sure the police could keep the We Are Waltham Forest demonstration and the EDL demonstration apart from each other. Other organisers of the demonstration were clear – the whole point was to prevent the EDL from marching through Walthamstow.
We eventually achieved this, but given our overwhelming numerical superiority it was a much closer call than it ever needed to be.