Anti-racists outnumber FLA thugs in Manchester by TOMÁŠ TENGELY-EVANS

ANTI-RACISTS outnumbered the Football Lads Alliance (FLA) — by two to one—last Saturday for the first time since the group began mobilising on the streets last summer. Over 600 joined the rally in Manchester against the racist group, organised by Stand up To Racism (SUTR) Manchester and Unite Against Fascism. They rallied in St Peter’s Square then marched down next to where the FLA had gathered to chants of, “Whose streets? Our streets.” Shazzia from the Labour Party came as part of the SUTR delegation from the West Midlands. She told Socialist Worker that the FLA was in Manchester “to build hatred and division”. “By being here today we’ve shown that they are not going to divide us,” she said. “There is a majority of us and a minority of them.” The anti-racist turnout was built through broad-based support from Labour MPs, councillors and national and local trade unions. Dawn Taylor, NEU union divisional secretary, had come with a delegation from one of the dozens of trade unionists who supported the demonstration with banners. Speak “The FLA does not speak for this city,” she told Socialist Worker. “Manchester is as diverse as it comes. As the chant goes—we’re black, white, Asian and we’re gay.” In a sharp contrast to the confidence on the anti-racist side, the FLA supporters were dour, demoralised and divided. They turned out at most 300—compared to 20,000 in London last October and 3,000 in Birmingham in March. The FLA had planned to march through the city centre on the anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing to encourage Islamophobia. But, as their march wasn’t allowed to go ahead, at most 250 rallied in a near-empty Castlefield Bowl. Over 50 remained drinking in the adjacent Castlefield Hotel balcony, noticeably disappointed by their numbers. FLA supporters in the crowd commented, “This is fucking shit” to one another and blamed the leadership for “poor organisation like in Birmingham”. While smaller than their earlier outings, far right and racist politics ran through the rally much more openly (see below). The danger of the far right regrouping has not gone away. The Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA), a larger breakaway group on the up, plans to march in Manchester on 2 June. It was part of a 4,000-strong march and rally called by fascist former EDL leader Tommy Robinson in London earlier this month. The DFLA is acting as bridge between the fascists and Ukip. Anti-racists will have to mobilise again in large numbers on 2 June.

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