The far-right have increased their anti-refugee activity – but what of the left’s response?

Anti-refugee protest by the far-right in Dover
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The far-right mobilised at least five anti-refugee protests in the past week. Fortunately, they were met by anti-fascist resistance at most of them. However, one of the demonstrations clearly showed the tactics that groups like Patriotic Alternative use to infiltrate local communities. It also served as a lesson in what anti-fascists should not be doing.

The far-right: posing as “locals”?

As the Canary previously reported, on Saturday 25 February far-right anti-refugee protests took place in Newquay and Skegness. Now, fascists have upped the ante.

On Monday 27 February, an anti-refugee demo took place in Kegworth, Leicestershire. Here, the Home Office is housing refugees in a local hotel. The media reported that a local resident organised this demo. However, left-wing groups disputed the claim on social media, with some saying the far-right had organised it:

However, other groups said the far-right infiltrated the protest:

Anti-racism protesters came out and were trying to persuade any local residents to think again about their opinions:

The far-right also gathered on Friday 3 March in Bangor, in the North of Ireland:

Then come the weekend, at least two far-right protests took place on Saturday 4 March. One was in Dover, where around 100 fascists came out, but they were countered by anti-fascists:

Predictably, some on the far-right were claiming the protest was organised by “residents”. But a quick scan of social media shows this wasn’t the case – with far-right groups from Portsmouth and as far away as Yorkshire represented. Images online show some of the fascists doing Nazi salutes after the protest. However, anti-fascists mobilised well, with various groups like Stand Up To Racism, Care 4 Calais, and Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) coming out.

It was a similar story in Carlisle on 4 March. The organised far-right were out protesting about refugees, while claiming it was locals marching – and anti-fascists were there to stand up to them:

Infiltrating communities and exploiting racist sentiment

Then, on Sunday 5 March, fascist group Patriotic Alternative mobilised in Erskine, Scotland. Again, the protest was about the Home Office housing refugees in hotels. As the Morning Star reported, the group was:

led on the site by the ex-British National Party activist Simon Crane, [and] were accompanied by a handful of local residents after it characterised the refugees in the hotel as “200 fight-age men” on social media.

What the Morning Star crucially noted, though, was just how groups like Patriotic Alternative infiltrate local protests and feed racist sentiment:

Local residents on both sides began a dialogue about their mutual concerns during the gatherings, discussing worries about local housing, education and service provision.

As dialogue broke out, it was interrupted and shouted over by PA members… PA activists began to make their way to their cars when the meeting in the middle took place.

The point being that this age-old tactic from the far-right doesn’t change – except in the age of social media, fascists have another platform to promote their agendas. The far-right exploits the fact that the UK is inherently racist and colonialist, in an attempt to turn protests into violence.

Refugees welcome – but the left must involve themselves in communities, too

Meanwhile, anti-racists are trying to build constructive dialogues with locals:

This is not the end of the far-right marches either. One is happening in Staffordshire on Saturday 11 March, with a counter-protest set to take place:

Fascists also have trans people in their sights on 11 March. Another anti-Drag Queen Story Time protest will be countered by anti-fascists:

Getting on the streets and opposing the far-right is crucial, wherever they mobilise in the UK. However, it is also important that left-wing activists don’t just bus themselves in, wave some placards, and then walk away again. There needs to be engagement with local communities at the grassroots.

Local residents need to see that there’s an alternative to the fascist rhetoric of groups like Patriotic Alternative. This will only happen if anti-racists involve themselves in local communities. Otherwise, busloads of left-wingers descending on communities is hardly likely to create lasting change – and will only end up weakening anti-fascist arguments.

Featured image via Stand Up To Racism – screengrab

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