Intro by Sons of Malcolm:
Yesterday's events in Edinburgh shows a lot of things:
- there is a split in the anti-fascist movement between the
completely non-effectual UAF/SWP status quo, and those who
want direct confrontation with the far-right, which
includes some UAF/SWP rank and file and other anti-fascists
- that the far-right in the form of ...anti-Islamic
politics is nowhere near as popular in Scotland as it is in
England, mostly to do with the fact that many Scots are
- due to the above political dynamics, England is still
faced with a dire far-right threat from several quarters,
and requires a sizeable and robust anti-fascist movement to
challenge the far-right effectively, which is nowhere in
- Anti-fascists in Scotland must not show hypocrisy and
allow the same far-right elements and their allies in the
supremacist Loyalist movements to attack those Scots who
identify with and support Irish Republicanism, with the
latter being attacked frequenly, esp at the Bloody Sunday
Commemmorations, as one person said on a comment on the
blog: "Well done. When the Irish community in Scotland
attempt to remember ‘Bloody Sunday’ we are attacked by
fascistic loyalists, BNP, NF and orange order members. We
are pelted with bricks, bottles, urine, shite by animals –
I look forward to our community being defended. Remember,
at the Glasgow SDL joke they did not attack our muslim
brothers and sisters – they attacked an Irish catholic pub
called the Empire Bar in the Saltmarket"
Lessons from Glasgow
After much anticipation and preparation, today was the day of the English Scottish Defence League’s second outing. They had first appeared in Glasgow last November, with a generous estimate of 80 turning up to find themselves outnumbered by about 50 to 1, consequently finding themselves kettled in a pub by the police for their own safety.
There were two main lessons that people came away with from that encounter. First, that it had been a great victory for the anti-fascist movement, providing the confidence necessary to organise in future. And second, that there was a split in the movement over tactics. Broadly there appeared two groups: one led by the UAF/SWP under the banner of Scotland United, which favoured a parallel rally, hosting speakers from the Tories, SNP, Church of Scotland and others, and to that end actively opposed any idea of direct confrontation with the SDL. And one led by a range of activists from the SSP, anarchist groups, student groups and others (including, it must be said, individuals from UAF/SWP), which favoured direct confrontation via a march on the SDL position wherever it may turn out to be.
Fortunately and unfortunately respectively, these will once again be the two main lessons that people come away with from today’s encounter.
Preparation and March
Almost immediately after Glasgow there were rumours that Edinburgh would be the next destination, and so the Edinburgh Anti-Fascist Alliance (EAFA) was established to organise those preferring the tactic of confrontation.
Needless to say that plenty of anti-fascist/anti-racist posters went up around the city from both the EAFA and the UAF, as well as many city-centre shops carrying leaflets on their counters. Indeed, such was the saturation that it led a Conservative councillor to complain that anti-fascism has become a “polarising influence” — Tories on the ball as always!
Each group, of course, was advertising its own event. The UAF/SWP rally was to occur at 11.30am and march through the city centre, while the EAFA organised to meet at 9.30am before heading wherever the SDL turned up. Coincidentally, the UAF/SWP decided to start advertising for students to gather at 10am instead, just down the road from where the EAFA were meeting.
This proved to be a mistake on their part, as the EAFA decided to join up with this group at around 10.20am while they waited for news on the SDL’s arrival. This turned, consciously or otherwise, into an entryist manoeuvre, as they soon got news of the SDL’s location and marched off with the entire group in tow.
This is where the UAF/SWP’s role became a damaging rather than a building one. Having failed to stop the entire group marching off, they set themselves up further down the road with a loud-speaker to try and convince as many people as possible into staying with them. While this first attempt failed entirely to halt the enthusiastic crowd it did succeed in sowing the seeds of confusion in the majority who were not there with a group, but rather as a response to the posters, media coverage and word of mouth.
Having heard (accurately) that the bulk of SDL members seemed to be having a morning drink near Holyrood Parliament, the march entered the Royal Mile, where the police quickly mobilised to prevent any advance.
This is where the battle of the two groups commenced, as the UAF/SWP sought to take advantage of the police lines and confusion to peel people back to their rally, while the EAFA and others sought to find a side-street past the police lines. Throw into this a sighting of SDL members in the Bank Hotel — a pub right in the centre of the march (the building in the above photo) — and misinformation being introduced about where the SDL were and what was happening by prominent UAF members, and it isn’t difficult to imagine that things were getting a little chaotic. Eventually the sizeable EAFA group found their side street — barging past a single hapless police officer, who must have been unfamiliar with the story of King Canute — and took the bulk of the protesters with them. However, it was noticeable that with two factions competing for loyalty, many unaligned protesters simply gave up and drifted off, weakening both.
Kettling the SDL
Despite the commotion a significant group moved forward with the EAFA and eventually reached the pub hosting the SDL — about 80 of them in total [update: The Scotsman is reporting 40]. At this point, echoing the scenes of Glasgow, the counter-protesters trapped the SDL in their pub. Now it just became a question of the police holding their ground until buses arrived to remove the SDL from the area. This took some hours, with increasing numbers of police flooding into the area and drones flying overhead, but eventually it happened and the SDL piled onto their buses — though not before they had all their details and photos taken.
There can be little doubt that the day was a success for the EAFA. Their spotters found the SDL early and the EAFA led a significant group to trap them in a relatively out-of-the-way pub before they could meet up or hold their rally. Other SDL members found themselves confronted by break-away groups of protesters and escorted or kettled by police — reports of which arrived from both the train station and 20 minutes away at the Grassmarket. This will hopefully set the SDL back and discourage any future rallies in Scotland, as well as establish the organisation necessary in Edinburgh to engage in future events.
