Tommy Robinson’s fans again descended on London last week, calling for their coked up “crusader” to be freed because he’s simply a “journalist”. An antifascist demonstration, organised by LAFA and supported by AFN, Plan C and over 25 other groups came out to oppose them.
Tommy Robinson’s fanboys, after a period of quiet, descended on the streets of central London in response to his conviction for jeopardising the trials of Grooming gangs. Their demo, whilst reminiscent of last summer in terms of aesthetics and rhetoric, was far, far smaller than those of last year. The Free Tommy movement has taken blows over the past year, with defections from high profile allies like Lucy Brown (who accused him of spending all his money on coke), and his various pathetic antics perhaps leading to some of his fans getting fed up. 1000 riled up racists on the streets of central London is however, 1000 too many. Their activities on the day included harassing Sudanese socialists (who were supported by RS21), harassing people of colour, including bus drivers, and attacking an anti-hunt demo that was also in Central the same time because they confused them for antifascists. Clearly, despite the headway that has been made since last summer, there is a long way to go.
Anti-fascists came out to oppose the Tomcods in around similar numbers. The day started with people arriving at the rally point, and it was obvious from the start that the cops, perhaps riled up by XR, perhaps sick of not having the upper hand over antifascists in central London, would not give us the free reign they gifted the fash. Most of the day consisted of attempting to follow the fascist demo and block it, and although this was not a concerted victory like that of October of last year, the fascists that were encountered for much of the march either ran off or were kettled by police. Near to their rally point, a few of them attempted to harass our demo from a bush, which resulted in them simply having a “don’t tread on me” and USA flag snatched, burned, and needless to say, trodden on by many.
Eventually, upon reaching their rally point, it seemed as though their demo was near its end. Some of us assumed that maybe that would be it – both sides had shown a fair amount of mutual hostility but maybe they would realise their movement is not what is was and bugger off. Needless to say, this wasn’t to be. The cops, getting fed up of us (despite us being nowhere near as aggro as the opposition) attempted to push us into a “designated protest area”. Eventually, after not trying very hard a few times, they managed to get most of the stand up to racism demo and a few others into this pen. Perhaps their idea, stupidly, was to allow the fash to march past us whilst we were trapped in said pen. Utterly contradicting themselves, they then proceeded to block most of the LAFA and AFN contingent in front of the “designated area” snatching and breaking flags as they did so.
Then, someone shouted “fash”. The cops dashed off to save the assembled Stand Up to Racism sacrifices and some of the fash got fairly near them before the TSG got in their way. Of course, all of this could have easily been avoided had the police just let us leave, but with the Met’s history of mass arrests of antifascists and forcing school kids to burn their own homework on anti-austerity demos, this is hardly surprising. All the while, they kept the bloc kettled. The fash now surrounded us, it was totally unsafe to leave for around forty-five minutes. The cops eventually let the bloc disassemble and it marched off to disperse elsewhere.
The fash, however, were far from done. Whilst we were kettled, their attempted attack on our demo was only the beginning of their onslaught in Central London. 50 strong squads of the usual suspects – DFLA, Pie and Mash and aged head-hunters roamed around, making it unsafe to leave the antifascist demo for ages. Their demo marched past the BBC, where they shouted pedos (feeding off the Qanon conspiracy theory), harassed people of colour in their cars and a bus driver because he looked Muslim, then marched off to Downing Street to vent their grievances at the elite who have so harshly imprisoned their beloved race baiter, fighting against the police the entire time.
The anti-fascist presence in London, whilst leaving a lot to be desired in terms of numbers, was militant, mostly joyful (until the police decided they didn’t like that), and compared to last summer, successful. Whilst the Tommy Demo was not decisively blocked or stopped, the work that groups like Feminist Anti-Fascist assembly, LAFA, AFN and Plan C as well as all the other groups involved in the organising and supporting of this demo is beginning to pay off – the Tommy movement is a shadow of its former self, and this is in part due to the dedicated work of anti-fascists. The solid victory on October the thirteenth and the outnumbering of the Brexit Betrayal March as well as Tommy and UKIP’s separate, but equally disastrous European election campaigns illuminate the cracks in the movement Tommy held together last summer. The fact that these campaigns were separate indicates that cracks are present in the movement – UKIP is distancing itself from Tommy, and the failures of these campaigns and the drop of numbers in demos shows that not only is it nigh on impossible for the far right to win localised elections, its support nationally is also beginning to dwindle. Tommy and UKIP, despite an attempt at electoral politics, are not the same beast as the BNP, who spent years attempting to integrate into and do outreach in communities.
