Activism / arts / Bradford / Church / Council / Germany / Media / Politics / songwriting / Telegraph & Arus

Together? Well, hardly

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“Together” read the headline on the T&A front page (Saturday Oct 12) and I suppose it contained an element of truth – but not, I suspect, that intended by the paper’s editorial coverage of the weekend’s events.

Those of us who believed there should be a multi-cultural manifestation under the heading of “We are Bradford” supported the Friday peace vigil as well as the Saturday event in the urban garden. I supported both events, and most of my friends and comrades did so also.

When we ran a similar event in 2010 the Dean of the Cathedral led us in prayer, and also did so at the event organized at the same time by the Council in Infirmary fields. This time, sadly, the church was not officially represented, though the Rabbi of Bradford Reformed Synagogue spoke passionately about the need to fight racism wherever it raised its ugly head.
I was outraged that my Bishop should have singled out me and my colleagues as “outsiders” who were “shouting off on our” – that is HIS – “territory”, bracketing us together with the EDL.
Here’s how he was quoted in Saturday’s T&A:

“Today people are occupying this space and saying ‘this is ours’.
“People from outside Bradford, from both organisations, UAF and the EDL, will be shouting off on our territory.
“Why should we be driven by a narrative that comes from other people? This is our space.
“Today is the people of Bradford saying ‘the narrative we want is one of peace’.”

As a Christian, I am used to being criticized as an outsider, but I don’t expect it from my Bishop.
Or perhaps I should.
It was, after all, the religious establishment who executed Jesus, after he invaded “THEIR” space and drove the money changers out of “THEIR” temple.
As I wrote here last Monday, I was wearing my green ribbon with pride a week before the EDL invaded our city. Not only was virtually everyone at our event wearing one on Saturday, but as I walked home via the barricaded bus station, I passed several groups of lads wearing them as well.
The T&A reporter wrote fancifully about the “We Are Bradford” PA system “booming out” over the city but that was a long way from the truth. Our system suffered from technical problems and was out of action for most of the day. I sang my specially composed “We Are Bradford” song without the benefit of amplification, but people joined in all the same.
Before the PA conked out, George Galloway made an excellent speech, suggesting that the EDL could well be proscribed as an extremist organization.
I have my doubts about this, though not from any abstract principle of “free speech”. I would deny free speech to those who would sow dissension between us.
But history shows that anti-fascist proscriptions are usually applied to fascists. The proscription of Mosley’s Blackshirts was used by Labour home secretary Chuter Ede after the war to ban a peaceful Mayday demo in London. And anti-Nazi regulations brought in by FDR were turned on socialists and communists by the FBI and red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy after the war.
I have to say that the police did a good job of keeping the EDL under control, though I did hear from one of the police in the Urban Garden that a few of the mob got through the cordon and were chased up Manor Row – but there was no mention of this in the media.
The bus and rail staff worked well in helping travelers find their way out of the Interchange, and as usual, the public were their tolerant, good-natured self. It reminded me, in a very minor way, of being in London tube station shelters during the Blitz.
Personally. I think both the Friday and Saturday anti-EDL events attracted roughly the same numbers. I rather doubt the T&A‘s estimate of “over a thousand” in Centenary Square, and there clearly more than the “few dozen” reported by the T&A to have been in the Urban Garden
It was hard to make a credible estimate of Centenary Square numbers, since people came and went the whole afternoon. The guy giving away food said he had brought 250 meals, and when he scraped out the pan for me at about 4pm, he had used it all.
But this is so important an issue that playing the numbers game serves no useful purpose. I felt the Centenary Square event lacked focus. I liked the camel and flamingos stalking around the place, but if there had been some music – bangra, rap, folk, jazz, whatever, also poetry, street theatre – there could have been more of a carnival atmosphere.

We were promised “ecumenical prayers”, and the front-page T&A pic appears to illustrate this, but withiut a PA, I don’t know how they handled it. Anyway, I had left by then.
But it has to be admitted that, contrary to the T&A triumphalism, the authorities scored something of an owl goal in seeking to divide the anti-EDL activists. This is the second time they have done this, and the next time the EDL come to our city – for, make no mistake about it, they WILL be back, as long as they think they can get away with it – we must have a united response.
And we must be PRO-activie, not RE-active. Don’t let’s wait until the next time the EDL gets its act together.
Let’s reconstitute We Are Bradford as an ongoing organization, invite the Council and the churches to help us start reaching out to the alienated and disfranchised white youth on sink estates who are the EDL’s target membership.

Yes, and invite the Bishop to lend a hand. If I’m prepared to let bygones be bygones, perhaps he should, too.

Note: A shorter version of this report has been submitted to the T&A as a reader’s letter.
I hope to record my “We Are Bradford” song and have it on this post by tomorrow.


2 thoughts on “Together? Well, hardly

  1. At times there were an additional 300 people at the bottom of Sunbridge Road observing the 250 max EDL. I didn’t see any break out during their event, but at the end 30-40 or so locals were shunted off past and through the Leisure Exchange, which looked to be deserted


  2. Interesting article. I agree with almost everything you said. The T&A,
    lovely people though they are, do seem to present a view of Bradford that
    isn’t quite how I view it.


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