AROUND 200 anti-fascists braved seriously cold weather last Saturday to assemble outside an art gallery in Dalston, after the LD50 gallery hosted and promoted racist meetings and other events.
The protest was organised by the Shut Down LD50 campaign, who said: “The gallery has recently curated one of the most extensive programmes of racist hate speech to take place in London in the last decade.
“LD50 has acted as a platform for a cross section of the most virulent advocates of extreme-right ideology. Talks have been given by prominent white supremacist, misogynists and people promoting violence against immigrants.
“The speakers who participated in the events at LD50 include Peter Brimelow and Brett Stevens. Brimelow is described by the Southern Poverty Law Centre [based in Montgomery, Alabama] as a ‘leading anti-immigrant activist’ and publisher of works by anti-Semites.
“Brett Stevens publicly supported the actions of fascist mass murderer Anders Breivik.
“Their hate speech cannot be ‘free speech’ when it advocates violence in the pursuit of authoritarianism and racial supremacy.”
These racists are part of a new fascist movement that calls itself alt-right, claiming that they are being persecuted by anti-racists and feminists and denied free speech. They support Donald Trump’s presidency and he does not reject them.
The owner of the LD50 gallery, Lucia Diego, recently expressed support for Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims entering the United States on social media.
A Facebook page for the LD50 exhibition included an emblem of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, a South African neo-Nazi group.
Ms Diego expressed disappointment at the decision by the Museum of Modern Art in New York to hang work by Muslim artists in place of pieces by giants including Matisse and Picasso – a striking protest by an art institution against a federal policy. “It actually diminishes western culture and tradition,” she said.
She described the LD50 exhibition on the alt-right as “a study of what is happening online and how these ideologies are emerging.”
Andrew Osborne, 42, a fine art technician at the Royal College of Art who has lived in East London for 20 years, helped to organise the protest. “There was a Facebook argument going on and then the more you looked into the gallery the more unseemly it seemed,” he said. “I don’t see why we should tolerate fascism.”
Far-right supporters had threatened to stage a counter-protest but no one turned up.
One lone counter-protester appeared with a small cardboard sign appealing for “free speech”. His presence provoked a storm of noisy chanting and he was told in no uncertain terms that promoting racist and sexist violence goes beyond the bounds of normal free speech.
But in spite of their very noisy anger no demonstrators attempted to assail the man. Nearby police kept a low profile.
One protester, who said she’d lived in the neighbourhood for 30 years, described the area as a “diverse borough in terms of race, class, ethnicity; everyone here lives happily side by side: Jews, Muslims, everyone.”
But the gallery, she said, was out of line. “I wouldn’t set foot in that place unless I had a bomb with me. No platform for the right, for fascism.”
After an hour or two the demonstrators marshalled themselves for a march through the busy streets of Dalston.
Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville told the local press after the protest: “Hackney supports artistic freedom of expression and free speech,” but added: “There are clear limits. Racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism and xenophobia have no place in Hackney.
“We condemn businesses such as LD50 which promote and give a platform to racism, xenophobia and hate speech. We should not allow hate to become normalised or acceptable.”
He added that he had asked police borough commander Detective Chief Supt Simon Laurence to “look into the actions of LD50 and to explore whether the law has been broken and how we can work together to reassure the wider community.”
Luci Diego had planned another alt-right exhibition in March but is now reconsidering the plan.