Anti-fascists and Muslim communities joined forces on Saturday to fight anti-Islam mobs in Greater Manchester.
Members of the white supremacist English Defence League (EDL) gathered in Rochdale town centre over the weekend, accusing the local Muslim population of child sex abuse. Anti-fascist activists Unite Against Fascism and members of the Muslim community turned out to counter-demonstrate, with police erecting a fence between the groups. Local media estimated around 500 EDL supporters and 100 Unite Against Fascism members in attendance.
But Unite Against Fascism co-ordinator Weyman Bennett said he believed many EDL members had been bussed in from out of town. The sheer number of localised EDL demonstrations made it difficult to mobilise counterdemonstrators every weekend, he said. But the Rochdale event saw “a very good turnout,” with closer to 250 counterdemonstrators once Muslim groups and trade unions were included.
The EDL had planned to march on a local Islamic centre but the counterprotest and police kettling had prevented this, he said.