Statement re: Steve Hedley

Steve Hedley, a senior figure in the RMT union, recently attended a picket in Leeds which had credible far-right threats against it, and which Leeds AFN also attended in solidarity with striking workers. Steve’s continued organising presence raises concerns that we want to address publicly.

In 2013 Steve was accused of domestic violence by his ex-partner Caroline Lenegham, a RMT rep. Caroline released a statement with photographs of the injuries inflicted on her. Steve’s response was to deny this, implying Caroline’s ‘mental illness’ was to blame. This is a common response by abusers when their victims speak out or seek help, and besides being an obvious attempt to deflect, also stigmatises those with mental health problems, and victims of abuse.

An internal RMT investigation led by Steve’s boss Mike Cash was said to have cleared Steve, however given the victim-blaming and hostility of Steve Hedley and Mike Cash, along with the clear unwillingness to deal with abuse and violence amongst some on the wider left – see the SWP, for instance – we have serious concerns regarding this investigation. And it should not have to be said, given the poor track record of the police with regards to domestic abuse, that we do not believe that falling foul of legal timeframes for submission of complaints clears Steve of wrongdoing.

At Leeds Anti-Fascist Network we support working class struggles such as that of the RMT rank and file in their strike against the removal of train guards, however we cannot extend our support to Steve Hedley while we believe there are still serious unanswered questions with regard to Caroline’s case. As Feminists and Anti-Fascists we stand in solidarity with Caroline and all victims of domestic violence. We believe the only way the left will build an effective movement against Fascism and the Far-Right is if we properly engage with the issue of domestic violence and abuse instead of dismissing it, and recognise crucially that abusers in workers’ organisations should be dealt with appropriately, not shielded from the consequences of their actions.

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So-called ‘Yellow Vest’ protest just another front for the far-right

In an attempt to lend a new facade to their usual message of ultra-nationalism, racism and anti-migrant sentiment and emboldened by the discourse around Brexit, the British far-right has recently sought to exploit the success of the French ‘Yellow Vests’ (‘gillets-jaunes’) movement for their own interests.

Whilst far-right ‘Yellow Vests’ pretend to champion the interests of the working class, this month in Manchester they attacked a picket of the Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) (a pro-Brexit union, mind you) for being “lefties”. Leeds ‘Yellow Vests’, led by Antifa Public Watch 2 and Lee Scheres/Baylan, called a demonstration on Saturday the 19th of January to fight “globalism” (a term with a long history in antisemitism) and to demand stronger borders and the prioritization of British citizens over others, amongst other racist and nationalist demands. This coincided again with the RMT’s Saturday morning picket at Leeds train station.

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Our banner: Doing what it says on the tin.

Leeds Anti-Fascist Network mobilised, and on Saturday morning joined around 100 people standing in solidarity on the RMT picket line. Twice, members of APW2 showed up to accost and harass the picketers and activists. As the picket ended, we took the fight to them, confronting the far-right outside the Regent Inn where they were meeting prior to their protest. With Lee and friends spitting out their dummies over our presence and doing their best to get nicked, we made our way to their intended rally point at the BBC. Joined by a coalition of trade-unionists and anti-racist activists we were able to occupy it.

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Members of the so-called ‘Yellow Vest’ protest giving sieg-heil Nazi salutes, and displaying the flag of the neo-Nazi British Movement

Unable to gather at their meeting point, the ‘Yellow Vests’ were turned back in streams, and only upon regrouping blocked the intersection between Duke street and York street. After this they attempted again to reach their rallying point, but we continued to hold it and a stand-off outside the BBC ensued. ‘Yellow Vests’ displayed various fascist symbols, such as a flag from the Neo-Nazi British Movement ñ and performed ‘sieg-heil’ Nazi salutes, leaving no doubt about the fascist politics of those involved. As if things were not sinister enough, police then attacked the anti-fascist rally, drawing their batons and snatching two of our supporters without warning under draconian dispersal orders. Simultaneously a fascist had managed to exploit the disarray to wade into the crowd, throwing punches against those at the back of the group, unrestrained by the police who continued to try and break up the anti-fascist protest. The far-right then marched towards the Headrow with their attempts to reclaim their rallying point successfully frustrated, despite their aggression and vitriol.

The collective determination and courage of anti-fascists on the day withstood the violence of the far-right (and that of the police), ensuring their bigotry did not reign in the streets – in spite of their disgusting attempts to attack and intimidate members of the public and shopkeepers. Faced with the global rise of the far-right we must remain as vigilant as ever and confront their vicious threats to the labour movement, minorities and the left.

Leeds Anti-Fascist Network stands in solidarity with the journalists, shopkeepers and activists who have been intimidated and harassed by Antifa Public Watch 2 and the so-called ëYellow Vestsí in both the run up to and the course of the demonstration. We are determined to keep Leeds fascist free, and will continue fighting for justice in our communities.

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Leeds AFN Supports the RMT picketers and opposes the far-right “yellow vests”

RMT Picket, Leeds Train Station, 09:00am – bring a scarf, it will be cold!

Attacks on the Left, the Labour Movement, minorities and alternative spaces are part of the DNA of fascism and that is nothing new.

screen shot 2019-01-06 at 16.18.26Last week, members of Britain First and EDL, attending UK far-right’s supposed ‘yellow vest’ movement in Manchester racially abused, harassed and attempted to intimidate pickets from the RMT Union. This follows last year’s attack on a number of RMT activists and officials.

While the ‘Gilets Jaunes’ in France is a radical mass social movement fighting for improvements in people’s living standards, the Manchester ‘yellow vest’ protest was just 50 of the same old fascist dregs in the UK. Rather than challenge the rich and powerful, the boot boys for the capitalist class, the far-right seek to attack working class organizations and spread their politics of fear and bigotry, as shown by their actions on that day.

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In face of these threats there is a solidarity mobilisation supporting the RMT in their ongoing strike at Leeds Train Station on Saturday 19th January from 9am.

RMT Pickets will be from 8-11 around the entrances to the Station and we encourage you to join us in support for RMT’s ongoing strike action in Leeds.

Leeds Anti-Fascist Network is also calling on all anti-fascists to oppose the ‘Yellow Vest’ protest in Leeds scheduled for 12 noon in Leeds City Centre on the same day.

If the Left does not challenge the right, that can only mean that they grow in confidence and that has serious potential of real physical harm. We need your support – come by if you can and please share this call to action!

Please follow our updates during the day with the hashtag #lafndayout, share the Facebook event, like and share our page – and stay safe!

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Anti-Fascist means Anti-Imperialist

Today in York there is a march calling for Justice for Northern Ireland veterans. This has been organised by former soldiers with support from UKIP, the DFLA and other right wing organisations. As anti-fascists we need to recognise the need to be anti-imperialist and be clear in not supporting the armed wing of the British state.

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Mural in Response to Ballymurphy

I feel at this point I should give some background to this opposition as I generally find that English people are naïve and uniformed around the political situation in the north of Ireland. The British military has been in Ireland since the 1100s, but for the purposes of this article the last 50/100 years are the most relevant (you can find a slightly more detailed background here). In 1922 the new state in the north of Ireland was given a curtailed version of Home Rule, which actively discriminated against those from a Catholic background. It pitted sections of the working class against each other on the basis of religion and set up the B Specials, a sort of protestant militia.

The British army were officially sent to the north of Ireland in 1969. The two most defining moments of why we should oppose this ‘march for justice’ happened in 1971 and 1972 with the Ballymurphy Massacre and Bloody Sunday respectively. In both these events the army gunned down innocent civilians. The Saville enquiry found the shootings at the peaceful civil rights protest on Bloody Sunday to be unjustifiable and that the soldiers lied in their accounts of what had happened.

James McClean

James McClean

As anti-fascists we seek to learn from history. We need to ask why is the ‘march for justice’ seeking justice for those who carried out atrocities in the north of Ireland and not those who were victims of the British state? Surely alarm bells should start ringing when we see who supports these events. The far right often latch on to causes which they feel the general British public support and use them to further nationalistic sentiment and the British army can’t be any more nationalist if it tried. Being anti-fascist means that we need to stand in solidarity with those who are oppressed and that is working class in the north of Ireland, not the British army. In the UK there has been much anti-Irish racism from the post WW2 “no blacks, no dogs, no Irish” to the vile abuse of James McClean for refusing to wear a poppy.

Many people will say that we should support the “ordinary” soldiers of the army, that it is often young working class men that join and are then blamed when terrible incidents happen. We hear this all the time, not just from the north of Ireland but in more recent times with Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, it is often these soldiers that are scapegoated for the army’s actions with those higher in command avoiding consequences. However people need to take responsibility for their actions and realise the destruction they bring to the communities they have ‘served’ in. We need to remember the victims of Ballymurphy, Bloody Sunday, Abu Ghraib and so on and their families. It is them who deserve justice, them who deserve our support and them who deserve our solidarity.

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Happy Pride! TERFs Out!

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Happy pride from Leeds Anti-Fascist Network!
Let us remember that the first pride was started by trans women of colour. Let us remember Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson. The first pride was a riot!

This year on the 5th August Leeds Anti-Fascist Network took part in the Leeds Pride parade. We made a banner in response to the hijacking of London Pride by TERFs and marched behind our trans and non binary siblings who led the parade.

UPDATE:

You may have noticed today that we have been getting a lot of comments on Facebook from people who have seen our banner in support of the trans community at Leeds Pride. Anti-fascism is a broad movement of people who come from many different political backgrounds, however there are solid beliefs at the core of this. Of course we are anti-fascist, we are also anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-transphobia to name but a few. Just as we no platform fascists we also no platform TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists, though there is nothing radical nor feminist about them)

We are sorry that our trans members and supporters have had to witness and experience such vile behaviour and comments. We stand shoulder to shoulder with those facing oppression and will not tolerate prejudicial actions in our communities and spaces.

No platform for fascists
No platform for TERFs

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All Out Against Tommy Robinson – Report from 7th July

96673769-7302-418C-BEAF-23DE8DD76F8AFor the third time since the start of June, Tommy Robinson supporters planned to demonstrate in Leeds on the 7th July. This time things were made worse by the fact that the Yorkshire Patriots also planned to march through the city centre. Leeds Anti-Fascist Network called open meetings inviting anyone who wished to oppose the march (including trade unions and community groups) and developed a plan for the day.

 After last minute changes to our meeting point to reflect the change in plans by the Free Tommy and Yorkshire Patriots demonstrators, Leeds AFN and various supporters assembled at Park Plaza, directly opposite the Yorkshire Patriots’ rendez-vous point at City Square. Serenaded by the Commoners’ Choir, we formed up behind our new banner and enjoyed a brief moment of peace in the sun. We soon got wind that the Yorkshire Patriots were heading off on their intended march route. Our block attempted to move forward into their path – once prevented from doing so by the police, we moved off in the opposite direction and up through the city centre to cut them off at the next available opportunity, cheered on by numerous members of the general public as we passed.

Once by Vicar Lane we turned down and occupied the road ahead of the fascist march in both directions, bringing their demonstration to a standstill. Spirits were high in our demo, which outnumbered the Tommy and Yorkshire Patriots marchers by at least 3:1. In spite of our proximity to the fascist demo we could hear nothing from them, but made sure they heard us.

Having taken the junction by the market, we were soon encroached upon by the police, who at first it seemed were determined to allow the fascists to march on their intended route. After some time in a stalemate, and a couple of attempts to move forward to reduce the number of options available to the fascists and police, they turned back and then were escorted up Briggate under heavy police protection. Unfortunately given the police force’s determination to facilitate the fascists spreading their hatred, our options were now limited in disrupting their movement further, and we marched back up to the town hall before dispersing.

Why these tactics?

2124CE25-4DA3-4664-8185-45C436B8F42EWe recognise that not everyone is in a position to blockade fascists marching through our city. This could be for a multitude of reasons from being physically unable to, to knowing you will be targeted afterwards, to not having the security of papers or a passport. However, everyone has a role to play. We blocked fascists from marching through our city for as long as possible because they need to know that they are not welcome in Leeds. They need to know that they can’t spread their vile message of hate here, that they can’t go around intimidating people just because of the colour of their skin. Others who were unable to do this provided support, talking to people passing by and handing out leaflets. There is little value in having a protest that will not be seen, it may seem safer but it achieves very little. We put in a lot of behind the scenes work to ensure that people putting their bodies on the line were as safe as possible. We worked together, we looked out for each other because after all we must be careful with each other if we are to be dangerous together.

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Report back from Free Tommy demonstration, 23rd June

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On Saturday supporters of Tommy Robinson, recalled to prison last month for breaching the terms of a suspended sentence, attempted to demonstrate in Leeds to demand his release. Hoping for a repeat of the 1st June demonstration in the city, their numbers fell well short of that, topping out at around 150. The police, having been caught off-guard by the previous demonstration, had called in extra support ahead of time and contained them at their meeting point by the courts.

Leeds Anti-Fascist Network were out on the streets at short notice to counter the racist demonstration and to build support ahead of a further pro-Tommy demo planned for the 7th July. Reportedly a planned Stand Up To Racism counter-demo was called off, meaning if Leeds AFN had not been out Tommy’s supporters would have been unopposed and likely allowed to parade their hatred around the city again.

While the numbers yesterday will have been a disappointment for the far-right, we must not become complacent and we cannot rely on the state to deal with a movement so symbiotic with its own ends. For more information on the 7th of July, please follow us on Facebook and find our event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/2153130104922289

Tommy’s recall to prison, and the issue of grooming gangs, is being weaponised by the far-right to rebuild, leaning heavily on the idea that the state has silenced Tommy and that his incarceration is a free speech issue. We are not cheerleaders for the state, the prison system or the law, but the Free Tommy movement has already revealed itself for the racist and Islamophobic initiative it is – and it cannot be allowed to divide our communities.

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