On Sunday December 9th the increasingly fascist UKIP joined forces with EDL founder ‘Tommy Robinson’ for a march entitled Brexit Betrayal, in a clear attempt at capitalising on the embarrassing chaos surrounding withdrawal from the European Union. Yet again they were outnumbered by a counter protest.
Antifascists from a range of groups met outside the BBC for a march into central London to oppose the racists. The day before, using their powers under the 1986 Public Order Act, the police imposed pretty draconian restrictions on the march and flooded it with hundreds of officers in riot gear from the word go. A sizeable crew of stewards at the front kept some breathing space between the plods and the marchers who were lively and diverse drawn from the different strands of the left and a number of trade unions. Their spirits were lifted yet further by at least one sound system playing some banging antifascist songs.
As the march came down Piccadilly a pathetic crew of around 30 individuals from the racist Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA) made a half-hearted attempt at blocking the route. When the police arrived they whined that: “this is what Antifa did to us in October”. Unlike the crew of 1,500 militant antifascists who blocked the route of the DFLA march two months previously this lot had little stomach for a confrontation, putting more energy into filming themselves on their mobiles than anything else. Most of them retreated into the side streets as more cops arrived. A few stayed behind to politely wave a union jack flag from the pavement with the protection of around 40 police in riot gear. No attempt was made by the cops to detain them or take their details.
The drama continued as the front of the march neared its destination at the Trafalgar square end of Whitehall and a crew of fascists from the so-called ‘Chelsea Head Hunters’ appeared.
Their heads were certainly on a mission to hunt the pavement as they attempted to confront the demo and quickly found themselves surrounded by people who were not in the mood for a polite debate. Two of them were decked and another tried to slip away claiming that he was nothing to do with them. So much for the ‘master race’? As usual it was the Police to the rescue as a riot squad was sent in to extract them. Unsure of what to do next, the cops bundled them into a souvenir shop where they resorted to the usual heroic Nazi tactic of seig-heiling at the protest from behind the safety of Police lines. They were eventually escorted out by more riot cops, protecting them from a very hostile crowd. Reel News understands that things got even worse for them after their human shields in blue had left them nearby.
Meanwhile, further back, a block of militant antifascists had taken a sharp left into Trafalgar square near the National Gallery to confront a group of DFLA who had been spotted earlier in the day. One of the ‘football lads’ ended up kissing the tarmac but a massively over the top response by riot cops allowed the rest to escape. Antifacists were hit with telescopic batons and several failed attempts were made at confiscating their banners. Good organization kept the arrest count down to just one and they later joined the rest of the protest in Whitehall with their sound system.
Growing up on an estate, I am rarely shocked by police violence or abuse of power.
But I couldn't believe how violent they were today against anti-racist protesters at #TommyRobinson march in central London!
— Ahmed Kaballo (@AhmedKaballo) December 9, 2018
There is little doubt that the Met Police decided to waste vast amounts of public money protecting the racists who were outnumbered and made to march miles apart from the anti fascists. As always the treatment of the far right at the hands of the cops was gentle by comparison to what everyone else endured.
On the other side of the thick blue line, our team caught up with the official UKIP/Robinson ‘Brexit Betrayal’ march. Unsurprisingly it was crawling with very many fascist groups and racist individuals.
There were several well known faces from the neo Nazi National Front and also the increasingly irrelevant BNP, many of whom appear to have migrated en masse to Anne Maria Waters rabidly islamophobic ‘For Britain’ party. A project which seems pretty doomed now that UKIP is sharing a platform with the founder of the EDL. Also in attendance were the Nazi hipsters of Generation Identity and several well known faces from the lunatic fringe of the conspiracy theory scene. One moron was even carrying a home-made placard claiming that the murder of MP Jo Cox by a Nazi in 2016 was a ‘false flag’.
For an event that had been billed as a ‘family day’ there were very few families in attendance and women were certainly a rare minority on the march. It was also exclusively white and pretty flat affair after the droning bag pipes had finally run out of air. Reaching Whitehall the crowd of between 3 & 5,000 waited for the speeches. The numbers were considerably less than both the organisers and Police had been expecting.
First speaker was UKIP leader Gerard Batten who is clearly still dining out on the dubious achievement of saving the party from financial ruin earlier this year. He is clearly a competent organizer and is consolidating his power now that several UKIP MEPs have jumped ship in disgust at the company he keeps. Even the rightwing tabloids wasted no time in condemning a photo he tweeted of a recent planning meeting, which included a convicted kidnapper along with other less than respectable elements.
His address started with an uninteresting recap of how Brexit happened and how he thinks the establishment is trying to stop it. He then went on to say how he intended to force Parliament to repeal legislation from 1972 to allow a hard Brexit. Exactly how a party that has never had a single MP elected in a general election could achieve this he didn’t explain. By the time he had finished describing his detail-free economic & social plans following withdrawal most of the crowd were talking amongst themselves. He then finished by pleading with the assembled crowd to join UKIP and help rebuild its electoral threat. Something that they will have to do from scratch now that Farage has left, taking his considerable charisma and Question Time season ticket with him.
Next came the pint-sized, preening popinjay known as both ‘Robinson’ and ‘Yaxley Lennon’. While ‘Tommeh’ may be well practiced at opening his enormous gob to spout evidence free racism at football lads, he had clearly been told to tone it down and was incredibly dull as a result. He started by thanking his gang for keeping the march peaceful, which is actually an achievement given their past record. He then went on to deliver a fawning shower of praise to UKIP leader Gerard Batten before spewing a boring and content-free appraisal of UKIP which ended with him begging his followers to join for thirty quid a year. Something he is still banned from doing by UKIP’s NEC thanks to his previous membership of the fascist BNP. He looked very out of his depth robotically reading his prepared speech and reinforcing the assumption that he is very much a one trick pony.
It is clear that ‘Robinson’ brought the numbers to the rally but whether his gang of mainly middle aged football firm has-beens will continue attending tedious A to B marches, where they are expected to behave themselves, remains to be seen. If he is allowed to join UKIP he will no doubt bring a fair few followers. But they are unlikely to be interested in the monotonous day-to-day work that keeps political parties going. They are even less likely to fill the financial void that has been left by the rightwing Tories whom returned to their spiritual home after the referendum. The big financiers like Aaron Banks appear more likely to fund the rival party that Farage is threatening to launch.
It will certainly benefit UKIP if the government kicks Brexit into the long grass as expected. But whether the party keeps lurching to the far right, which will not help at the ballot box, or tries to regain its crown as a retirement home for elderly racists remains to be seen. Either way Batten has a hell of a task ahead of him, and Robinson’s history of involvement with every political group that he has so far allied himself to has consistently proved that he is more likely to be a hindrance than a help.