Tens of thousands are gathering today to protest Trump and his racist and misogynist policies. However, protesting Trump is not enough. We need to fight the reactionary forces in our country, whether that’s the Home Office’s hostile environment or the growing #freetommy movement.
America’s Hostile Environment
The British public have been rightly horrified by the avalanche of racist, sexist and anti-worker policies and statements coming from Trump and his administration. In recent weeks the world has been shocked by the outrageous images of migrant children separated from their parents and held in cages by border patrol agents, a wilfully cruel policy. The Department for Homeland Security, including ICE and Border Patrol, has long adopted abusive practices towards migrants, under Trump those abuses have been heightened and weaponised. ICE is creating a “climate of fear” in migrant communities, last year ICE acting director Thomas Homan spoke directly to migrants – “you should look over your shoulder, and you need to be worried.”
For this reason, and countless more, people from around the country will be marching and protesting on the 13th of July to show their opposition to Trump and make their voices heard. The next day, Saturday 14th of July, antifascist and community groups will be marching as well, this time against the far-right street movement coalescing around ex-BNP member and former leader of the EDL, Tommy Robinson.
New media same as the old
Since leaving the EDL, Robinson has styled himself as an anti-media citizen journalist, riding the wave of popular altright personalities that have found fame on social media. In Youtube videos and Twitter posts he has decried the mainstream media for ‘covering up’ the crimes of migrants and other minority groups in the name of ‘political correctness’. His anti-establishment message has been effective and has garnered hundreds of thousands of social media followers.
Anti-establishment presentation aside, Robinson’s stated positions are stunningly conventional. The right wing press have been denouncing political correctness for years and have engaged in islamophobia and migrant bashing for even longer. The BBC has heavily promoted the soft nationalism of UKIP and recently commemorated Enoch Powell’s rivers of blood speech by having it read out in full by a sympathetic actor. On the specific issue of grooming gangs, a review of major newspapers found an over-representation of cases involving South Asian perpetrators.
To be sure, Robinson differs from the mainstream media in his willingness to promote figures in the extreme neo-fascist right. But his new media career would not have been possible were it not for the groundwork laid by the likes of the Sun or the Daily Mail.
Contempt of court as movement building
The recent imprisonment of Robinson, for contempt of court, has given the the nascent far-right ‘free speech’ movement the martyr it was searching for. Unlike Lauren Southern and Martin Sellner, previously banned from the UK, Robinson has a profile that transcends the far-right and finds a footing in a broader section of society. The Day for Freedom, which championed the causes of Southern and Sellner attracted around 5000 attendees. June’s #freetommy demonstration pulled 15,000. The size of the crowds has caught the left by surprise and has led to some panicked reactions. Whilst the threat of the far-right should be taken seriously, we need to take a realistic approach to assessing its composition, narratives and structures in order to develop new strategies to counter it.
What you can do
This first thing you can do is attend the 14th July counter-demonstration organised by a coalition of antifascist and community groups. In the past few months, anti-fascists have found themselves outnumbered by the far-right and this has only served to excite groups like the DFLA. This is worrying because opposing fascism is everybody’s responsibility, not just that of activists. A large, well defended, counter-protest will necessarily dampen the far-right’s willingness and ability to act against the left or minority groups. The demise of the far-right is a long way off, so ahead of future demonstrations you can mobilise in a variety of settings: in Momentum groups and trade union branches, but also amongst your friends and in your workplaces. Fighting fascism is for everybody, and the left should no longer rely solely on specialist groups to do the work.