I don’t know why the racists chose Aarhus in Denmark as the venue for their European-wide conference, but they did.
Some of the most vile and racist organisations in Europe attended the gathering on Saturday 31 March 2012. They included delegations from Germany, Poland, France and of course the English Defence League.
No sooner was the conference announced than Denmark’s antiracists organised a coalition to stop the event. It included trade unionists, students, social democrats and revolutionary socialists – people from different political currents came together over one issue: they weren’t going to allow Nazis to meet unopposed in their city.
I was honoured to be invited to attend the protest and speak on behalf of Unite Against Fascism.
The local council, which opposed the plan to hold an antiracist event on the day the EDL and friends were coming, instead organised a concert the week before. According to the city newspaper around 1,000 people attended it.
Disappointingly, the council also urged people not to attend the antifascist protest, but instead put a lighted candle in their window on the day the Nazis came to Aarhus.
Fortunately most people ignored the council’s advice and instead joined the antifascist mobilisation.
On the day, thousand marched – the turnout far exceeded the organisers’ hopes.
The march was determined, but it was also a carnival of hope.
Trade unionists and students, people with a range of political backgrounds and none, all marched together to oppose fascism. There were giant puppets, sound systems and flags all adding to the spirit.
It was great to see black and white people, Muslims and Jews standing shoulder to shoulder. As we snaked through the city a handful of racists hurled abuse at us. One was wearing a Combat 18 T-shirt. The police quickly bundled the fascists away.
The sound systems pumped out music by Rage Against the Machine and a version of KRS One’s Sound of da Police.
Finally we arrived in a huge square in the centre of town, the site of our rally. The square was full.
It’s hard to say how many were there, the police said 8,000 – others claimed 10,000. Whatever the true number, it was the biggest antiracist demonstration in the city since the Nazis killed a socialist activist in 1992.
There were speeches and music. When it was my turn to speak, I sent solidarity greetings from UAF, and spoke about the need to oppose the EDL and the necessity of taking a principled stand against Islamophobia. I hope I did UAF proud – we will have a copy of the speech online shortly.
When the rally ended, thousands of young people marched up to the site of the EDL conference to show their opposition to the fascists. Some protesters disrupted the racist convention. I really don’t believe there was more than 100 of the EDL’s cronies.
Denmark’s antiracists humiliated the EDL and their friends in Aarhus. Now our job is to do the same in Luton on 5 May.
Originally published in Unite Against Fascism