Report by London and Southern supporters of Marxist World
Immediately following the shocking attack by lone wolf Islamist Khalid Masood on the 22nd March, far-right groups Britain First and English Defence League (EDL) called a national demonstration on 1st April “against radical Islamic terrorism”, hoping to capitalise on anti-Muslim sentiment. The fascists cynically exploited the victims of the Westminster attack in their propaganda videos and apparently had “2,700 patriots confirmed” on social media to attend the demonstration. They must have been severely disappointed when only a few hundred, at best, turned up.
After the demonstration was announced, several left-wing and anti-racist groups announced their intention to either protest the march or attempt to prevent it from happening in the first place. The London Antifascists (antifa) put out this militant statement on Facebook:
London Anti-fascists are calling a demonstration to support calls to oppose both Britain First and the English Defence League (EDL) who have called demos on April 1st in London in light of the recent attack in Westminster.
The far right will use the attack to fuel their anti-Muslim and anti-migrant racist propaganda. We must stand together and not let them divide us!
We encourage all our supporters to take up the slogan “They shall not pass!” and crush the fascists’ attempt to cynically grow off the death of ordinary Londoners. We stand with any and all anti-fascists who want to see fascism defeated by any means necessary.
Block the streets, they will not pass.
It was this call that supporters of Marxist World responded to, ignoring the designated ‘protest space’ that the police were imposing at Victoria Embankment, which would have insured we were penned in under tight guard and unable to get near the fascists.
We started the day meeting up with other anti-fascist militants around Trafalgar Square. The trade-union based anti-fascist organisation Unite Against Fascism (UAF) were also out in force and drew a big following for the counter-demonstration.
At this initial rally point, Marxist World supporters placed ourselves firmly within the antifa section, their red and black flags acting as a beacon to unite revolutionary anarchists and communists. This also seemed entirely natural and appropriate for us, given the great impression antifa members made on Marxist World supporters following the principled united front action we took together in an anti-EDL protest last year in High Wycombe.
Later on near the rally point, Tommy Robinson, former leader of the EDL, attempted to conduct an interview. He was spotted and confronted by anti-fascists and had to very quickly make a hasty retreat, relying on police protection.
After much police harassment and pushing and shoving down Whitehall, we were then forced to move on by police to the aforementioned ‘designated protest area’. At this point, the police became very aggressive in a militant organised fashion, and only the vigilance of fellow protesters and comrades prevented anyone from getting seriously hurt.
Along the way we saw some separate groups of fascists, including a few drunkards outside the Lord Moon of the Mall waving the St George Flag. Police reinforcements were called in to protect the scum from the crowd that began to surge. The fascists were completely outnumbered but the police presence meant that self-restraint was necessary to avoid needlessly getting arrested. Unfortunately, some protesters were arrested at this point by police swooping in and grabbing isolated individuals, highlighting the need to stick together and link arms if necessary.
Having been driven from Trafalgar Square – where we could have been in a position to block the fascists marching – a layer of protesters began to drop out, no doubt disappointed or frustrated, while others were driven off by the degree of force shown by the police which apparently was a genuine shock to some newer activists who had only experienced softer police tactics before.
Eventually those several hundred who were left were turned down Horse Guards Avenue and arrived at Victoria Embankment, greeted by a line of police and iron railings. Although we could see the Britain First static demo and their assortment of flags, two police cordons and several hundred yards separated us, making any sort of confrontation impossible. An assortment of slogans were chanted as the UAF spokespeople controlled the megaphone. Our comrades successfully raised some class-based slogans such as “the workers united will never be defeated” which were taken up by the crowd.
We noted that the EDL and Britain First refused to work together and held separate marches and static demonstrations. This sectarianism amongst the far-right stood in sharp contrast to the various socialist and anarchist organisations and individuals that worked together, or at least marched together for the counter-demonstration, despite political differences.
While the main objective for ourselves and the radical anti-fascist mobilisation to prevent the march was not successful, we none the less understood the need maintain a strong show of solidarity with our class and the oppressed minorities these fascist scum target. For this reason we waited out the remainder of the event, solid in our commitment that the fascists would not have the satisfaction of seeing us leave first.
After the fascists’ miserable turnout, many went back to their caves without much of a whimper. Britain First were victims of their own hype. Clearly they expected the first post-Brexit Islamist attack to act as the green light for a new wave of far-right revival. If anything, it proved the exact opposite.
Whilst we should not be complacent, the demo was a clear failure for the far-right and highlighted their internal divisions. We also forged stronger links with antifa militants and revolutionaries committed to defeating fascism by any means necessary. On this April Fool’s Day, the joke was very much on the fash.