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Newcastle united against far-right bigots
The UK franchise of far-right German anti-Muslim group Pegida organised a demonstration in Newcastle on 28 February. A few hundred turned up. The Socialist Party was central to the much larger counter-demonstration, alongside other supporters of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). William Jarrett reports on a clear victory over the racist louts.
By 9.30am, in the centre of Newcastle, hundreds had already gathered to defy the far-right minority assembling in our city. By 10am we had exceeded the expected 2,000 participants.
This counter-demonstration organised by trade unionists and socialists quickly became a magnet for the working class of our city. Football supporters gathering ahead of the match; workers leaving their night shifts; Tyne and Wear Metro commuters exiting nearby stations. All were drawn to the electrified and carnival-like atmosphere.
Dozens of local trade unionists - from Unison, Unite, CWU, NUT and more - rallied around the TUSC banner. A local Unison branch chair enthusiastically held the banner high. We reminded him "you're still in the Labour Party!" He replied: "I'm a socialist first. There's no Labour banner here!"
TUSC supporters led chants against the minority of bigots trying to populate our streets with hatred. Onlookers broke into cheers and applause.
Paul Phillips, TUSC prospective parliamentary candidate for Newcastle East, took to the megaphone. He articulated our support for migrant workers. The working class must be united against our true enemy: the super-rich who dictate cuts and privatisation.
Transport union RMT was out in force with numerous flags and banners. Their presence was quiet, firm, and dignified - a smiling buttress against far-right menace.
Towards the end, a few courageous reactionaries - obviously intoxicated - attempted to break police lines. They were (most unfortunately) mowed down by the rear of a horse. Our sympathy for them is limited, and not just because they're drunken bigots. The far right and the capitalists they defend would do the same to us - and more - given the chance. The thugs wouldn't have stood a chance against the mass of trade unionists there anyway.
Speakers from a wide range of Newcastle communities were represented at the closing rally. Lizi Gray, Northumbria University student and Socialist Party activist, delivered a rousing speech - declaring: "This is a working class city! We are united!"
One TUSC supporter asked a well-known, left-leaning Anglican priest: "Father, will you exorcise these fascists?" He sternly replied, "No - but I'll excommunicate them!"
Numerous rank-and-file trade unionists and others expressed support for TUSC, and asked about forthcoming activities as well as how to get involved.
In The Socialist 4 March 2015:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International Women's Day
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns