EDL supporters at Christ's PiecesJENNY PAGONI

Four people were arrested as over 500 protestors marched through Cambridge today in opposition to the English Defence League (EDL) rally of 40-50 members, according to police.

One anti-EDL protestor was arrested at the end of the demonstration for "causing a face injury to a police officer with a missile", while the three others were arrests made in relation to the EDL demonstration. One took place at the train station, and two others in the town centre. EDL supporters were heavily outnumbered by activists, students and residents on the Unite Against Fascism-organised march.


Students had gathered at Parker's Piece from 11am, with the official Cambridge Unite Against Fascism (CUAF) protest beginning with speeches at Petersfield at midday. Cambridge MP Julian Huppert, CUSU President Rosalyn Old and local MEP Richard Howitt were among the speakers. 

The route of the counter-desmontration took protestors past the EDL rally at Christ's Pieces at 2pm. Chants included "We are black, white, Asian and we're Jews", "Nazi scum off our streets" and "There are many, many more of us than you", while the EDL responded with "E-E-E-D-L" and "UAF scum".

The long line of protestors then wound through Sidney Street, Green Street and Trinity Street, passing the Market Square, some dancing to the song 'Love Train', as weekend shoppers looked on. EDL supporters, visibly demoralised, dispersed at 2:30 and were escorted from the town centre by police, an hour and a half before the planned end of their protest. As the EDL filed out their organiser said he was "so proud" of those who had demonstrated. Later, anti-EDL protestors went through Christ's Pieces for a second time, before heading to Mill Lane and back to Petersfield.  


Cambridge students turned out to take a stand against the EDL in a counter-demonstration supported by CUSU, the Cambridge University Islamic Society and Marxist discussion group. CUSU President Rosalyn Old deemed the march a success. "I think that the turn-out on this counter-protest is fantastic. We heard some great speeches at the rally at the start; we heard some inspirational stuff about celebrating the diversity of the community in Cambridge, and it’s really good to see students standing together against racism." 

However, some who attended the march suggested the student presence could have been greater. "There’s quite a few students", noted Joey, from King's, "though we’re vastly outnumbered by town people and UAF; there's not anywhere as much as there should be. Students are either apathetic or busy. It would be nice if more people turned up to stuff like this."

Ani Brooker, a student at St Catharine's College, was one of the earliest protestors to arrive: "One of the things I love about Cambridge is how multicultural and diverse it is, that just gives it such a wonderful vibe. I’d just hate for that to be destroyed, or anyone to think it’d be a better place if it wasn’t like that."

"I think the EDL get most of their support through ignorance sadly, so hopefully those who have the chance to get such a wonderful education won’t be swayed by their ideas. It’s important for people outside Cambridge as well to be shown that there’s opposition."

Anti-EDL protestors marched through Market Streetjenny pagoni

The question of why the EDL had chosen to return to Cambridge following their last visit back in July 2011 – opposed by 1,500 protestors – was raised by CUSU Welfare and Rights Officer Chris Page: "The thing I find funny about the EDL is that most of them are bussed up from London; if they are going to claim that they’re against people from not round here, why did they come here in the first place?"

In a speech to anti-EDL protestors before the march, MP Julian Huppert, said: "They are not supported here in Cambridge; they are not wanted here in Cambridge; they don’t get Cambridge. I hope that this will be the last time they choose to come here because we don’t want them to come back; not just to go somewhere else, but to leave completely. We will stand firm for people of whatever religion, of whatever background, to live the way they want to in Cambridge and anywhere in the UK."

Speaking to Varsity, Huppert confirmed that he considered the EDL a threat. "I don’t think they will get political representation, but I think they are dangerous because they can set communities against each other. That is the real worry. What we have to do here is not a party political fight, just all of us being together to say ‘we are united because of our diversity’, we stand for the visions they are trying to undermine."

jenny pagoni

Members of the Muslim Council attended the march to defend their right to the building of a new mosque in Cambridge, which the EDL have vocally opposed. Speaking to Varsity, one said: "There are 10,000 Muslims in Cambridge here today. The total capacity of the mosque is around 700. So there is huge demand here. We are trying to build this one mosque which has a capacity of 1000 people; it’s basically just quite helpful."

Unite Against Fascism Secretary Weyman Bennett, in his speech to protestors, placed the EDL action in the context of wider European political life. "We have a problem in Europe. There’s a crisis. We’ve got Golden Dawn, we’ve got Jobbik, we’ve got the Front National; we’ve seen the growth of fascist parties. And I’m sorry, but I’ve been given the history books, and we saw a man like Adolf Hitler, we saw Mussolini, and people said to ignore them, that they would disappear."

The anti-racist group English Disco LoversJENNY PAGONI

The demonstration drew a diverse range of protestors, including many families. As marchers reached Mill Road, shopkeepers came out to offer free samosas and bottles of water.

Music booming from speakers trawled around Cambridge on a bike as members of the anti-racist spoof of the EDL, the English Disco League, made for a an atmosphere which Trinity student Natalie Behoke described as "nice and friendly and upbeat." “It’s a lot more fun not to be fascist, that’s for sure," added Marijne Mak, a student at King's College. "It's great to see town and gown marching together, defending Cambridge's diversity", said Greg Hill, Homerton JCR president and Cambridge Universities Labour Club chair.

However, Pembroke student Mim Franklin did argue that the placards distributed by the Socialist Workers Party reading 'Smash the EDL' were "too confrontational", but noted that "there’s some really good non-violent chants as well, so that’s a positive thing to take away".

A Cambridge police spokesman said the day's proceedings had been relatively smooth. The use of surveillance, they suggested to Varsity, had influenced demonstrators' behaviour, as it made them realise that if behaving in a "criminal way", it would mean they could later be identified. 

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