Saturday, 7 September 2013

Altab Ali Park

If I had a garden which of course I don’t, I would have probably stopped off to collect the horse droppings on the road to Tower Hamlets, that I found on the way to today's EDL demonstration. I think that it would have been good, the best quality manure you could get your hands on. Cruising down on my pushbike to Altab Ali Park from Mile End was relatively easy by  following the droppings and then all of a sudden from the London (Hospital) I could see the gathering mass of people, flags and banners flying in the autumn sunshine or more like an extended summers day, we have indeed been very lucky with the weather and may it last - I do hope so.

Anyhow, as I’m drawing your attention to horse droppings, better say that I  was following the droppings of horses that belong to the Metropolitan Police (the old bill). But you knew that right?”

This was one of my first demonstration to do with the English Defence League (EDL) and preventing them from marching through east London, still my home turf with Tower Hamlets being down the road from me and once my home, and that does seem now to be many years ago. In the 80s I remember the problems we had then in Tower Hamlets, like a gust of wind it came back to me; Tower Hamlets Trades Union Council and many long lost comrades, taking to the streets of Whitechapel, in-and-around them black and what seemed to me to be very bleak streets’ where families were subject to all manner of racist abuse, and in many cases attack from the local racial bigot who in turn was being encouraged by such organizations like the National Front.

Altab Ali Park is a small park on Adler Street, White Church Lane and Whitechapel High Street, London E1; formerly known as St. Mary's Park it is the site of the old 14th Century white chapel, St. Mary Matfelon, from which the area of Whitechapel gets its name. Having been destroyed in The Blitz in 1940, all that remains of the old church is the floor plan and a few graves. The park was renamed Altab Ali Park in 1998 in memory of Altab Ali, a 25-year-old Bangladeshi clothing worker, who was murdered on 4 May 1978 in Adler Street by three teenage boys as he walked home from work. At the entrance to the park is an arch created by David Peterson, developed as a memorial to Altab Ali and other victims of racist attacks. The arch incorporates a complex Bengali-style pattern, meant to show the merging of different cultures in East London. And so this was a priority demonstration for me having been acquainted with many who gave their all in standing up for and with the Bangladeshi community back in the 70/80s, just a shame that we have to do it all over again.

But we do comrades - because as Counterfire (and this is not an endorsement of the organisation) put it: The EDL are a product of the ‘war on terror’. The state and the media demonise Muslims to justify their wars abroad. As as a result Muslims in the UK have turned into the new “enemy within” to justify assaults on civil liberties. This all plays into the violent agenda of the EDL. To combat the racists and fascists we have also to oppose Islamophobia in all its manifestations, the “war on terror” and the imperialist interventions in the Middle East.                             

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