Over 600 trade unionists and anti-racists rallied in central Manchester on Saturday to reject the divisive politics of the Football Lads Alliance. Several major trade unions sent delegations to join the rally and march – UNISON, Unite, FBU firefighters, PCS, NEU teachers, RMT rail workers.
Rabnawaz was one of about eight Labour councillors who helped organise the rally. To cheers from the crowd gathered outside the Central Reference Library, he said “We beat the BNP, we beat the EDL – and Manchester will beat the racist Football Lads Alliance too.”
Lively anti-racist slogans filled the streets for the short march to Castlefield Arena – where campaigners found just 250 or so FLA supporters. This was a huge setback for the FLA, given their recent rallies in Birmingham and London of 4,000-plus. A large group of their supporters remained outside a nearby pub, gloomily surveying the very-empty Castlefield Arena.
The FLA melted away quite quickly. However there is a real threat from their two components, the FLA and the ‘Democratic FLA’ (DFLA.) Despite their recent split over money raised from ‘merch’, far-right fragments are continuing to gather around these groups, and the DFLA is more or less in the hands of former EDL founder and fascist Tommy Robinson. The DFLA’s hook-up with UKIP must also be a concern for all trade unionists and anti-racists.
The DFLA have declared they will rally in central Manchester on Saturday, 2nd June. Back at St Peter’s Square, Anna from LGBT Against Islamophobia was applauded when she said, “As a trans woman I don’t want groups like the FLA and DFLA coming here telling me my Muslim neighbours hate me – we have to unite against these racists, that’s why you’ve all got to come out and do this again on the 2nd June.”