OVER 2,000 workers and youth marched to city hall Norwich in opposition to the English Defence League on Saturday.
This is the first time that the fascists have chosen to march in Norwich and people were shocked.
The counter march gathered in Chapelfield gardens at 11am and a series of speakers addressed the crowd interspersed with music.
There were many young people, from schools and Norwich City College and a good contingent of students from the University of East Anglia and an equally large group from the Norwich University College of Arts.
‘We are Norwich’ is an umbrella group of 25 organisations including faith groups, trade union branches, political parties and community organisations.
They had publicised the counter march well in advance.
The crowd heard speakers from PCS, Unison, the NUT, Unite, the prospective Labour candidate from Norwich North, Gay Pride and students from the university.
A News Line reporter interviewed people and asked them why they had come and what they thought of the general situation.
Barbara said ‘I’m here for two main reasons.
‘I lived 46 years out of England around the world, in the Middle East and the Far East and was always treated fairly, I would say.
‘I’ve never had any trouble – no racism. To come back to my own home city, retiring here, I was shocked to see that the level of debate had become so bad.
‘Number two I’m married to a non-Brit. I have three children and I’m offended and insulted about what these racists say about so-called mixed marriages and so on. I do a blog called “Hope not Hate” Norfolk and you’ll find more of my opinions there.’
A student from City College said ‘I’m here today because I heard about the EDL and I think what they are doing is wrong especially in a society like today. I think we need to work towards a better future and a fairer future without racism.
‘I don’t have many political views but I don’t like what the Tories amd LibDems are doing especially when they said they weren’t going to raise tuition fees because I know lots of graduated students who can’t get jobs even though they have degrees because unemployment is so high.
‘I know lots of people who can’t go to university because they can’t afford it. I don’t think there’s much hope for some people.’
A man with a disability said: ‘I’m here today to ensure the EDL know that they are not welcome in Norwich. Fascists don’t discriminate between trade unionists, disabled people, people of different ethnic minorities, gay people. Fascism killed disabled people, Jewish people, trade unionists, socialists, so that’s why I’m here today.’
Unison member, Roberto Ramires, said, ‘I’m here to join in with the rest of Norwich to show that no-one here accepts the EDL and that we’ve had enough of what has been going on recently with the Tory cuts, and I think that we should all come together basically and do something about it.’
Brem Howartson said, ‘I wanted to show my daughter, she’s quite keen in finding out about the EDL. We found out last night when my wife went to a concert that this was happening so it was quite a late thing. I wanted to see the other side of the coin and show my support as well. I think the whole of Norwich should be here to oppose them.
‘The Tory government are a complete disaster and the colleagues that I work with who voted against figureheads like Gordon Brown are starting to realise what they voted in.
‘There’s massive cuts at the hospital and cuts in the children’s services. People wish they never voted them in now.
‘Labour were always accused of stealth cuts and stuff but they’re worse. Nobody realised, You don’t realise things are important until they’re not there.’
Anna, his daughter, said, ‘In my school we have had so many cuts to things like our physics department that we did this thing to test how much power fruit had in it and the only fruit we got was an apple and two tangerines.
‘The whole class of 30 had to share that because of the cuts that the government made.’
Kevin Reynolds from Great Yarmouth Unite, said: ‘We’re here in solidarity with the faith groups and trades unions and coalition of community people who are opposed to the EDL coming to Norwich.
They’re not welcome here.
‘They’re fascists, let’s be clear about that. We’re here to say that they’re not welcome, they should be driven from the streets of Norwich.
‘We should be mobilising towards a general strike as soon as possible as was voted for at the TUC Conference.
‘A general strike is the only thing that will hold this government to account. Otherwise they will get away with these austerity measures that are hitting the most vulnerable members of society at the same time as the richest in society profit. So we have to make a stand.’
Two school students , Amy Knighton and her friend Freddie, (pictured) said, ‘We’re here to support anti-racism, particularly Amy as she’s seen the damage that racism can do to people. We’re here to kick it out of Norwich because it’s a nice society and it doesn’t belong here.
‘We think racism is wrong and it’s just discrimination against innocent people. I really feel strongly about it.
‘The Tories are putting so many people off university because so many intelligent people who have a lot of potential are now being forced not to go to university because of these extortionate fees.
‘All these people who could go into many great professions and make so much of their lives are now being restricted from it because of the government. We have to get rid of the government as soon as possible.’
Ian Gibson, the former Labour Party MP for Norwich North, said, ‘I’m delighted to be here, I think it’s great. It takes me back 20 years to the old Anti-Nazi League days.
‘It shows that people still object to those people that come and try to tell us that coming from different parts of the world that you are not welcome in Norwich.
‘You are welcome in Norwich and I’m so glad that we speak at least 120 languages in this county and I’m so glad that many of our young people go to school with people coming from other countries. I think it is so good to be cosmopolitan.
‘We need more of it, more cafes, more culture and I just think that demonstrations like this say to people like the EDL: “Shove off, we don’t want you here, crawl back into your holes.”
‘We are a country, a city, a county that is proud of our heritage and we want more and more people to spend their lives here working together.’
At 12.30pm the march moved off with banners down Theatre Street, Brigg St, Gentleman’s Walk, up Hay Hill past the Forum and into St Peter’s Street to the right side of city hall.
Banners on the march included We are Norwich Together – Fighting Racism and Fascism, Norwich and District Trades Council, Norwich Labour Party, PCS Eastern Region, Great Yarmouth and District Unite 1/1426 branch, North Norfolk Labour Party, Kings Lynn and District Trades Union Council, Peace Camp, The Forum Norfolk Coalition against the Cuts, Defend our Services, Norwich Pride – LGBT.
Chants on the march were ‘Whose city? Our city! Whose Streets? Our streets!’
The 100 supporters of the EDL were escorted up from the station by large contingents of police and rallied at Castle Meadow at 1pm. After a small scuffle there, one arrest was made.
The EDL made its way up to the left side of city hall, using a different route from the counter march, arriving there at 2pm.
There was heckling of the EDL speeches.
Two further arrests were made. At 2.35pm the police escorted the EDL supporters back down to the station. There was a final scuffle on the way broken up by 20 police officers and the fourth arrest was made.
Of the four arrests two were Norwich people and two came from other parts of the country.
Norwich is well rid of this small gang of fascists.