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.