Ron Ridenour reports from Copenhagen
Ruling authorities confront the continuing crisis of capitalism by: 1) aiding the very firms that bankrupt the general economy by transferring workers’ taxes to the capitalist class; 2) decreasing the welfare state, throwing huge numbers out of jobs and onto the streets; 3) increasing state repression against those who resist, and by allowing the growth of racist and fascist civilian groups.
State repression is used most clearly against the peaceful Arab Spring protestors; the use of police force in US cities where Occupy Wall Street has taken root; against the workers resistance and the “indignados” in Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy, France…; against students struggling for democracy and against gays in Chile.
In Denmark, some unionists, traditional left organizations, and young anti-racists remind us how German Nazis and Italian Fascists used the race card against Jews to divide and conquer the world. These groups and individuals see history repeating itself in much of Europe with anti-Islamism and are determined to check its growth.
On March 31, some 5000 Danes and a couple hundred like-minded anti-racists from other Scandinavian countries and England marched in Aarhus (Denmark’s second largest city) to stop the spread of racist/fascist groupings popping up around Europe. Some have ties in the United States.
Their march was a counter-demonstration to the first all-Europe rally against Muslims. The English Defence League (EDL) succeeded, however, in holding a rally of between 100 and 150 members from ten countries (15 members from England; one or two from Italy, France, Bulgaria, Poland; one or two handfuls from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Germany; most from Denmark).
Counter-demonstrators marched under the banner of multi-cultural societies. They moved spiritedly through many of the cities wide and narrow streets. Hip hop and reggae music accompanied anti-racist chants. About one thousand marchers had traveled from many Danish cities, including 11 buses from Copenhagen, a four-hour drive.
Police had marked a route far enough away from the racist rally so that we could not see or hear one another. Police called out more forces than in decades to prevent clashes. Local city council members, and municipal institutional leaders accompanied by the mass media sought to downplay the multi-cultural vision by characterizing the demonstrations as two “extremist groups”. City council members even called upon people to stay home and light candles. And some Imans encouraged their congregations to stay clear.
While most of the activists were students and other youths, there were some families with children and a good number of elder people with backgrounds in struggles against racism, fascism, war. Some hold pro-socialist or pro-communist visions. Union banners were most prominent as the major unions, including the national coalition of unions represented in Aarhus, endorsed the anti-racist action.
Signs read: “Crush the system that creates fascism”; “Black and White, Unite and Fight”; “United Against Racism”; “Make Love not War”.
Few apparent Muslims were present throughout most of the march. I asked three elder men separately why this was so. One replied that he had been to a mosque where the Iman had warned members not to participate, because police were saying that if Muslims marched they would see to it that their associations were closed down. Two others said only that their Iman told them to stay away to avoid being caught up in violence, which would mostly go against them.
At the end of the march from city hall to a large square, scores of young Muslims joined in. They walked in strong strides and sent anger glances at police who pulled their paddy wagons closer.
During the two-hour rally, there was lively music and a few speeches. The most well received speech was by Englishman Martin Smith representing “Unite against Fascism”.
He caused sustained cheering when he said:
“I am proud to be here with you but am sorry that this scum from England has come to your land. These racists are fascists, make no mistake about it. And they won’t go away by ignoring them or by lighting candles.
“At their first demonstration in England, this passive attitude prevailed. As their rally met no opposition, they beat up people whose skin color they didn’t like, and declared that when they demonstrated again no opposition would be allowed. Then many of us woke up.
“European politicians are playing the race card once again. Every time fascists meet publicly we must be there. No racism in our countries!”
At the park designated for the racists, police outnumbered demonstrators as did curious bystanders. There were 12 paddy wagons blocking the possibility of anti-racists entering the area. A few, however, did manage to break through. In all, 89 people (mostly anti-racists) were arrested. Most were soon released. Five were brought to court the next day on charges of assaulting police with rocks and bottles.
Many arrested were ethnic Danes, Swedes and Norwegians. Others have backgrounds from Arabic lands. They were appalled to hear from the platform that the racists spoke of themselves as “patriots” and “freedom fighters”, and used the slogans: “Stop Islamizing Europe”, “No Muslims in our country”.
The Guardian wrote “EDL summit in Denmark humiliated by low attendance” (March 31). It quoted one Norwegian racist as saying that the mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik has “some good points. There are some people who share his thinking if not his methods.”
(Breivik murdered 77 people, most all young Social Democrats. Yet the Social Democratic party here did not endorse the march. Young Social Democrats came, however.)
The EDL was started in London in 2009. The BBC reported that Breivik participated in some demonstrations. The Danish Defence League (DDL) was started in the summer of 2010 by Gary Hoope, a member of the EDL. The DDL has posted graffiti and anti-Muhammad cartoons on Muslim mosques. Its leader, Philip Traulsen, had been charged with possession of an illegal weapon, in 2007, when he and other Nazis beat up anti-racist youths.
Although the racist gathering was a “humiliation”, there were many counter-demonstrators who wished that they had not been able to meet at all. They recalled what happened the first time that EDL attempted to form an all-Europe organization in Amsterdam, in 2010. Dutch anti-racists, including AJAX soccer fans, prevented the 60 racists who came to their city from meeting. They were forcefully beaten back out of town.
April 1, Copenhagen