Saturday, 20 February 2010

Edinburgh takes to streets to isolate Nazis

Thousands of people demonstrated in Edinburgh today peacefully under the 'Scotland United' banner to further humiliate the so-called English/Scottish Defence League's attempt to bring its message of hate to the city. While demonstrators from trade unions, faith groups, students and ordinary members of the public staged a peaceful protest through the city centre, less than 100 fascists were corralled in pubs by the police and sent home again humiliated, as they were in Glasgow in November.

In a gesture of unity, the rally in Princes Street Gardens heard from the leadership of all the main parties. Kenny MacAskill, SNP Scottish Justice Minister, Ian Gray, Labour Party leader, the city's Lib Dem council leader Jenny Dawe, and Tory spokesperson Ruth Davidson who beat the BNP candidate into fourth place in Glasgow North East.

It also heard from organiser Aamer Anwar, Osama Saeed of the Scottish-Islamic Foundation, Shami Khan of Edinburgh and Lothians Racial Equality Council, Weyman Bennett of Unite Against Fascism and Dave Moxham, STUC Deputy General Secretary as well as student leader Liam Burns.

Jenny Dawe said there was no place in Edinburgh for racists, Ian Gray called on the memory of the Scots who went to Spain in the 1930s to fight fascism and Weyman Bennet noted that he had always been told to turn the other cheek. "Well I've turned all four and I'm still fighting", he said. Shami Khan said, "Racism is a cancer that has to be cut out".

"We students have one word for the range of cultures in Edinburgh", said student leader Liam Burns. "That is 'welcome'".

The demonstrators marched off up the Mound to the Meadows. So many of them young people determined to stand up against racism. Proudly my children and their friends too. Many others seasoned campaigners alongside a multicultural mix of individuals and families who had never demonstrated before. All with the same purpose; to say there was no place in our city for the fascists. A warmth and a unity that would shame the thugs around the corner.

We were joined by UNISON colleagues from Glasgow, Dundee and parts further.

In a moving moment, the march fell silent outside the Mosque in Potterrow as elders and worshippers stood and waved in dignity.

Meanwhile the so-called Scottish Defence League were surrounded by police at the railway station and in a High Street pub, heckled by anti-racism demonstrators. Later they were herded away by police out of the city.

At the end of the march Dave Moxham and Aamer Anwar praised the demonstrators for standing up against fascism and thanked the council for their help and the police for how they had managed the situation.

Unity indeed on a day when that unity, and decency, stood up to hate.

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