Date: Sunday, 14 February, 2010, 16:00
I attended the Unite Against Fascism conference yesterday and it was excellent, but sadly didn't see any other Greens there apart from Zain who turned up towards the end - it was a really good and inspiring conference, shame not more people could have of made it. Speeches from Martin Smith, Ken Livingstone and Bellavia Ribeiro-Addy (candidate for NUS President) were top-notch!
After the opening session with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown going off on bizarre and ridiculous tangents (apparently Muslims must take some blame for the rise of the BNP, because they didn't control the 'hotheads' in their communities).... gotta love a bit of collective blame for an already vilified section of society. Anyway, an ex-footballer called Leroy also spoke and was one of the best speakers, he was from Kick It Out (a campaign to end racism/homophobia in football) and gave some really moving stories and was an entertaining speaker. Anyway back to that, then broke for lunch, met up with some other NUS members standing for election and received many of the same leaflet haha.
Then I attended the seminar on how to stop the rise of the EDL with Martin Smith and an organiser of a branch of UAF. It was really insightful and I learnt a lot from the various people who had organised their local communities against the EDL. An interesting thing to note was that all of the counter-demonstrations seemed to face attempts of sabotage from the police and council as they tried to get Mosque leaders to get Muslims to stay away as well as them using social workers to target young Muslims to keep them away. Also Forward-Intelligence Teams used to gather info from UAF organisers.. The importance of counter-demonstrations was argued to be vital, so that communities can feel confident defending themselves as the bootboys try and intimidate anyone opposed to them.
Then we went to the final session with people like Margaret Hodge... who went down like a lead balloon with the audience, as well as Livingstone, Bell and a woman called Edie from the Jewish Council for Racial Equality. After all the talks, Bellavia being by far the best (noone left their seats as she spoke/huge rounds of applause/many cheers in her defence of the NUS No Platform policy!) Martin Smith then told the conference that 25 members of the EDL were outside and to be careful going home. Turns out that after they realised there were about 500 or so of us (I'm terrible with numbers, but we were a lot inside) they bottled it and went away, potentially waiting for stragglers.
After that all, we went back to Kent in the minibus we had rented along with the local SWP and were discussing how inspiring the conference was and how important it is that we mobilise for Bolton on the 20th and Dudley on the 4th March.
So comrades, hope we can all get up to Bolton and Dudley somehow (managed to get our SU minibus for Dudley, just need plans for Bolton)..
Hopefully it's been an interesting read, and there is a really good write-up also on Lenin's Tomb @ http://leninology.blogspot.com/2010/02/uaf-conference.html
University of Kent