Anti-fascists explain the importance of anonymity on demonstrations
This article was updated on Thursday 9 March 2023 to clarify that the demonstration happened in Newquay.
Fascist group Patriotic Alternative (PA) has been mobilising around the UK, and anti-fascists are increasingly organising counter demonstrations.
Campaigners are organising against PA in their local areas, and it’s clear that anti-fascism is strongest when it’s rooted in local communities. It’s also clear that PA are mobilising racists from around the UK to travel to wherever demos are happening. So anti-racists need to be ready to travel too, to back people up.
Ten days ago, PA held a demonstration in Newquay, targeted at a local hotel, where refugees were being housed. But local group Cornwall Resists got there first, and occupied the space around the hotel for the duration of the day.
Cornwall anti-fascists organised themselves on the day as a ‘black bloc’.
Cornwall Resists were serious about the identities of people on the demonstration. The day before the protest, the group tweeted a list of what to bring, and what not to bring – including a mask, and dark unidentifiable clothing:
Getting ready for the demo tomorrow? Here's what to bring, what NOT to bring, and what to wear
Stay safe, look after yourself, and most important take care of each other. Solidarity is our strength against their hatred and division. See you on the streets! ✊ pic.twitter.com/8J6gOyZy1A
— Cornwall Resists (@resistg7) February 24, 2023
A statement from one person who joined the black bloc explained why they felt they needed to protect their identity. The statement came after fellow anti-racists levelled criticism at them for covering their faces. They said:
The anti-fascist continued, explaining that wearing a mask is a way to protect yourself from organised racists, who often harass and attack their opponents. They gave the example of the threats made against Cornwall politician Nicole Broadhurst:
The statement explained how wearing a mask is a good way to protect yourself against police surveillance, too. Both as a protection against overt filming by police, and more covert intelligence gathering tactics:
Not organising with the cops ‘is a red line’
Cornwall Resists also took a stance of not negotiating with the police prior to their counter demonstration. The antifascist said that if the group had liaised with the cops, then their organisers could have been targeted. The Public Order Act allows the police to charge ‘official’ protest organisers who don’t comply with police restrictions. However, if no-one comes forward as organisers, the police can’t do this.
The campaigner insisted:
Another anti-fascist – who attended the demo in Newquay – told the Canary how empowering it was to be part of the black bloc:
They spoke about the feeling of solidarity that they felt with the people who joined them to protest:
Finally, they emphasised the importance of getting out on the streets and confronting the fascists in person.
We need to be prepared to defend each other
This new wave of demonstrations by PA, which is hot on the heels of the group’s bigoted response to the Drag Queen Story Hour tour last year, is a challenge for our anti-racist movements.
We know from the past that if we don’t protect our identities, then we are vulnerable to being targeted by fascists. In fact, PA even targeted the Canary‘s Steve Topple online for reporting on the counter demonstration in Newquay.
Wearing a mask on demonstrations, and refusing police attempts to control us, are just some of the steps we can take, so that we are more prepared to defend ourselves and each other.
Its important to recognise that not everyone can hide their identities so easily on demonstrations. Its much harder for people of colour to stay anonymous (assuming the crowd is majority white), and it can be very difficult for people who have an easily distinguishable body shape, or physical disabilities too.
Crucially, people of colour are vulnerable to racism all the time. Not just during fascist demonstrations. And the answer to tackling fascism isn’t just to confront Patriotic Alternative when they mobilise. Its to build a strong permanent left wing and anti-racist presence in all of our communities. One that is rooted at the local level, but with connections across regions. We need to develop networks of solidarity – based on real personal connections – that can defend themselves should they need to.
Featured image via Cornwall Resists (with permission)
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