Unite Against Fascism
|Type||Anti-fascist pressure group|
|Headquarters||London, England, United Kingdom|
|Chair – Steve Hart, political officer, Unite|
Vice chair – Christine Blower, general secretary, NUT
Unite Against Fascism (UAF) is an anti-fascist pressure group in the United Kingdom, with support from politicians of the three largest political parties in the House of Commons, including the former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour politician Tony Benn. It describes itself as a national campaign with the aim of alerting British society to a perceived threat of fascism and the far right—in particular the British National Party (BNP)—gaining a foothold at local, national and European elections, arguing that "there is a real danger that the BNP could get a significant platform in elected institutions".
Its joint secretaries are Weyman Bennett and Sabby Dhalu, formerly of the National Assembly Against Racism (NAAR). Its chair is Steve Hart of the union Unite and its assistant secretary is Jude Woodward of Socialist Action.
Since 2013, UAF has mainly operated through the brand Stand Up To Racism, which has many of the same officers as UAF: Bennett and Dhalu as joint secretaries, Diane Abbott as president and co-chairs Dave Ward of the Communication Workers' Union and Talha Ahmad of the Muslim Council of Britain.
Unite Against Fascism (UAF) was formed in Great Britain in late 2003 in response to electoral successes by the BNP. Its main elements were the Anti-Nazi League and the National Assembly Against Racism, with the support of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and leading British unions such as the Transport and General Workers' Union (T&G) (now Unite) and UNISON. According to Red Pepper magazine, UAF was set up by the Socialist Workers Party and the National Assembly Against Racism. Among the union leaders backing UAF, according to Weyman Bennett, were Billy Hayes Communication Workers Union, Andy Gilchrist and Mick Shaw of the Fire Brigades Union, Mark Serwotka of the PCS public service workers' union, and Christine Blower and Kevin Courtney of the NUT.
At UAF's 2007 national conference, speakers ranged from cabinet minister Peter Hain to Edie Friedman of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality and Muhammad Abdul Bari of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), as well as figures from the major UK trade unions. At UAF's 2009 national conference, Bari was again a guest speaker.
Protests against the British National Party
Unite Against Fascism states on its website that its aim is to deny the British National Party any chance of "gaining an electoral foothold" stating that "there is a real danger that the BNP could get a significant platform in elected institutions". It claims the support of organisations representing labour, teachers, and rights activists.
In November 2007, UAF organised a rally of over 1,000 people when BNP leader Nick Griffin and holocaust denier David Irving spoke at the Oxford Union. On 9 June 2009, UAF demonstrated against a BNP press conference given by Griffin and Andrew Brons outside the Palace of Westminster following their election as MEPs. Demonstrators marched towards the group with placards, chanting anti-Nazi slogans, and threw eggs at Griffin, forcing the abandonment of the press conference. Members of the press were also hit. The protesters also kicked Griffin's car and beat it with placards as he was led away from the scene. Two members of the public were hospitalised as a result of the demonstration. Griffin claimed that the attack was carried out with the backing of the Labour Party.
The following day, UAF demonstrated at the BNP's next attempt to hold a press conference at a pub in Miles Platting, North Manchester. They chanted anti-fascist slogans and tried to drown out Griffin by playing Bob Marley songs at high volume. One protester was arrested after spitting in the direction of a car belonging to a BNP member.
In January 2010, when the Pendle branch of the UAF removed a wreath from the War Memorial in Nelson that was laid down by Councillor Adam Grant, a former soldier and current British National Party member, Richard MacSween of the Pendle UAF said, "The BNP have left a wreath and we have removed it because we don't approve of fascism." In response, Councillor George Adam, from the Nelson and District branch of the Royal British Legion, said: "I'm annoyed – they have no right to remove that wreath. The BNP is a legitimate political party and they have a right to lay down a wreath just as any other members of the public do." BNP Councillor Brian Parker added: "It's disgusting, and it's theft."
Arrests and violence
On 19 August 2009, police arrested 19 protesters during a demonstration by UAF against the BNP's Red, White and Blue Festival in Codnor, Derbyshire. Four people were charged, three with public order offences and one with unlawfully obstructing the highway.
