On Saturday, 1st of June the facist Scottish Defence League (SDL) held a static protest outside the parliament in Edinburgh in response to the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in London.
As normal, the SDL relied on supporters from northern England to boost their numbers. They arrived at the city’s Waverley station from 11am. While waiting for two hours for others to arrive, they waved Union Flags and SDL banners at the station, despite having no permission to demonstrate there.
By 1pm, around 100 people – including a few families with children – set off for the parliament with loud singing of ‘Flower Of Scotland’ and ‘Rule Britannia’ and chants of “Muslim bombers off our streets” and “There’s only one Lee Rigby”. They were escorted by police for the 20-minute walk to Holyrood - again despite having no permission to march.
Socialist Appeal supporters witnessed this illegal march approach the Royal Mile; at one point an altercation took place when a local threw water onto the marchers from her high-rise flat.
Once the SDL regrouped outside the parliament, they numbered 150. Socialist Appeal supporters joined the 300 Unite Against Facism demonstrators in throwing various insults at the facists who were kept 50 metres away behind barriers and dozens of police.
There was a real mixture of SDL supporters: the typical football casuals who were goading us to fight them; young couples; mothers with children; and middle-aged men. They waved the old placards claiming Islam was the religion of terrorism and plenty of Union Flags. One held a Help for Heroes banner, despite the charity publicly refusing to take money from far-right groups. The facists quickly showed their vicious side when a projectile flew out of the middle of the crowd and landed infront of us. The police eventually bagged it as evidence.
Anti-Islam speeches were made by some, but only a dozen seemed to listen and applaud. A one-minute silence was held at 2.10pm: for the SDL it was for Rigby; for UAF, for all the victims of hate crime. This was followed by more chanting of ‘Nazi scum off our streets’.
SDL members then left a dozen bouquets of flowers near the entrance to the parliament. After half an hour the police told the SDL to leave. Before we left, one SDL supporter ran round the back of us, shouting. He was chased off by demonstrators. Ten minutes later the police told us we had safe passage to leave down the Royal Mile. They were wrong. Within minutes we encountered a group of facists stood at a bus stop. They threatened to attack us and were encircled by police.
We were moved on, but chose to stay at the other side of them for 20 minutes. Before the SDL could be escorted away, another facist ran out into the road from the opposing pavement and chanted "S,S, SDL!" at us. He was quickly arrested and bundled into a patrol car. More back-up arrived and kettled us while the facists were moved on. The police then kettled us for an hour ‘in the interest of public safety’ before eventually letting us go in groups.
This demonstration raises three alarming truths. Firstly, the SDL's numbers were boosted by non-member locals horrified by the murder of Lee Rigby and who are alienated by the main political parties policies. Secondly, facist groups like the SDL are brazen opportunists who do not play by the rules and are peppered with vicious thugs. Thirdly, the police can be relied upon to bungle operations like this and end up giving facist groups seemingly preferential treatment.
Until policitical parties address the real problems in society of the lack of jobs, housing and public services, which are due to the crisis of capitalism, individuals will turn to violent protest or terrorism. Until then, the brainwashed will carry out atrocities and the fearful and ignorant will resort to violence. Neither provides any solution and always results in further torment. A socialist programme is the only way forward.