Following the small hate filled racist march in Brighton came the large, happy march by the people of the city.
Fascists were massively humiliated as they bit off more than they could chew in Brighton this Sunday.
Around one and a half thousand people from the city lined the route of the racist EDL’s sea-front march to show their opposition to the Nazis.
As the one hundred and fifty members of the March for England event, mainly consisting of supporters from the English Defence League, marched along the seafront their voices were drowned out for the whole distance of the march as they were met with a wall of noise, as protesters chanted: ‘Whose streets? Our streets!’, and ‘there are many, many more of us than you.’
It was the second year in a row the fascist march was a failure for its organisers. In 2012 they had planned to march from the station around the city, but anti-fascists pushed them down a side street leaving them surrounded by a mass of their opponents on a little used area of grass between four lanes of traffic.
This year Sussex Police insisted they marched along the wide seafront road and say they spent more money on securing the event than they had on anything since the 80’s. A wall of steel was constructed in every access road to the seafront, and a fenced in iron bunker was created to house the racist rally.
Anti-fascists arriving to rally in front of Brighton Pier found they were blocked from crossing to get to it, so instead occupied the road opposite. Because of this the fascists were unable to reach their rally without first passing massed ranks of booing, chanting people who had been able to line every access point. Looking pathetic they walked past the crowd in twos and threes protected by cops.
The fascists had spent the last few months in a frenzy of activity, trying to pull support from as far afield as possible, but still only managed to attract 150.
Anti-fascists had concentrated all their efforts in the city itself, starting with a unity statement that was signed by many leading figures in the city.
At stalls across the city campaigners had constantly heard the same thing from Brighton residents: ‘racists aren’t welcome here, lets chase them out of our city.’
University of Sussex Students Union and Brighton Love Music organised a packed event, at a venue in the area of the city the fascists have often targeted because of its LGBT bars. The police had also organised for the Nazi march to be held near this area of the city, so it was important to show solidarity there.
Once the pathetic EDL march had straggled back the few hundred yards to its rally point, and their little racist show was over hundreds of Brightonians took to the street for a march through the city centre to the station. They marched along the same roads they had driven the EDL from the previous year, and where greeted by cheers and car horns as people came out of the shops to clap and to join in. the protest and march were supported by banners from Brighton University UCU, the NUT, Unison and others.
It was a day of two marches, a pathetic failed one by the EDL, and a fantastic and massive one by people of the proudly anti-fascist city of Brighton.
Some falsehoods about the March for England(MFE) event and the opposition to it have been circulated, this document is an attempt to put the record straight ahead of the event.
Not True: March for England is a group campaigning for a national holiday on St Georges Day.
Actually March for England is a far right organisation, with an anti-Asian agenda. Its leader, Dave Smeyton recently spoke at a rally alongside members of the fascist group the English Defence League (EDL), and the Essex division of the EDL has always been a major part of the march, leading it with its ‘Essex Infidels’ flag. The MfE website and Facebook page make no mention of a campaign for a national holiday, but MfE itself has recently posted an image on the Facebook page featuring Nazi imagery and a National Front slogan.
The symbol on this picture from the MfE page is an ‘Odin’s Rune’ originally used by the armed division of Hitler’s Nazi Party, and latterly by far right groups world-wide.
Not True: Moving the march from the town centre will lessen impact on local business.
The march will now be convening in an area close to the pier – one of the highest earning tourist attractions in the UK-, as well as the big wheel and other important elements of Brighton tourist trade.
Not True: Unite Against Fascism are opposed to some attending the march.
We are opposed to the march itself and the racism of the organisation behind it. We are opposed to it because of the connection of its leaders with the foundation of the EDL, and the on-going link between the two groups.
Not True: March for England includes large numbers of marchers from Brighton
MfE is a Portsmouth based organisation, with support also coming from Essex and parts of London. Possibly one member of the group is resident in Brighton. When MfE mobilised its local support to picket a recent UAF meeting in Brighton it was only able to draw eight supporters.
Not True: Last year’s March saw a ‘number of injuries’
The police issued statements twice last year stating that there had not been injuries to members of the public, once in a press release of May 17th, and again a couple of days later on the police Facebook page.
Not True: Opposition to last year’s march came from protest groups
Whilst UAF and other anti-fascism campaigners took part in last year’s protests, we had called for residents of Brighton to come and show MfE that they were out of place in our city. Over a thousand people turned out to join in, a figure the police denied last year but are now reporting. Neither UAF or any other group in Brighton could gain the support of these numbers without a groundswell of public opinion from ordinary Brightonians.
What is Unite Against Fascism?
Unite against Fascism (UAF) is a campaign group formed by a coalition of political figures, trades unions and grass roots campaigns. Originally it countered the growth of the British National party. After the formation of the English Defence League UAF identified that key members of the group were connected with the BNP and other far-right organisations, such as Combat 18 and the National Front. UAF has successfully organised local campaigns against the EDL, with the result that the fascist group has found it impossible to march or return to many city centres in the UK.
Brighton and Hove Unite Against Fascism
Brighton and Hove UAF has been active for 10 years, and for the last three years has been overseen by a steering committee that includes local trades union secretaries and reps, and leading Labour and Green Party figures in the city.
