Southsea Community Unite To Defend Mosque

Over 60 socialists, trade unionists, students and community organisers rushed to the Jami mosque in Portsmouth on Saturday evening to defend it from a rumored attack by the English Defense League. That morning the mosque has been vandalized by a small group claiming to be from the EDL and it was believed they would return later in the evening.

Before the resulting protest Socialist Party members approached a group of football fans who were waiting outside the mosque with a ‘support our troops’ banner. The group claimed that they were protesting against the extremist group who burnt poppies in London on Thursday, but said they had nothing to do with the EDL. This group were later joined by around 70 more protesters many carrying union jack flags and chanting ‘England ‘till I die.’

The EDL had sent a small number of members from London to agitate within the nearby football crowd and attack the mosque, however while fireworks, stones and glass bottles were thrown at both the mosque and the counter-demonstration the majority of the protesters refrained from any openly racist chanting, opting instead to sing the national anthem while calling to ‘support our boy’s and ‘respect the poppy.’

In contrast the counter-demonstration in defense of the mosque continued to grow throughout the evening, uniting local trade unionists, socialist party members and Unite Against Fascism activists with those who had gone to the mosque to pray that evening. While some individuals briefly aggravated the situation by chanting about ‘Nazis’ and ‘Fascists’ the majority of the counter-demonstrators remained calm, simply refusing to leave until the police arrived and dispersed the protesters.

While the protest was directed at the mosque the true nature of the protesters’ anger became apparent when Portsmouth South Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock appeared, seemingly just to be photographed by the press. As soon as the demonstrators saw Hancock the chants and the singing were immediately replaced with chants of: “You betrayed us to the Tories” and shouts of “It’s thanks to you that people like us are on the dole.”

It is clear that while the anger of Saturdays protesters was aimed towards the mosque, the real roots of their frustration lay in economic desperation and anger with those claiming to represent them, especially as Portsmouth remains an unemployment black spot.  It is clear that until a broad based ant-cuts movement, which poses a clear political alternative, is developed such scenes will continue as this anger is misdirected and vented.

The launch meeting of Portsmouth Coalition Against Cuts, which aims to be such a local movement, will take place on Thursday 18th November, at 7.30pm in Park Building.


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