Leading trade union and labour movement figures including Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, Lord Peter Hain, trade union leaders and others have signed a statement expressing concerns about Saturday’s Football Lads Alliance (FLA) demonstration in central London. The statement and signatories appear below.
The FLA group claims it is simply opposed to terrorism and extremism. However anti-racist campaigners are concerned that the event will attract far right and racist organisations.
In recent weeks there has been sustained racist and Islamophobic postings on the FLA Facebook page, including by people who openly admit to being linked to groups like the English Defence League.
This Saturday Stand up to Racism will be meeting at 1pm opposite Downing Street to distribute a Stand Up To Racism leaflet along with Show Racism The Red Card materials for the “Wear Red” anti-racist day on Friday 20 October.
Weyman Bennett, Stand up to Racism Co-Convenor said:
“We believe there is a real danger that the event could open the door to far right groups, that want to promote racism and Islamophobia. Some figures who have strong connections to far right groups spoke on the last FLA event in London in June and others could speak again on Saturday.
“We are concerned that the FLA leadership has failed to make a statement clarifying that nobody with far right links or views will be welcome on 7 October.
“All of us were appalled by the horrendous attacks in Manchester, London Bridge, Parsons Green, Westminster and Finsbury Park. We can’t allow anyone to use these attacks to divide us. No section of society should feel scapegoated. The only effective response to the attacks is to stand in unity together, and not let the racists divide us.
“We do not believe that football supporters are racist or that the vast majority who will march on Saturday are linked to the far right. Many who will be on Saturday’s march will be as shocked as we are about the level of racism expressed by some people who claim to be backing the FLA. We believe that, like the whole of society, football is for everyone, women and men, black and white, LGBT+ or straight, people of all religions or none.”
Sabby Dhalu, Stand up to Racism Co-Convenor said:
“We condemn terrorism, hatred, Islamophobia and racism. Many attending Saturday’s FLA demonstration will not be racist and will not be connected to far right racist and fascist group. The English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First have failed to consistently attract large numbers in recent years. There is a danger that some groups will be using this demonstration to revive the racist, far right violent street culture.”
Like millions we have been horrified by a wave of terror attacks at London Bridge, Westminster, Parsons Green, Manchester and Finsbury Park.
But it’s essential that our communities deliver a united response to those who seek to divide us.
We are worried about the presence of speakers linked to far right, racist and Islamophobic groups on the previous FLA demo in June.
There has been a series of racist and Islamophobic postings on the FLA Facebook page.
We are also concerned about the presence of speakers linked to the far right being given a platform again on the upcoming October demo.
We believe that those leading the FLA are failing to take the threat of right wing extremism seriously.
These issues led the leading veterans charity Walking With The Wounded to withdraw from backing the 7 October event.
We call on the FLA to make it absolutely crystal clear that there is no place for right wing extremists on the 7 October demonstration either as speakers or participants. We also believe they should make the same decision about online participation of known, far right, figures.
We support the initiative by Stand Up To Racism and others to take a positive anti-racist message to the streets of London on Saturday 7 October.
Diane Abbott Shadow Home Secretary, Claude Moraes MEP, Julie Ward MEP, Lord Hain, Unison Policy Development Committee, Kevin Courtney NEU Joint General Secretary, Steve Gillan – POA General Secretary, Jane Loftus – CWU President, Ian Hodson – BFAWU President, Harish Patel – Unite the Union, Ged Grebby – Show Racism The Red Card, Dr Shazid Amin MEND CEO, Lindsey German – Convenor Stop The War Coalition, Gerry Gable – Searchlight Editor.