Over 200 people turned up to the "Migrants Welcome, Bigots Aren't" protest outside UKIP's Nigel Farage North East rally.
The protest was initiated by Workers Liberty supporters in the North East; it brought together political activists as well as artists, musicians, feminists and LGBT campaigners.
A lively protest greeted those who came to hear Farage. Our protest included an open mic: over 20 local speakers outlined their opposition to UKIP's racism, and why migrants were welcome, as well as detailing the sexist, homophobia and pro-rich and pro-capitalist policies of UKIP.
Many protesters made their own banners and the protest had a more inclusive feel than many protests: half the speakers were women, and there were no "top table speakers" given priority over activists. Speakers from a range of left-wing political groups spoke alongside community campaigners and several people read political poems.
However, there was a lack of serious support from trade unions. Though many at the protest were trade union members, no branch or regional union banners were there with the exception of some Unite flags.
The point is that if the labour movement had seriously mobilised we could have outnumbered the 800-strong UKIP rally inside the Sage.
These elections offer little positive alternatives to vote for: union support for labour has failed to win a commitment from labour to fight for rights for all migrant workers and precarious workers. The "No2EU" candidates in the European election supported by some on the left suprisingly didn't speak or bring any publicity to our Migrants Welcome protest, while Labour and Greens were both prominent at the protest.
In the absence of the candidates we need and could unite around in these elections (standing on a strong pro-migrant, pro-workers rights, pro-women platform that will fight for jobs, homes and benefits) the left and activists should do more to stand up to this anti-migrant racism, to win people away from the idea that England could or should go back to the days of a wealthy empire.
We need to regain the ground from both the far-right street fighters and the creeping anti-migrant racism in our workplaces, and estates.
We need more protests like ours in Gateshead every time UKIP try to win support. And to argue in our unions for policies for European workers unity to level up conditions and rights at work, and to recruit and organise migrant workers to our unions.
A small counter protest of 15 or so members of the EDL attempted to attack our protest but were held back by the police.