It is only a shame that a rather grotesque public factional fight cost some of the momentum along the way. It must surely be seen as imperative to sort this situation out beforehand if the SDL return, with an acceptance that while the UAF’s passive rally is a good way to involve those who wouldn’t want to be involved in an EAFA-type strategy, it shouldn’t be pursued at the expense of those who are willing to carry out the important work of direct confrontation — and certainly not at the expense of a march which is already on its way.
Scottish Defence League members forced to leave city by
20 February 2010, STV
Thousands of anti-fascist protesters staged demonstrations
across Edinburgh on Saturday as members of the far-right
Scottish Defence League (SDL) gathered in the city.
Lothian and Borders Police drafted in officers from the
Strathclyde, Fife and Northumbria forces to bolster their
numbers in the capital - in all, it is understood that 900
police were on duty.
In one incident, scores of banner-waving activists
attempted to enter a bar opposite the Scottish Parliament.
Protesters said members of the SDL were inside Jenny Ha's
bar and vowed to stay in the area until the SDL members
left the city.
Police later loaded members of the league on to a bus to
leave. Officers had closed the Royal Mile, with the road
sealed off and hundreds of police on the street keeping
opposing groups apart.
It is believed that around 90 people were kept inside the
bar by police, who blocked the doors to stop trouble on the
street. Minor scuffles broke out when some SDL supporters
passed by anti-fascist activists behind police cordons
close to the building.
Meanwhile, inside, SDL supporters held up flags and banners
protesting against Islamic Sharia law.
Riot vans with officers wearing helmets eventually
surrounded the pub entrance while two double-decker buses
were driven towards the door.
Despite chants from SDL supporters that they would not be
moved, the SDL members made their way on to the buses
before being driven past two small counter-demonstrations
assembled along the Royal Mile and outside Holyrood.
Officers said no arrests were made and the street was
cleared by 4pm. A small number of SDL members were also
held in Edinburgh's Waverley station.
Student protester James Nesbitt, 23, from Glasgow, said:
"We had spotters out across the city looking for fascists
in pubs. We got here quickly but the police are doing
everything they can to keep us away from them. We're here
because people are frightened with the developments in the
The incident happened as a formal anti-racism rally began
in Edinburgh city centre. At least 2,000 people are
believed to have taken part in the Scotland United rally,
which was prompted by SDL plans to gather in the capital
and protest against "militant Islam".
MSPs, charities, trade unions and faith groups were among
those taking part in the rally, and speaker Aamer Anwar
told STV News they planned to show there is no place for
racist and fascist organisations in Scotland.
Mr Anwar, one of the rally organisers, said the march would
serve as a warning to the SDL to "stay away". He had
previously said: "We are uniting, right across the
political spectrum, against their message of hatred. And we
are sending a out a positive message, one of unity and one
of celebration of our diversity.
"Let me be quite clear. They are testing the water and
complacency is not an option. Silence is not an option. In
the 1930s, the fascists scapegoated one section of the
community, the Jewish community. And now today, what we
have is a far right Nazi organisation that is scapegoating
the Muslim community and that's why we're uniting. And
every time they raise their heads they have be exposed for
what they are, which is fascists."
Osama Saeed of the Scottish-Islamic Foundation, one of the
protest's organisers, said: "Today is a further humiliation
for the SDL. They only got ten minutes in the rain last
November in Glasgow. They didn't even get that today. This
is only due to good people coming out in numbers to take
over Edinburgh's streets. The threat from the far-right
cannot be ignored and simply wished away."
Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, one of the
rally's guest speakers, said: "Today is about making a
stand against those who would seek to divide and saying to
them that their views are not welcome, as well as showing
to the world that Scotland will not tolerate such views."
Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray added: "The message from
today's rally was upbeat and clear - Scotland will never
stand by and allow hatred and bigotry to have its day.
There is no place for - and Scotland will give no platform
to - those who would divide our communities and attack our
The SDL describes itself as non-violent and pro-British. A
video posted under the group's name on You Tube urges
members to head to the capital to demonstrate against
"Islamification" in the UK.
Police had earlier said that the SDL had not sought
permission for a demonstration and it was unclear how many
people might come to take part. Scotland United's
organisers insisted any right-wing activist who tried to
march in the city should be removed immediately.
Lothian and Borders Police assistant chief constable Iain
Livingstone said: "We are pleased that today's activity in
the city centre passed off without major incident, and with
only five arrests being made for public order offences.
"At this time I'd like to thank those who participated in
the Scotland United rally and march, the majority of whom
were well behaved and willing to engage constructively with
police. I would also like to thank those members of the
public who may have experienced some disruption to their
day as a result of the activity in the city centre, for
their patience and co-operation."
A demonstration held in Glasgow in November by the SDL saw
around 100 protesters contained by police and then herded
onto buses out of the city, while thousands passed
peacefully through the city in an anti-fascism protest at
the same time.
In their online video urging members to attend the event in
Edinburgh, the SDL said it would "unite with their fellow
countrymen to defend this great nation. We will never
It continued: "To carry on the fight against Muslim
extremists and Islamification in Great Britain, we will
never surrender. If you love this country and love Great
Britain then please join us in Edinburgh on February 20. We
all join as one."
The Scotland United rally, organised by Unite Against
Racism and Fascism, begun in Princes Street Gardens before
heading through the city centre.
The SDL is an offshoot of the English Defence league, which
has staged protests in Manchester and Birmingham which
resulted in violence.