Tower Hamlets commits to East End unity demonstration against racism and bigotry

Over 800 people attended a rally held at the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel on Sunday evening (13 June 2010). Representatives from many faiths, trade unions, youth groups and local politicians came together to give a clear message that there is no place for racism, intolerance and bigotry in the East End of London.

The meeting was jointly organised by United East End and Unite Against Fascism, and supported by The East London Community Organisations (TELCO), in response to the threat of the English Defence League coming to Tower Hamlets on Sunday 20 June. There was unanimous agreement that a big, peaceful demonstration of unity should be held on the same day to make it clear to the EDL that their message of hate is not welcome.

The meeting was opened by Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain who welcomed the wide range of people in the audience, young and old, of all faiths and none. The Reverend Alan Green, chair of the Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Forum and Church of England area dean, spoke of his pride at the capacity of the people of Tower Hamlets to come together.

Representatives from the Roman Catholic Church, the Salvation Army, the Tower Hamlets Council of Mosques, the Vivekenanda Human Centre (Hindu), the Baha’i Community, the Sikhs of Great Britain, the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order and the Nelson Street Synagogue all pledged support for the demonstration of unity on 20 June. Leon Silver, from the Synagogue, told the rally that he was as opposed to Islamophobia as he is to anti-Semitism.

Representatives from local youth groups said that they would be putting aside their differences to unite against the EDL. Alex Kenny, secretary of the East London Teachers Association, said that teachers would be attending the demonstration and standing shoulder to shoulder with their pupils. Steve Hart, regional organiser for the UNITE trade union spoke of following in the footsteps of his father, who was at Cable Street opposing Oswald Mosley’s fascist blackshirts in 1936.

Politicians from all political parties were invited to attend the rally. Former London mayor Ken Livingstone sent a message of support saying that the event on 20 June would be “a fantastic celebration of the diversity of Tower Hamlets and send a message of strength and unity against fascism and racism.”

Peter Hain MP also sent a message saying that he would be attending the unity demonstration. Rob Hoveman brought the support of the Respect Party and its leader, Salma Yaqoob. John Biggs, the London Assembly member for City & East and one of the first local politicians to support plans to oppose the EDL, called on people to put their political differences aside to unite against racism and for the kind of East End we are all proud to live in.

The meeting closed with a rousing pledge of support to build the unity demonstration – and to make it the biggest and most diverse that Tower Hamlets has seen for years.