On 22 October 2009, the UAF demonstration against Nick Griffin's appearance on the BBC's Question Time programme resulted in injuries to three police officers. UAF national officer and (then) SWP National Secretary Martin Smith was found guilty of assaulting one of the police officers at South Western Magistrates' Court, London, on 7 September 2010. He was sentenced to a 12-month community order, with 80 hours' unpaid work, and was fined £450 pending an appeal.
On 20 March 2010, demonstrations from UAF and the English Defence League (EDL) in Bolton led to violent confrontations and the arrest of at least 55 UAF supporters, including the UAF protest organiser Weyman Bennett, on suspicion of conspiracy to commit violent disorder. At least three EDL supporters were also arrested, and two UAF members were taken to hospital with a minor head and a minor ear injury. After Bennett was charged and released, he accused the police of being hostile to anti-racists and called for an inquiry into the police's actions that day. The police, while criticising the EDL for "vitriolic name-calling" blamed people predominantly associated with UAF for provoking violence and said that they "acted with, at times, extreme violence". All charges against Weyman Bennett were eventually dropped. In response to this news he was quoted as saying: "This is a victory for anti-fascists and for the right to protest. I’m proud to say that the threat of these charges has not deterred any of us from continuing to stand up against the EDL. I can now continue my work without this serious false allegation hanging over me. It is imperative we continue to protest to protect our multi-racial communities."
On 30 August 2010, violence occurred in Brighton, East Sussex, during a UAF protest against a march organised by a group called the English Nationalist Alliance. A spokesman for the police, who were attempting to keep 250 protesters and marchers apart, said, "Unfortunately a small group from the counter-demonstration [UAF] resisted this and threw missiles at the police." There were fourteen arrests during the violence.
On 2 June 2013, 58 anti-fascist demonstrators were arrested by police under Section 14 of the Public Order Act for failing to move up the street away from a BNP demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament against what the BNP describe as Islamic "hate preachers". Of the 58, only five were charged and their cases were dismissed at Westminster Magistrates' Court in April 2014. The police had earlier banned the BNP from marching from Woolwich Barracks to the Houses of Parliament, fearing violence.
In 2006, David Tate argued that the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) was seeking to dominate the UAF, and a 2014 report in the New Statesman described it as a "front" for the SWP. The same criticism has been made of UAF's successor body Stand Up To Racism.
David Toube claims that the organisations involved in the UAF avoid condemnation of antisemitism. The LGBT rights activist Peter Tatchell has accused UAF of a selective approach to bigotry: "UAF commendably opposes the BNP and EDL but it is silent about Islamist fascists who promote anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism and sectarian attacks on non-extremist Muslims. It is time the UAF campaigned against the Islamist far right as well as against the EDL and BNP far right."
The journalist Andrew Gilligan has claimed that the UAF's reluctance to tackle Islamism is that several of its own members are supporters of such extremism. The UAF's vice-chairman, Azad Ali, is also community affairs coordinator of the Islamic Forum of Europe, which Gilligan describes as "a Muslim supremacist group dedicated to changing 'the very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed from ignorance to Islam'". Nigel Copsey, Professor of Modern History at Teesside University, wrote that Ali's association with IFE made UAF "[run] the risk of turning a blind eye to Islamist extremism". Ali was suspended as a civil servant in the Treasury after he wrote approvingly on his blog of an Islamic militant who said that as a Muslim he is religiously obliged to kill British soldiers in Iraq, in 2009.
According to Gilligan, Michael Adebolajo, one of the murderers of Lee Rigby in 2013, spoke "on the margins" of a 2009 UAF demonstration in Harrow. Secretary Weyman Bennett responded by saying that Adebolajo was not an official speaker.
- "EDL Birmingham demo location moved by police". BBC News. 26 October 2010. Retrieved 1 November 2011.
Anti-fascist group Unite Against Fascism (UAF) is one of a number of groups taking part in a "Unity" community event at the weekend to demonstrate the diversity of the city.
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