The fascists assembled at the Railway Tavern, a pub opposite Brighton station. There were police from Hampshire, Surrey and the Met., in addition to those from Sussex. We estimate that at least 1,000 police were deployed to ensure that less than 100 fascists were able to march through Brighton.
It was billed as a ‘family day out’ but there weren’t many families present. Mainly overweight pot-bellied men, with a few women for the sake of appearances. It was to celebrate St. George’s Day though they didn’t manage that either.
What was most noticeable, even to the most innocent and naïve, was the blatant police bias. Forget New Labour and its police protecting communities nonsense, here we saw the state in all its glory. Police turned a blind eye to racist and provocative chanting from the fascists, including anti-gay insults (despite the presence of a few token rainbow coloured banners – yes gays can also be fascists) but arrested mainly anti-fascists for the usual breaches of public order and what were deemed ‘offensive’ remarks directed towards the said fascists.
Indeed the police were remarkable in their consistent hostility to the anti-fascists who they regularly tried to kettle and confine. At one point the police were told to ‘face the enemy’ and immediately turned to look at us. When we pointed out that this confirmed everything we had been saying they excused themselves by saying it was merely an operational command – but it accurately reflected what happened on the day.
The only thing missing was the Zionist flag of Israel. Unsurprisingly there were no Zionist Jews amongst the counterdemonstrators, given the close working links between the Zionist Federation and the fascists nationally. There was however a good turnout from local Palestine solidarity activists, thus giving the lie to the accusation that anti-Semitism = anti-Zionism.
Anti-fascists must however draw some political conclusions from what happened. The first is that the SWP front, United Against Fascism, is incapable of leading or organising any serious anti-fascist response. Despite calling an open meeting a week ago, they ignored the agreement for a stewards group. Many anarchists confined themselves to ensuring the security of the local Cowley club, though to be fair there were many anarchists amongst the counter-demonstrators.
Marching through Brighton must have been a humiliating experience, even for the thickest bone-head. There was next to no support for the fascists and lots of abuse directed at them by people on the street, with special mention to customers who came out to shout from the local Burger King.
The main chant from the fascists was ‘It’s Our England’ which would be amusing but for its crass stupidity. None of these no hopers owns more than a tiny fragment, if that, of ‘our England’. The wealth of Britain is owned by a network of interconnected families and Directors, many of whom aren’t even domiciled in Britain. Instead the EDL are imbeciles for the ruling class and capitalists who do actually own England, the proto-SA of the future.
At a time of mass unemployment and recession the fascists chanted ‘get a job’ and ‘we pay your benefits’. Presumably they were unaware of small things like NHS cuts and bankers’ bonuses.
At the moment the EDL has next to no presence in Brighton and Hove. Most of their supporters were shipped in from places like Southampton with a banner from the Essex Infidels. Brighton, with its tolerant multi-cultural atmosphere and its large and openly gay community is not fertile ground for fascism.
However next year serious though needs to be given as to how to stop the march in its tracks. UAF are not interested in anything but token opposition and played a large part in boosting a home grown initiative last year. Serious anti-fascism is no longer the preserve of the SWP and what is needed is a united anti-fascist group comprising all political groups on the left, anarchists and independents, whose aim is to ensure that fascism does not have a free pass in Brighton.
Postcript – Today’s Argus reports that 350 Police were mobilised. We should take this with a pinch of salt. The Police demonstrate their bias when they claim there were 100 demonstrators and 200 fascists. I went to the start of the fascist march and there were under 100 people whereas we had people out throughout the town and there were, at a minimum 300 anti-fascists. Who says the Police are unbiased?