In 2010 we organised the first protest against MfE having read internal communications between the march organisers showing they were planning to use its close links with the EDL to build the Brighton march.
Last Year’s Protest
Last year despite reports in the media the protest was largely peaceful, there were three arrests – the most serious on an accusation of throwing a milk carton – but all charges were abandoned as there was no evidence to support them
Two weeks ago representatives of Brighton and Hove UAF met with representatives of Sussex Police, the meeting was at the council offices and facilitated by a council member. We formally raised a number of concerns about the plan the force had put in place to take the march along the seafront, and close to St James’ Street.
In a document that we were assured the police commander in charge of the policing of the event would see, we raised concerns about the location of the march:
‘Each time there is a far right event in Brighton we hear reports from management, staff and customers of bars in this highly sensitive area (St James’ Street). They tell us that members of MfE/EDL enter the venues in twos until they create a noisy and unwelcome mass, which is extremely intimidating to the regular clientele.
‘We are told the police have offered bars in town two options: close for the duration or hire extra security staff. Neither of these options is fair on small independently run bars that cannot afford to do either.’
We also raised concerns that trouble would occur as the marchers made their way from the station to the start of the march, and afterwards.
Making sure they don’t come back
Marches have long been a tool of far right and fascist organisations, such as Mosley’s British Union of Fascists (BUF) in the 30s and the National Front (NF) in the 70s and 80s. The purpose of these marches is two-fold, they are a show of strength and make the marchers feel powerful. They are also intended to try and divide communities. The BUF marched in areas with a Jewish population to try and trigger attacks against them and similarly the NF targeted areas with black or Asian populations. For MfE it seems the diversity of Brighton is something they would like to smash, with racist and homophobic language common amongst the group’s supporters and organisers.
The most effective defence against this attack on our community is to stand together and show that we will not be divided. The strength of opposition the racists faced last year left them downcast, they very nearly didn’t return. Their show of strength, 140 people, looked pretty weak when over 1000 showed up to heckle them. All it takes to ensure they do not come back is for the largest possible number of Brightonians to come out on Sunday and shout them out of town.
With just over a week to go until the far-right group March for England (MfE) and its fascist friends hold a march along Brighton sea-front, the determined opposition to the racist group amongst residents of the city is strong.
Many anti-fascist activists have been running stalls and passing out tens of thousands of leaflets in the city, and the feed-back from everyone living in Brighton is clear: we don’t want the far-right marchers here and they must be opposed.
On Sunday the 7th of April Brighton Love Music Hate Racism organised a packed gig, which successfully brought musicians and music fans together in opposition to the fascists. The location of the gig, in an area commonly targeted by far-right thugs with one of the highest recorded hate crime rates in the region, sent out the message we will not be scared off of our streets.
On Thursday the 11th of April a meeting organised by Unite Against Fascism was addressed by a platform of speakers including Green Councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty, Sarah Owen from the Labour party, a speaker from the NUT and Weyman Bennett the UAF joint national secretary.
The packed meeting was not deterred by a feeble attempt by fascists to protest against it. Eight supporters of the EDL, MfE and other South East based racist groups gathered on the pavement opposite the meeting room and waved flags. They were rapidly outnumbered by Brightonians who came to show opposition to them. The thugs soon scurried off, realising Brighton was not a welcoming place for racists.
Building for the protest against MfE is still going strong and this weekend large groups of anti-fascist in Brighton will be taking to the streets to hold stalls and leaflet door to door, ensuring everyone in the city who opposes racism takes part in the counter demo on the 21st.
Brighton and Hove Unite Against Fascism is encouraging everyone who hates the idea of racist thugs trying to divide our city to gather near Brighton Pier from 11am on Sunday the 21st. The MfE march is due to set off from in front of the big wheel at around mid-day.
In the build-up to the far-right march through Brighton, which takes place at the end of April, Speakers from Unite Against Fascism, the Green Party, the Labour Party and the trades union movement will address a meeting: ‘Standing together: why the far-right mustn’t divide us’.
Speaking will be Weyman Bennett, joint national secretary of Unite Against Fascism (UAF), who has been at the forefront of UAF’s action against fascist groups, including the BNP (British National Party) and EDL (English Defence League).
Another speaker will be Labour Party activist Sarah Owen who is the Labour candidate for Hastings and Rye, if elected Sarah will be the first Chinese MP elected in the UK and is a strong opponent of fascism and racism and has spoken at UAF meetings in the past.
Leading members of the Green Party took a principled stand against March for England last year joining the many others from Brighton who lined the streets to oppose the far-right. Green councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty will also be on the platform at the meeting.
Around one thousand Brighton residents turned out to show opposition to MfE’s racist march, this year Unite Against Fascism believe many more will take part, and the meeting, on April 11th , 7pm at Community Base Queens Road, will provide an opportunity for locals to come together and build opposition in the city.
March for England takes place on the 21st of April, and this year it will be marching along the seafront. Opponents will be gathering near Brighton Pier, and along the route of the march from 11am.
A Facebook event page for the meeting is here: http://www.facebook.com/events/352845734826578/