The Football Lads Alliance protest in Tower Hamlets from Saturday 21st October 2017

Last Saturday’s march was a disgrace and the community were let down by many. For many years, far-right groups have been unable to march through this beautiful borough and last Saturday they managed to go through absolutely unchallenged. Primarily, there are three groups who made serious errors which had resulted in the FLA being able to march in Tower Hamlets.

1. The Police: We know there wasn’t a ban in place for the group. The FLA had agreed to meet at Aldgate Station for 1:15pm to protest. However, this didn’t stop them from meeting earlier in Tower Hamlets (Whitechapel) and walking through. Why were they not cordoned off and asked to go to their destination via public transport or another route? Instead they were escorted through the borough by Police. Could officers not have used powers to assess the possible dangers and unrest it would cause if they refused to divert them? Was the borough commander not in the borough? Was the borough commander not a part of the Tension Monitoring Group? Why were duty officers on the day left to make judgements which could have endangered the FLA (from a legal perspective, endanger mosque users and also those resisting religious hatred. Weeks leading to this very day, mosque management were told that the FLA would be meeting at Aldgate Station. Contrary, on the day of the march, the Police attended the mosque to tell management that the FLA will be marching through Whitechapel. Officers also significantly played down numbers of the FLA that would be passing the mosque. Police were aware of the on the day intentions the FLA had to march through Whitechapel Road. A  young female belonging to the FLA was with Police standing in front of the East London Mosque prior to the march, to ensure that things would run smoothly for the FLA. Shortly afterwards she joined the protest when the group had made way towards the mosque.

2. The management of East London Mosque: We know the East London Mosque is a great place. However, it seems to be run by those who are scared of their own shadow; who genuinely believe breaking barriers with decades worth of resistance (due to “some hotheads”) may be the solution. In fact, Muslims of the borough, faced an ideological defeat by allowing the far-right to march through the streets of Tower Hamlets and more importantly by passing the memorial of Altab Ali. In fact, what the Mosque management did, was endanger worshippers, elders, women and children. The fact that the management missed the opportunity to warn worshippers on a large Jummah congregation, was disgraceful and the pinnacle of safeguarding failures. Yes, it’s well known that the mosque management are fighting a political battle and it is also known that they’re running the place like a local council. There are opinions to suggest that the management, i.e. the CEO, must be replaced by those with a brave and sophisticated approach. The mosque management usually work very closely with the United East End, but what happened this time? Did the mosque subtly refuse the help of partner groups. It has been mentioned that the silence was so deafening that nothing positive had surfaced. The community is angry at the management for their amateurish rhetoric in blaming the Police, Council and “hotheads”. They had forgotten they too were a very much part of the failures.

3. The elected administration of Tower Hamlets: This isn’t speaking as a supporter of the previous cabinet system and nor as a mouthpiece for the previous administration. The mayor and his cabinet acted in a dishonourable manner. Not only did they not orchestrate a resistance against the far-right; but they trampled all over a legacy that the borough had built against racism and religious hatred by not joining forces with stakeholders and resistance groups to show solidarity against the far right. The elected cabinet members and the mayor made no joint effort to lead against this new far-right movement.

The young men who defend the legacy of this borough are called taboo names which society has demonised, by fellow worshippers. The fact remains that the defence could have been far better led if stakeholders and leaders had shown resistance/bravery. Instead, they acted like cowards using their rehearsed cliche excuses.

Polite notice – The picture behind the title of this article used to illustrate the FLA, is a picture from a previous occasion at a different location and found quite quickly on Google.

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