During the run-up to Saturday's demonstration there was much confusion as to where the English Defence League would be meeting before their rally in Tower Hamlets. After police confirmed they would no longer be gathering in Hainault, Essex (before taking a chartered train down to Liverpool Street) the EDL announced they would be congregating on the Caledonian Road in Kings Cross.
At around 11am on Saturday morning scores of EDLers slowly began to arrive into Kings Cross. By 12pm well over 100 had made their way into the area. St George's flags were waved as bemused tourists and shoppers gathered to seek a better understanding what was occurring in the usually non-eventful district of north London.
Only a tiny handful of anti-fascists and anti-racists were present as the EDL took over the commercial area of the neighbourhood. By 1pm the entire space outside Kings Cross railway station 'belonged' to the EDL. Several hundred members of a violent and racist organisation had literally taken over one of Londons busiest mainline railway stations, and without so much as a whisper of opposition. ‘Muslim bombers off our streets’ was chanted along with the usual and messy rendition of 'God Save the Queen'. The scene was intimidating, aggressive and at times out-right-threatening. As UAF sent out tweets and texts claiming a ‘victory’ against fascism was prevailing in the East End, up to a thousand racists had all but shut down central Kings Cross.
To suggest that the EDL were defeated and smashed on Saturday signifies an acute sense of self-denial within the ranks of the ‘mainstream’ anti-racist movement. The EDL didn’t march into the East End or past the East London Mosque. Neither were they able to intimidate or harass many locals within the borough of Tower Hamlets. For this we should be pleased. But it wasn’t the anti-fascist movement that blocked their path, it was the police and the state that did.
The scenes at Kings Cross certainly showed the anti-fascist movement to be one step behind the EDL on the day. It is of course vital that the East London Mosque was protected and that Whitechapel Road became a space for anti-fascist organisation, but there was virtually zero activity to stop the EDL taking over parts of north London. If the EDL are to again gather in an area before heading somewhere else to demonstrate, anti-fascists must organise within proximity to their “muster” area. There would have been a solid chance of stopping hundreds of racists and fascists from leaving Kings Cross had anti-fascists (namely those who organise within UAF) been up to temporarily changing tactics and confronting the EDL at their original meeting point.