SEXUAL abuse survivors joined an anti-fascist rally in Rotherham on Saturday as a ragbag of racist thugs took to the streets to sow division.
Supporters of extreme nationalist party Britain First chucked glass bottles at children of Asian descent, prompting their opponents to lay siege to the pub where they had set up shop. Three suspected Britain First members faced arrest.
The Yorkshire town has been regularly targeted by groups such as the English Defence League and Britain First following revelations last year that men largely of Asian origin had been grooming girls for sex.
But the demos have backfired, bringing many different sections of the community out in unity against racism.
Over 500 anti-racists turned out on Saturday against less than 130 Britain First fans.
Members of the Asian community, trade unionists, LGBT residents and disabled people joined anti-racist groups including Unite Against Fascism (UAF) in the show of defiance.
“The community came out. It wasn’t just the demonstration,” said Rotherham UAF.
“People had posters in their windows saying: ‘Racists not welcome here’.”
The counter-protest also sought to pay tribute to Mushim Ahmed, an 81-year-old Asian man who was beaten to death by racists near his home in Rotherham two weeks ago while on his way to mosque.
“Britain First said they were going to have 1,500 in the town, but we had spotters counting them and there were 127. There were at least 500 anti-fascist protesters,” said UAF.
“One of the most pleasing aspects was the number of Asian people who turned up. Part of it was to show respect for Mushim Ahmed.
“The day was very positive. Everybody was buoyant. There was a lot of interaction. There were black, white, Asian, gay and disabled people. Some of the victims of abuse actually took part.”
The mood only turned violent when police directed anti-racists past a pub packed with drunken Britain First supporters, some of whom came out and threw bottles at two children.