Both the antifascists and the fash, perhaps, suffered from the fact that this demo was held at the height of summer, but the excuses of the far right that most of them were “on holiday” amounts to little – the demos last year were held in July. If anything, it means that at the next demo they hold, they could be outnumbered by anti-fascists. Like the EDL before it, the Free Tommy movement has felt the strain of anti-fascist organising, and although this has not been the only factor contributing to either movement’s decline, the constant pressure of anti-fascist activity has a historical precedent of taking its toll on far- right movements. Essentially, the pressure has to be kept up – the far-right need to be shown they are not welcome wherever they go.
On Stand Up to Racism
Ever chasing clout, Stand up to Racism (a front group commonly known to be run by the SWP) changed their rallying point twice to make it look like the LAFA demo was theirs. Minus the shoving of the December demo between militants and swappies, the atmosphere between the 2 demos was frosty for most of the day. SUTR had an irritating habit of piping up with their shit chants about “every street” being “antifascist” every time the LAFA demo chanted, and being near the back this was tiresome. SUTR, it seems, have decided that they enjoy making politics fucking boring.
However, despite attempts by AFN and LAFA to (rightly) distance themselves from SUTR, and the latter’s extreme clout chasing, they stayed with the LAFA demo throughout. They did not, this time, leave LAFA in the lurch, and when the fash attempted to flank us and the position of the demo was inverted they were some of the first to confront the fascists. Some of them began to noisily berate the police for being aggressive and for being shoved.
Stand up to Racism, of course, is an extremely untrustworthy organisation but their behaviour on Saturday actually approached something near solidarity. Their numbers bolstered the demo, and conversations need to be had about our attitude to them. It does not seem like we can be rid of them, and it’s possible that without them there the day would have gone far worse (due to the smaller numbers). Their behaviour, though probably self-serving, is an interesting development.
On the Police
Disproportionate policing was one of the biggest challenges on this demo. At the start of the demo, the police stood right in the middle. They closely followed the demo at every turn, and as the antifascist demo arrived at the fascist’s rally point, the cops kettled the LAFA demo, endangering most of the SUTR demo and others that the cops had scared into the pen by threatening them with arrest. The TSG had to charge the fash to stop them attacking the penned in antifascists – a display of utter incompetence.
On the other hand, despite the fact that the police had to keep their batons drawn around the fascists for a large portion of the day, they allowed the fascist demo free reign to attack multiple people and other demos going on in Central London that day. They also allowed the fash near to Downing Street. The police arrested twenty-four people on the free tommy demo and none of the antifascists; here, we can see a clear example of the police’s biases in the fact that they policed the counter-demo far more heavily than the extremely violent racist demonstration.
On the Free Tommy Movement and lessons from the day
The Free Tommy Movement is a shadow of its former self, but antifascists need to take the initiative and make sure that at the next mobilisation, the fash are heavily outnumbered. Utter humiliation like this is the best way to make sure that they think twice about organising demos in the first place. The Free Tommy movement has, like the EDL before it, been reduced to a committed, albeit extremely violent core group of true believers. This has been the pattern with the National Front, the BNP (before its turn to electoral turn) and the EDL. The latter split of into violent, explicitly neo-Nazi formations like the North west infidels who idolise combat 18 and held demos in conjunction with National Action. This means that, although the Tommy movement has been weakened, what is left is an extremely violent, explicitly racist core that will continue on this path, even long after Tommy has abandoned them and moved onto something else (this is what happened with the infidels). This can already be seen by not just the toleration of Generation Identity on these demonstrations, but the outright endorsement of them by flying their flag on stage. Generation Identity UK has been reprimanded by their European parent organisation for organising with explicit Neo-Nazis – a good example of how the far right may not be at its all time full strength, but its politics are getting more extreme.
Whilst there are positives to take from the third, antifascists should also keep in mind that the Free Tommy movement has extremely wealthy backers (that paid for things like the massive screen). The fact is, 1000 angry racists that cheer GI flags and attack anything/anyone that looks vaguely Islamic in broad daylight on the streets of Central London is fucking terrifying. The fact that anti-fascists could not stop them from doing this is even more scary. At this time, we should be anything but complacent, and antifascists should begin organising for the next counter-protest as soon as possible. Trade Union should be approached, and everyone should be trying to persuade all of your lefty friends to come to these demos. The heavy lifting can’t be left to militant anti-fascists anymore – we need to create a vibrant, diverse anti-fascist movement as soon as possible. Hopefully, Saturday the third of August was the beginning of that process.