RMT leader Steve Hedley attacked by fascists

0
634
STEVE HEDLEY addressing a rally in defence of jobs
STEVE HEDLEY addressing a rally in defence of jobs

RMT Union leader Steve Hedley was attacked after taking part in a counter-protest to the Trump and Robinson rally on Saturday. The union leader was attacked after speaking at a counter-protest to a rally in support of Donald Trump and jailed far-right leader Tommy Robinson.

Steve Hedley, Senior Assistant General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), was assaulted by supporters of the US president and Robinson, according to anti-fascism campaigners Hope Not Hate. The perpetrators could not be immediately verified independently.

Witnesses said a mob ambushed two men at the Westminster Arms pub in Central London on Saturday afternoon in a targeted attack. ‘So, it’s okay to have free speech for Tommy, but if you oppose Tommy you get attacked with a glass and chair?’ ‘They (the attackers) knew what they were doing,’ one witness, who asked not to be named, said.

Smashed glass was strewn across the pavement outside the establishment on Storey’s Gate, and pictures showed Steve Hedley with a bandaged head and bloodied face. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘A group of RMT members who had been involved in a peaceful protest in Central London have been subjected to a cowardly and unprovoked attack by fascist supporters of Tommy Robinson.

‘A number of our members and officials have sustained injuries and the union is providing full support to those caught in this despicable act of pre-meditated violence.’ Scotland Yard feared violence ahead of the rally in support of Trump during his visit and 35-year-old Robinson, who was jailed for 13 months for contempt of court after filming people involved in a criminal trial and broadcasting the footage on social media.

The joint rally took place in Central London. The march to Downing Street was kept at a distance from the counter-protest in Parliament Square, the day after an estimated 100,000-plus rallied through London in opposition to the US president. Hedley was among those to speak at the counter-protest.

The Metropolitan Police said Trump supporters were due to leave the US Embassy and meet Robinson fans on the way to Whitehall, but ordered both must depart Temple Place and follow a strict route after ‘serious violence’ at a June 9 march resulted in five officers being injured. A small group on Saturday breached the order by starting at the US Embassy, pictures on social media showed.

Images also showed minor clashes between supporters and opponents in Parliament Square, and officers at the scene said cordons had been bolstered after breaches from the right-wing group.

The Met could not immediately comment on Hedley’s attack. The force said a total of 12 people have been arrested as part of the demonstrations.

Meawhile in Durham, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn adressed thousands of workers on Saturday.

‘Children should learn about trade unions and workers’ rights in schools, Jeremy Corbyn said in his speech at the Durham Miners’ Gala. The Labour leader said youngsters should be ‘fully equipped’ to develop and exercise their rights in the workplace.

‘Children should not only learn about trade unions and their rights at work, but should be fully equipped to exercise and develop those rights. Schools need to teach these values and together we can, and will, transform society so it works for the many, not the few.’

In his speech at Durham Racecourse after the parade of banners, he told a crowd of thousands that trade unions have been ‘marginalised, vilified and undermined’, and that children should know about union principles such as collective action and solidarity. He said: ‘Children should not only learn about trade unions and their rights at work, but should be fully equipped to exercise and develop those rights. ‘Schools need to teach these values and together we can, and will, transform society so it works for the many, not the few.’

Corbyn continued “We know that power in society, and in our workplaces, has become concentrated in the hands of a few, at the expense of everybody else. ‘But history shows those at the top have never conceded anything, without it being demanded from people below – things we all enjoy but now take for granted, like weekends and paid holidays. ‘For too long, trade unions have been marginalised, vilified and undermined, and workers have lost out, while more and more money lines the pockets of shareholders.

‘The next Labour government will restore trade union rights, but we need to also make sure young people learn about the principles of solidarity and collective action.’ Corbyn added: ‘We know that power in society, and in our workplaces, has become concentrated in the hands of a few, at the expense of everybody else. ‘But history shows those at the top have never conceded anything, without it being demanded from people below – things we all enjoy but now take for granted, like weekends and paid holidays’.

During the speech, his wife Laura Alvarez unveiled a football-style T-shirt with the word Marras on the front – a nod to the Friends of Durham Miners’ Gala group. Before the speeches, Corbyn watched on from the balcony of the County Hotel as the parade took place below him. He could be heard jokingly telling a supporter: ‘This year there will be a general election.’

Earlier in the day he called on the government to step aside if it cannot deliver ‘something approaching an intelligent relationship with Europe’ and said that Labour is ‘ready’ for a general election. The Labour leader also criticised the Prime Minister for failing to clarify her approach to Brexit, before adding that he would vote against any deal that damages living standards, industry, trade or jobs.

When asked whether he and May could co-operate on a soft Brexit in the wake of the Chequers agreement, Corbyn said: ‘She hasn’t closed off any of the other options, because within three days of saying that, she goes to meet Donald Trump and then talks about trade arrangements with the USA. ‘The USA does not want any European standard of regulation on products or workers’ rights and working conditions, they want something very, very different. ‘She is not making it very clear what she actually wants at all and the White Paper, I suspect, will unravel as quickly as the Chequers cabinet agreement did.’

Corbyn added: ‘If the government cannot deliver something approaching an intelligent relationship with Europe in the future then quite honestly I think the issue is better dealt with by having a general election to elect a government that can and will both work for jobs and living standards in this country, and have an intelligent relationship with Europe.’

Responding to Liam Fox’s comments that protesters against US President Donald Trump were an ‘embarrassment to themselves’, Corbyn told the International Trade Secretary to ‘grow up’. Describing the remarks as ‘frankly embarrassing’, the Labour leader said: ‘He lives in a democracy where people have a right to free speech, a right to demonstrate and a right to express themselves.’

Corbyn joined Frances O’Grady, Dennis Skinner, Emily Thornberry and Ian Lavery addressing the crowds from the stage at the racecourse before music from Miners’ Gala stalwart Billy Bragg, the left-wing songsmith who wrote A New England. Corbyn was the main attraction of the Gala, known as the Big Meeting, where around 200,000 people united on Saturday.

Traditionally, the colliery bands would march though their villages starting early in the morning and then make their way to Durham from all directions – a tradition that remains today. The main assembly point was the city centre Market Place where bands and banners started to march from there to the Racecourse from about 8.30am. Other assembly points were the Miners’ HQ at Red Hill near the railway station and the New Inn on the west of the city.