ANTI-fascists and anti-racists were out in force on the streets of London last Friday with a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest that started in Oxford Circus and a Unite Against Fascism (UAF) picket in Whitehall to oppose a march by Islamophobes and neo-fascists in the “South East London Alliance” (SEA), which is one of the splinter groups that formed with the decay of the English Defence League and the British National Party.
The 100-strong protest on 29th August came amid escalating police racism in Britain and the US. Organisers spoke about the violent arrest of a young black man in London Bridge station last week.
The young man was having an argument with his girlfriend. But police jumped to the conclusion that he was trying to steal her phone and arrested him. He was thrown to the ground and pinned down while police covered his head with a “spit mask” while the girlfriend frantically pleaded with the police to stop hurting him. “Is this what happens now when people have an argument?” she cried.
In the United States police have killed 12 people in the last six days.
The demonstration was loud and undaunted by the heavy police presence, with passers-by joining it.
A young mother from France joined the demo with her children. “I want to show my children you need to fight for something real,” she said and expressed surprise that so many white people were involved in the march.
A young man joined the demonstration as it blocked Regent Street on its way to Convent Garden. He said: “This is the first protest I’ve been on since university. I used to be involved in campaigns around the Educational Maintenance Allowance and tuition fees."
Meanwhile in Whitehall members and supporters of the UAF gathered opposite Downing Street for speeches while the SEA neo-fascists deferred their march for an hour and loitered in the Lord Moon pub.
Paul Sillet of the UAF pointed out that although the fascist numbers were small it is still necessary to come out and oppose them. He reminded people that just a few years ago the EDL were attracting thousands to Islamophobic demonstrations in town centres up and down the country.
It is only constant opposition that has driven their numbers down. “Even though most of you have got something better to do on a Friday night it is important that you have come here to show that their hatred and violence are unacceptable. Without this their numbers would start to creep up again.”
Eventually the fascists emerged – just 30 of them and mainly ageing former National Front veterans.
A huge police presence kept them separate from the UAF as they marched past and into a pen the police had ready.
There followed a long and loud exchange of epithets, chants and slogans with the UAF drowning out the fascists with force of numbers and a superior sound system.
Then, seemingly out of the blue, the BLM protesters arrived to cheers and greetings from the UAF comrades and dismay from the fascists and the police as the numbers of anti-fascists present just about doubled.
After a long and noisy pause police led the BLM marchers on to Parliament Square while the SEA people gave up and left.
The BLM activists are now preparing for a big bloc at the Notting Hill Carnival on August Bank Holiday Monday.