Last Saturday (28 Feb) Julie took part in a demonstration against Pegida in Newcastle, along with 3000 others. This Saturday (7 March) an EDL demonstration will be taking to the streets of Manchester. Please read on to find out what Julie has to say on halting the far right and celebrating multiculturalism and diversity...
'The EDL and groups like them are the total anti-thesis of modern, successful, diverse, multi-cultural Manchester with its Gay Village and Chinatown, the famous 'curry mile', the long-established Irish, Jewish, and Afro-Caribbean communities and more recent settlements established by economic migrants and refugee populations. Manchester is the third most ethnically diverse city in the world. More than 200 languages are spoken here and this rich mix is good for the city. It helps to create the economic powerhouse that is driving current regeneration.
However, in straightened times with cruel and unfair austerity policies affecting the poorest and most vulnerable in society, it has been easy for parties like UKIP to whip up fear of "the other" by playing the immigration card or by talking about terrorism out of context, blaming cultural diversity, scapegoating particular ethnic groups and so on. This then becomes an open invitation for opportunistic extremist groups like the EDL, who seem increasingly willing to endorse Ukip as their number 1 choice at the ballot box now that the BNP are a spent force.
It's very important that we recognise the role the media has played in legitimising racism by giving airtime and column inches to populism. More people need to stand up to racism and challenge the pernicious and often casual way it is manifest in everyday life.
Working across Europe I have seen the frightening spectre of xenophobic far-right parties who would seek to divide our communities. We must not let that happen in our proud multi-cultural Britain.
I stood against the fascist BNP in last year's European elections and am proud to be part of an ongoing pro-active campaign to Stand Up to Racism. I marched with anti-fascists in last weekend's demonstration against Pegida in Newcastle where EDL activists were very apparent. However, 3000 people from all over the country, and some from Europe, came to show their support for multi-culturalism whilst less than 500 joined the Anti Islamic Pegida rally.
In Newcastle, Manchester and in other towns and cities across the UK and Europe, we owe it to those who gave their lives in the fight against the fascists of the last century to be vigilant now and speak out wherever and whenever we see, hear or witness racism. To allow the EDL to march unchallenged and unopposed in our city would be unthinkable in this day and age. In a way we now have more to lose than ever before. Manchester is on the brink of something truly great and the EDL do not speak our language - the language of optimism and success.'