We Serve Notice on the Nazis!
Nobody who was building for this weeks Unite Against Fascism Rally could have anticipated the success it finally became.
At 7.10.only a handful had arrived and people were getting tense.People were worried about the press attacking the UAf over the protest against the EDL in Bolton.Would this drive people away?Over the three previous days the UAF organising committee had been putting out frantic last minute emails and phoning people up.Hopefully there would be over 50 people attending the event.
By 7.20 the meeting room was full and people had been roped in to hurriedly move more chairs in.Five minutes later Gareth Edwards, Portsmouth Uaf chair pointed out that people were still coming up the stairs and we were about to be in flagrant breach of the fire regulations.
We hurriedly got permission to use the main room-The Yehudi Menhuin room-the largest space in the guildhall library.Quickly stalls were set up,and people settled down.A group from PCS,fresh from the picket lines came in and put there placards down the front to join the Unison and Nas/uwt banners.
At 7.40 the rally started.As we looked around every chair was taken .There were people of all ages, black and white, gay and straight and representatives of all the main parties.Every seat was taken along the sides, it was standing room only and people were crowded all the way along the walls and around our stalls selling t-shirts and badges.There were also representatives in the room from the local student body,GMB,NUT,UNITE,UCU and CWU amongst others.
There were in excess of 150 people there when we gave up counting.
It was packed.
Portsmouth Uafs convenor Simon Magorian opened the meeting by reminding people how we had defeated the Nazis in the seventies with the Anti-Nazi League.They had attempted to march through Portsmouth unopposed and were stopped."They wanted to march to the war memorial but we stopped them.They ended up having to make their speech outside a municipal lavatory.Thats not what you sign up to the Nazis for .It's so you can strut through the streets like the master race .We humiliated them and they never really recovered from it.We stoppped them once we can do it again."
It was excellent to see both of Portsmouths MPs on the platform,both of them committed anti-racists.
Mike Hancock the Liberal Democrat MP for Portsmouth South was the first speaker.He recently helped to organise a major civic reception for Portsmouths large Bangladeshi community for the huge contribution they have made to the city.Speaking about the BNP,
"its manifesto is about dividing communities.We stand together against them.We love our city-it's all about our diverse community.
"we will stand up for that,and for each other in the face of these bullies.We will include clear messages in on our communication that we oppose these Fascists."
Sarah McCarthy-Fry Labour MP for Portsmouth North nailed it,
"They pretend not to be racists,but very quickly their concern about crime turns to blaming it on Asylum sseekers." She also reiterated her lifelong stance of never sharing a platform with Fascists.
Sion Reynolds spoke on behalf of Nas/Uwt about the importance of keeping the Fascists out of our classrooms and how the BNPs politics of hatred ond division were antithetical to all the values and traditions of the teaching profession.He also worryingly reminded us that the last time the nazis stood in Portsmouth North schools were broken into and daubed with swastikas.
Weyman Bennett was the last to speak and in an uncompromising and occasionally humorous speech pointed out the inherent violence of the BNP and how unity can stop them and that Anti-Fascists are the overwhelming majority.
"The BNP is a Fascist Party attempting to win respectability,but we've already won an important battle.
"It's policies are racist but they fear to admit it in public.That's because people don't want to be associated with racism.Together we can build on that."
He also pointed out that The English Defence League were the BNPs foot soldiers and where they have marched unopposed violence and criminal damage had been targetted towards the Muslim Community,and the crucial importance of mobilising against them.
Following the invited speakers Gareth Edwards addressed the meeting on behalf of the UAF committee.
"We have a massive task ahead of us.We have to get leaflets through 40,000 doors.We don't have any Billionaire backers or Press magnates stumping up cash, we have to rely on donations from local trade unions and people like you.We need an army of volunteers to get the message through peoples doors to counter the Nazi lies of the BNP.Please sign up to help us smash the Nazis.Please give us your support and please give genorously!"
Clipboards were passed around and dozens signed up for the campaign,whilst a collecting bag went around at the same time for donations,which was quickly filled.
There was a wide ranging discussion from the floor ,interestingly not one single person raised criticism of Uaf for opposing the EDL on the streets.
It seems that the attempted witch hunt against UAF by the police and sections of the media- in Portsmouth at least- has fallen on deaf ears.
At the end of the meeting all the representatives of the three main parties pledged to put anti-Nazi and Anti-BNP statements on their campaign materials.
Closing the meeting Simon Magorian thanked all the speakers,pointing out the huge symbolic effect of having both the local MPS on the platform.He also asked people to sign the Portsmouth Unity Statement against the BNP.
"This is the largest Anti Nazi meeting in many years,I was at the launch meeting of Portsmouth Anti-Nazi League in 1977 and this is much bigger.Actually this is the biggest Anti Fascist meeting in Portsmouth ever!We have pushed the Nazis back before by uniting against them and we can do it again.We are now declaring Portsmouth a Nazi Free Zone!"
This was a massive boost to the Anti-Fascist movement in portsmouth.
Petitions were filled declarations signed and T shirts and badges bought.All well and good, but this time committments were made and the main Parties made public declarations to oppose the Nazis. For the first time in over 20 years the Nazis are contesting parliamentary seats in Portsmouth.
The phoney war is over.
We will keep Portsmouth Nazi Free!