Calls for students to join an anti-English Defence League march through Cambridge this Saturday have heightened following Marine Le Pen’s visit to the Cambridge Union earlier this week.
It was revealed in December that the English Defence League (EDL) would be staging a demonstration against the building of a new mosque on Mill Road. Police confirmed last month that the far-right group would be holding a “static protest”, rather than marching through the city.
The Cambridge branch of Unite Against Fascism (CUAF) responded by calling for a counter-demonstration on the same day. More than 1,000 people have said on the Facebook event page they will be attending the anti-EDL protest.
Cambridge MP Julian Huppert announced yesterday that he would be joining protestors: “I feel very strongly about the need to make it clear that Cambridge stands together against fascism and racism.
“I want to make it very clear that [the EDL] are not welcome here. I hope their demonstration will pass peacefully and the fact that they are to be contained in one place, will hopefully go some way in helping to achieve that.
“We are fortunate in Cambridge to have a multi-national mix of people who make our city a vibrant and unique place in which to live and visit. They have diverse qualities and share their cultures, living and working together for the good of our communities and our city generally. I don’t want to see anything that could detract that. If we were to lose that mix, Cambridge would be a far poorer place in which to live.”
The march will begin near the Parkside Swimming Pool, Petersfield at 12pm, with the planned route taking protestors past the Grafton Centre through Burleigh Street and Fitzroy Street, down Sidney Street, Green Street and Trinity Street towards the Market Square, before looping back round to Norfolk Street, Gwydir Street and Mill Road. The route will see protestors marching twice past Christ’s Pieces, where the EDL rally is set to begin at 2pm. More than 400 officers will be policing the EDL demonstration and the counter-march at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds.
However, speaking to the Cambridge News, local MEP Richard Howitt said he expected less than 50 EDL members to gather for the demonstration. “The EDL rally may perhaps see an estimated 30-40 protesters turning up which could mean taxpayers paying more than £1,000 for each one.”
“The previous EDL march was few in number and attracted no local support so it is a huge and disproportionate cost to the police and to the city that they have chosen to come back again. It would be better if they didn’t get off their buses in the first place. I hope this will be the last time.”
Richard Rose, co-ordinator of CUAF, said: “[It] is important to show that anti-racists in Cambridge are the vast majority and that the racists are just a small minority bussed in from outside. It looks like we will massively outnumber them, but it pays never to be complacent and to never let the fascists go unchallenged however ridiculous they may appear – people in Germany initially thought Hitler was ridiculous.”
“This is especially important after Le Pen’s visit: her brand of racism has gone largely unchallenged in France and has resulted in her electoral success. It is important we don’t let them make capital from herv isit.”
A statement on the website of CUAF and Love Music Hate Racism reads: “The EDL is a racist and Fascist group dedicated to attacking Asian people and Muslims. EDL members have embarked on a violent campaign aimed at those they see as ‘legitimate targets’… The EDL’s aim is to divide us by making scapegoats of one community, just as the Nazis did with the Jews in the 1930s and the National Front attempted in the 1970s. Today they target Muslims, tomorrow it could be you!”