As far-right fascists rampage through London, the establishment’s emboldening them further

Far-right protesters in Westminster on 13 June
Afroze Fatima Zaidi

On 13 June, hoards of angry far-right protesters stormed through central London, allegedly to protect statues and monuments from Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists. The marches quickly descended into disorder, with video footage emerging of white men behaving violently, and kicking and throwing punches at the police. Journalists were also reportedly attacked. But the response from police and the establishment to their violence has likely emboldened them even further.

‘A two-tier system based on race’

Large crowds of white men were recorded marching, swearing, and making Nazi salutes. Video footage showed violent scuffles between a group of white men and the police in Parliament Square.

Yet reports emerged of Met Police “indiscriminately” arresting Black men in the evening on 13 June:

We have of course known for a while that the standards of policing and justice that apply to People of Colour don’t apply to white people. As academic Tarek Younis commented:

Footballer Gary Lineker similarly pointed out the double standard in how Saturday’s protests were being dealt with:

Kevin Blowe, coordinator of police monitoring organisation Netpol told The Canary:

The police have reported around 100 arrests yesterday at what was self-evidently a white supremacist riot, but that number may rise.

Early indications from groups providing legal support have also, however, documented between 30-40 mainly young black people, including bystanders, swept up in a wave of arrests in the early evening. They were taken to police stations across London and released in the middle of the night.

While Met Police’s statement mentions “more than 100” arrests, there’s no breakdown of how many of these were Black people. And given the thousands of far-right supporters who turned up to protest in London, if 30-40 of the arrests made were of Black people, this figure appears to be disproportionately high.

A space for fascism

Perhaps more disturbing than the marches themselves is the legitimacy that they’ve been given by the press and certain influential bodies. Apart from the far-right being benignly referred to as ‘counter-protesters’, the Metro initially called them “anti-antifascists”. It later changed this to “far right protesters”.

Moreover, a journalist at the Telegraph decided to video record and amplify a speech from Britain First leader Paul Golding. This is the same man who was found guilty under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act on 20 May. Yet he’s seen speaking freely in public without any police in sight.

And in a statement released on 13 June, Met Police claimed to “understand why people want to express their concerns”, again implicitly legitimising fascist agendas.

Real weak opposition

Meanwhile, despite Nazi salutes and the far-right presence, opposition leader Keir Starmer couldn’t bring himself to describe the ‘counter-protesters’ as fascist or racist:

It’s really saying something that Starmer couldn’t bring himself to call these groups racist, when even Boris Johnson, with his well-established record of racism, managed to do so. What’s worse, the arrests, which we’re seeing disproportionately affect Black people in real-time, are going to be fast-tracked by the government with support from Starmer.

Someone really ought to tell him that tweeting #BlackLivesMatter and ‘taking the knee’ counts for very little when he can neither effectively address the anti-Blackness in his own party, nor oppose a policy such as fast-tracking of arrests which could disproportionately harm Black people.

If not now, when?

Despite the official BLM protest being called off in Hyde Park, BLM demos still took place in parts of central London. The movement has brought to the forefront the prevalence of racist and fascist views in Britain. The scale of the fascist far-right protests, combined with the behaviour of the police, only serves to reinforce why the Black Lives Matter movement is more important than ever.

Featured image via Twitter/ Jamie Roberts

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  • Show Comments
    1. I noticed one Nazi who passed beyond a barrier to confront a police officer looked like he’d picked out a police woman to challenge.

      The problem is these racists are organised. They have learned from their tribal battles over football teams where in a town are good places to gather; how to use local features to move from the station to the ground, where to ambush their targets and how to evade the police. It might not be sophisticated but it’s good enough for inflicting harm. And they have nationwide contacts with people they fight against over football but fight alongside when they share a common hate.

    2. BLM marchers have to learn a lesson.

      When BAME marching was about saving BAME lives, and about political demands for radical changes to institutionalised racism in UK policing or allocation of PPE by NHS management and about challenging ‘austerity’ and ‘small state’ ideology for victimising all of society’s undervalued people with racism making BAME doubly oppressed, no mainstream UK politician or media figure or business leader or public servant had any grounds for defending their record. BLM had moral high ground and political leverage.

      Then marchers vandalised street furniture and that was used by Far Right to make this a ‘culture war’ – read my comments dated 04/06/2020 -it was obvious then what the racist strategy would be. Arguments about bits of metal or similar dead stuff became the focus of public debate – not dead BAME people. I wrote at the time that focus on relative trivia would derail the struggle. And it has. Yes, I want rid of racist monuments but compared with effective action on policing, health, housing, poverty, and saving lives reforming our ‘art’ is not top of my list.

      BLM UK have got to be smarter than they have been so far. Leaders have to anticipate the strategy and tactics of the FarRight, of the government, of MSM, of ‘the establishment’ and be several chess moves ahead – not playing catch up.

      One obvious hazzard is ‘agent provocateurs’. It is possible statues were brought down or vandalised by well-meaning but naive marchers. It is also possible it was orchestrated by provocateurs. The results certainly helped FarRight racists more than BLM but the main gainers were the police and Johnson’s government who could use this ‘vandalism’ to shift the focus from their own failings to talk about e.g. ‘what we owe Churchill or Baden Powell’ and other dog-whistle sops to ‘English exceptionalism’. The old switch – you call us racists but we are just being ‘English’.

      As for weekend violence by FarRight racist gangs – I strongly suspect that, although the gang members look for violent conflict and are responsible for their choices, we need to ask cui bono? And the upshot of their behaviour was that it enabled police to crack down and arrest the FarRight’s prominent street activists (plus a few BAME by-standers as smokescreen to conceal what was going on). That neuters the FarRight – there are so few racists willing to openly demonstrate their hate that banging up a percentage is a big defeat for their ability to disrupt future events by BLM or others (e.g. Extinction Rebellion or other summer protests likely to come along). That plays to the advantage of BLM, up to a point. But the main winners of the weekend are the police and Johnson. I would not be surprised if the worst violence was not provoked by undercover police or anti-terrorism officers – agent provocateurs helping the status quo against the FarRight by tricking the worst thugs into getting arrested and giving Johnson a chance to denounce FarRight racists and pretend he represents an ‘Englishness’ that is not racist but an exception to any accusation BAME (or EU or anyone else) wants to make.

      If BLM UK wants to regain control of the agenda, then they have to criticise the pretended difference between being ‘racist’ and being ‘culturally English’ (which assumes a white ethnicity for ‘Englishness’ yet pretends this is not a racist identity). Johnson/Cummings are trying to evade criticism or any commitment to redress wrongs by exploiting ‘Englishness’ to ‘gaslight’ critics. BLM must challenge the toxic FarRight discourse about ‘England’ and the lie that England is self-evidently, ‘naturally’ ‘white’ and BAME issues are therefore just external, exotic, irrelevances that no one has to deal with. We know this rhetoric – it was used to marginalise gay rights and disabled rights. BLM has to challenge attempts to block thought by claiming some contentious issue is beyond criticism because it is natural or common sense.

      Since BLM UK got dragged into ‘culture wars’ there has to be a debate about ‘Englishness’. But this must not take the place of political changes, and seeking practical outcomes that save lives.

    3. The fascists have always been the tories “street militia”; they iused the same tactics in Northern Ireland when they used protestant mobs to attack nationalist gatherings; it’s called Playing the Orange Card.

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