The combined actions of Counterfire, Labour councillors and police left the occupiers open to these attacks. For over a month, CounterFire/Coalition of Resistance and Labour Councillor Dipu Ahad had been promoting a ‘Rising against Islamophobia’ event to take place on 29 October at Grey’s Monument in the city centre. The organisers had invited a speaker from the Occupy Newcastle camp, which has occupied the Monument since 15 October. There were reports that the racist English Defence League (EDL) were planning to target the event, but leading Counterfire members had stated that there was no need for self-defence because the police would ensure its safety. The day before the event the following statement was issued announcing that the event had been cancelled:
Rising against Islamophobia - Event postponed 28/10/11
Following a meeting of the City Council and event organizers, we have jointly agreed to work together in order to plan a long term response to hate crime, racism and Islamophobia.
In the interests of public safety and social cohesion and in recognition of the challenges facing our community, we have decided to postpone the event at the Monument on Saturday 29 October which was designed to bring together communities within the city.
We have further resolved to work jointly to bring together communities at a future event in the interests of tackling hate crime, racism and Islamophobia.
Cllr Joyce McCarty, Deputy Leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “We understand the impact that crime, racism and Islamophobia can have on the people who are victims of it and welcome this opportunity to work with event organisers to promote community cohesion.”
Activists who had been involved in promoting the event but who were not members of Counterfire said they had not been consulted about the decision to cancel. When challenged on the event’s facebook page for further details on the cancellation, leading Counterfire member Alex Snowdon wrote:
It was the main organisation responsible for the event - Unison - where there were problems. If you strive to build a coalition for an event, then it can go wrong.
This craven response was no explanation at all, and merely confirms the inevitable outcome of making anti-racist organisation dependent on trade unions and Labour councillors.
The cancellation of the event at such short notice left the Occupy Newcastle camp and other activists no time to prepare an adequate response to a possible attack.
On the Saturday up to 100 racists affiliated to the National Front, Scottish Defence League, EDL and the EDL-breakaway group ‘North East Infidels’ gathered at the Monument, complete with St. Georges flags, Union Jacks, Ulster flags and racist banners. The racists targeted a Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) stall, an FRFI stall and Occupy Newcastle, surrounding activists and shouting abuse and threats.
Anti-racists were outnumbered but stood together and were joined by members of the public. Councillor Ahad and Alex Snowdon were both reported to be out of town. Another leading Counterfire member, Tony Dowling, turned up briefly, but left within half an hour. The racist demonstration went on for two hours before dispersing to local pubs.
In the early hours of Sunday morning members of Occupy Newcastle including supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! were attacked by a group of 25-30 racists who punched and kicked occupiers, threw bricks and attempted to pull down parts of the camp. Together those who were present defended the camp and managed to prevent anyone being seriously injured. The police were nowhere to be seen despite assurances made to the occupiers that there would be a continuous presence at the Monument to guard against any attack following the fascist demonstration. It took 15 minutes for them to arrive, at which point the racists ran off. None were arrested.
The Occupy Newcastle camp is continuing and urgently requires your support and involvement. General assemblies take place each day at 6.30pm. For more information visit: