Call-out: Oppose the EDL in Keighley and Bradford, Saturday 2nd September

On Saturday the 2nd of September, the remaining dregs of the English Defense League plan to descend on West Yorkshire, to march in Keighley and Bradford. In keeping with their usual tactics, as grief-vultures of the highest order, they will try to leverage high-profile grooming scandals and terrorist atrocities as a way to foment racial and religious hatred, and drive a wedge through our communities.

We’re not having it.

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about the demonstrative outrage the EDL employs in spreading its divisive message is that the EDL itself, and indeed much of the far-right, has a rich history of harbouring nonces and rapists. White ones, of course.

Tommy Robinson stood by Richard Price when he was convicted of posessing child pornography. Retford EDL plankton Luke Atkinson, recently collared for grooming girls as young as 13, is on a four-year course of her majesty’s porridge. Alan Boulter, would-be Infidel, EDL footsoldier, and templar knight(!) travelled to pay a 13-year-old girl for sex only to be confronted by anti-child exploitation activists when he turned up, cash in hand. Ryan ‘Johno’ Johnson, another EDL paedo put behind bars. Terry Maughan raped a 17-year-old at a party. Dale Hewitt. Kristopher Allan. Michael Roles. Paul O’Brien. James Swindlehurst. Michael Kinnear. You’ve got Google, right?

The EDL’s ilk in National Action, who also made a big deal of going on ‘paedophile hunts’, numbered among their ranks one Ryan Flemming, now behind bars for sexual activity with a child. As was remarked at the time, presumably the ‘hunt’ consisted of looking at their own friends lists?

The point is, not only are the far-right disingenuous in their exploitation of the justified public disgust at paedophiles and their abuses – they figure in alarmingly high numbers among their organisers and supporters.

And EDL H.Q. is oddly quiet on these convictions. No marches, no righteous ire raised over Saville or Heath. I know why. You know why. They know why.

And that’s why the EDL must not go unopposed.

Show the #PaeDL the door on the 2nd of September. Leeds AFN will be streets to oppose the EDL’s cynical explotation of the abused to further their own racist and islamophobic agenda. To get involved, contact us at leedsantifascistnetwork@riseup.net, or via our Facebook page.

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Leeds Resistance Training at Physical Resistance in Brighton

Last weekend members of LAFN and others from Leeds Resistance Training – a local antifascist self protection and boxing club – travelled to Brighton for Physical Resistance – an antifascist martial arts festival hosted by Brighton Antifascists.

It was a grand weekend with gorgeous weather down in Brighton. The atmosphere was comradely and welcoming, with fighters from Leeds and Brighton joined by folks from SolStar Sports Association in London along with other “fight clubs” and antifascist martial arts associations from across the South. Although LRT was the only club from the North able to attend we gave a good account of ourselves during the boxing, with seven fighters from Leeds taking part in eight seperate bouts. This was followed by an excellent seminar on combat sports, applying MMA and “cage fighting” techniques to self defence on the streets.

If you’re interested in getting involved with the antifascist martial arts scene in Leeds, just search Leeds Resistance Training on Facebook, or email leedsantifascistnetwork@riseup.net 

Leeds Resistance Training and supporters pose for a photo before sparring

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Public Meeting Outcome

Last week we hosted a film showing and discussion on combatting racism and xenophobia in the wake of the recent EU referendum, which has already seen a surge in racist attacks and harassment across the UK. The event saw campaigners from various backgrounds come together to discuss the way forward, how to respond collectively to racism on our streets, the legal rights we have when taking action to protect ourselves and others.

The main part of the discussion focussed on practical ways we can help each other in the face of the current rise in racist violence and harassment. We discussed our planned sticker campaign encouraging people to stand up to racist attacks and intervene when possible to protect themselves and others. With the help of several volunteers who came forwards at the meeting we hope to produce materials in several languages detailing peoples legal rights and suggesting different ways of taking action. We also discussed setting up a “chat tree” via WhatsApp to alert each other to racist attacks in different areas of Leeds, and mobilise anti-racists to confront them and offer solidarity.

We will be holding more public events in the weeks to come. For more information, like our page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and WordPress. No Pasaran!

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Public Discussion & Film Night – How Do We Combat Racism and Xenophobia on Our Streets?

The vote to leave the EU has been interpreted by some as vindication of their racist beliefs, and in the aftermath there has been a well-documented spike in verbal and physical attacks against minority groups in the streets, shops and on public transport. This cannot go on. We urgently need to explore ways of confronting and resisting racism on our streets, to stem the rising tide of hatred.

To that end, we invite you to a public discussion, where we’lll be screening a short film, talking about the rights we have in relation to racist attacks, and the steps we can take to defend ourselves and each other. We’ll be talking about our views and experiences, and what we can offer in terms of practical skills and training, but we want to involve as many people as possible in discussing the way forward and the shape of the anti-fascist, anti-racist movement we need more than ever.

Meet us at Wharf Chambers, Wharf Street, LS2 7 EQ, this coming Wednesday the 7th of July at 7:30 pm. Wharf Chambers Co-operative Club is a members’ club, and you need to be a member, or a guest of a member, in order to attend. To join, please visit wharfchambers.org.

Membership costs £1 and requires a minimum of 48 hours to take effect.

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Vigil for Jo Cox and victims of fascist violence

Leeds Anti-Fascist Network will be holding a vigil for Jo Cox outside Birstall Library at 1 PM this Saturday. We won’t go into the background and our analysis here – for that, please see our previous statement. The vigil will be an opportunity for people to remember, show their solidarity with Jo and all victims of fascist violence, and affirm the collective will to resist and oppose the politics of hatred that killed her.

We urge all to stand with us on Saturday – the Facebook page for the event is here.

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Statement regarding Jo Cox

Yesterday, after a constituency surgery at the library in Birstall, near Leeds, Labour MP Jo Cox was subjected to a targeted, brutal and prolonged attack by an assailant who, according to multiple eyewitness accounts, shouted the words “Britain First” as he attacked, shooting and stabbing her multiple times. By the evening, news broke that Jo had died as a result of her injuries.

Evidence is mounting that the 52-year-old man detained near the scene was inspired by, and involved in, far-right activity over a number of years. He shouted “Britain First”, the name of an extreme right-wing, racist and anti-immigration political organisation both during the attack, and as he was being apprehended. The Southern Poverty Law Centre has uncovered evidence that he was a regular donor and supporter of National Alliance, an American neo-Nazi group. Other records obtained by SPLC show that he ordered literature describing the construction of improvised weapons like the one witnesses describe being used to murder Jo. He also subscribed to the S.A. Patriot, a racist publication dedicated to supporting apartheid.

The national media has been quick to paint a humanising picture of the assailant, who has been named as Thomas Mair, as a quiet man, a loner; someone who enjoys gardening and volunteering. Particular emphasis has been placed on his history of mental illness. We take issue with this for a few reasons. As Tommy’s involvement with the far-right is long-standing – records of his purchases of neo-Nazi literature date back to at least 1999 – we feel that this was nonetheless a premeditated political assassination. Further, we feel that the blanket application of “mental illness” as a causal factor in this case stigmatises and demeans those who suffer from mental health problems.

Finally, it is telling to compare the immediate coverage of this case with that of Lee Rigby’s murder in Woolwich, which was immediately trumpeted as an act of terror. Both attacks were extraordinary in their brutality, perpetrated against unsuspecting victims in broad daylight, and with apparent political motives. Islamist terrorism and White Nationalist terrorism are very much alike in their goals, turning discontent and anger into reactionary violence. The difference in the way these two murders have been reported speaks to a racial and religious bias on the part of the mainstream media in the UK.

It is no great surprise that the newspapers who systematically foment hatred against migrants and refugees to influence the outcome of the referendum, would seek to deflect criticism of their coverage once a pro-refugee humanitarian, and visible ‘Stronger In’ campaigner, is murdered. Jo’s death is being robbed of its political context by those same media outlets. It can not be ignored that this murder occurred against a background of an increasingly febrile and racially-charged campaign around the EU referendum. The right-wing media, UKIP and the official Leave campaign have blood on their collective hands. Aware that their economic arguments were not generating enough support, they have made the calculated move of denigrating and demonising migrants, whipping up fear and hatred to bolster their vote, with no regard for the effects on social cohesion. ‘Vote Leave’ have also provided a platform for long-forgotten racists such as Mark Collett, ex-BNP Youth organiser, to rear their ugly heads once more – espousing fascism from their stalls in Leeds City Centre, until they were challenged by Leeds Anti-Fascist Network, and stopped turning up.

Jo’s murder reflects a pattern of increased violence from an emboldened far-right movement which has recently reverted to type, launching bloody attacks in the UK and overseas. Last year, Zack Davies of the neo-Nazi outfit National Action attempted to behead a Sikh man in Tesco “because he looked Asian,” citing revenge for Lee Rigby’s murder. Dylann Roof, inspired by apartheid-era South Africa and the Confederate South and having posed with the flags of each, walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and shot nine black worshipers dead at a bible study. Earlier this year, hooligans professing support for Combat 18 and the Chelsea Headhunters attacked anti-racist activists at Maidstone service station, and a French man with nationalist sympathies was recently caught in Ukraine, smuggling weapons for a planned attack during the Euro 2016 tournament. As Europe braces itself for attacks from ISIS, it forgets too easily the ever-present threat of far-right/nationalist violence and terror. In the aftermath of yesterday’s attack, online comments from Nottingham Casual Infidels, another Islamophobic and racist group, praised the attacker stating that it was about time someone “took it to the next level,” warning “now is the time.”

Fascism is an ideology that feeds off the genuine concerns of working class communities – low pay, the housing crisis, a lack of control and self-determination – and places the blame at the feet of smaller disadvantaged groups, such as migrants, people of colour, minority faiths, the LGBT community, etc. It is capitalism’s great trick of misdirection – urging us to fight amongst ourselves instead of against the powers that oppress us all, with frequent tragic results. Fascism must be opposed whenever and wherever it appears: only through strong and determined working class organisation can we defeat hate, defeat poverty, and fight for a better life for all.

Leeds Anti-Fascist Network stands in solidarity with Jo and all victims of fascist violence, and is committed to direct opposition to fascism.

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Leeds Remains Fash-Free!

It’s been a glorious day in Leeds without a cloud – or fascist – in sight. Despite protestations over social media that they would continue running unofficial Vote Leave stalls up until the referendum, Mark Collett and his band of merry BNP/National Action racists caved in the face of opposition and were a total no-show, taking their hate elsewhere (and to wherever that ‘elsewhere’ is, our very deepest sympathies!) Having doubts guys?

Brigate 2016.06.05 - Cropped, CensoredNo fascist faces in our spaces! Leeds Anti-Fascist Network occupying the Nazis’ would-be pitch.

And so it was that we watched and waited, basking in the sun, chatting to people and in one instance, an old lady helping us remove neo-Nazi stickers from the precinct with her knitting needle: they haven’t forgotten what hatred can do. (Incidentally, for more on National Action’s not-so-successful sticker campaign – which presumably we don’t know the half of, since the general public have usually ripped them down by the time we see them – check our Facebook later.)

All in all, another day proving that ordinary people have no truck with fascists, and that racism is not, was not, and never will be, welcome in Leeds – but only through decisive working-class action will we see it removed from our streets. To get involved, please e-mail us at leedsantifascistnetwork@riseup.net.

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