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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Statement from Leeds AFN re: Free Tommy march on 7th July 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: leedsantifascistnetwork@riseup.net

Leeds, UK, 13th June 2018 – Leeds Anti-Fascist Network is calling for a mass public mobilisation to directly oppose supporters of Tommy Robinson on the 7th July, when they plan to return to Leeds to protest at the courthouse and march through the city centre. A Leeds AFN spokesperson said, “Tommy Robinson’s supporters demonstrated on the 1st of June that they were determined to provoke unrest and religious and racial hatred in our city. Our community must come together to stand against a mass racist protest by what is essentially a resurgent EDL. The arson attacks against a gurdwara and a mosque in Beeston just days following the recent march show just how urgent this is.”

On the 1st June around 400 people descended on Leeds in support of Tommy Robinson following his recall to prison for breaking the conditions of his suspended sentence. While assembled under the guise of protection of free speech and opposition to grooming gangs (those of a narrow racial/religious demographic) the march was overtly racist and Islamophobic, and in spite of the lack of any organised direct opposition, nonetheless aggressive and violent in its conduct. It was in all but name, a spontaneous resurgence of the EDL, the violent far-right street group Tommy formed in 2009. In the days following the demonstration, a mosque and a gurdwara in Beeston, south of the city centre, were subject to arson attacks, and prominent racist graffiti appeared across Leeds.

The threat this street movement poses is much the same as its previous incarnations – it can only grow if unchallenged, it emboldens individuals to act on their prejudices in social lives, at work and in the street. A government already tacking hard to the right in both economic and social policy will only feel encouraged to go further. If you look behind the fig leaf of co-opted language from the left, libertarian and feminist movements, the same old reactionary, racist, homophobic and misogynistic currents persist. We cannot allow this movement to grow, and they must not be allowed to parade their hatred through the streets of Leeds – so we’re calling on our communities to come out in number on the 7th July in Leeds to oppose the Free Tommy demonstration.

Leeds Anti-Fascist Network is a group of people working together to create stronger anti-racist communities in Leeds. We aim to organise in our local areas of Leeds to build a network capable of confronting far-right and racist activity, based around information and skill sharing events. By building a strong network we aim to stop them from taking our streets. We regularly meet up in different areas of Leeds – so if you want us to help organise something in your area get in touch.

Recently there has been increased far-right activity and mobilisations in Leeds and around the country – we want our communities to feel safe for all, the far-right and the government want to divide us based on our differences. We believe that job insecurity, bad housing, cuts to public services are policies to ensure the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We have to unite against this and the racist lies that would pit us against one another.

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/2153130104922289
Leeds AFN on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/leedsafn

ENDS

F.A.Q.

Isn’t this different to the EDL?
The marches are largely not being held under the ‘EDL’ banner – although a recent one in York was. The EDL proper is now a relatively small concern on the far-right but the same currents that drove it have returned it to our streets once more.

Aren’t you supporting state incarceration of activists?
We are not cheerleaders for the state or the prison system, and believe empowered people and communities will ultimately overcome fascist threats better than the penal system ever will. Tommy’s recall for breach of the conditions of his suspended sentence have been deliberately misconstrued as a rush to miscarried justice, but was ultimately routine for the justice system. We believe Tommy’s martyrdom was largely choreographed – he was well aware of his conditions and broadcast his actions publicly on Facebook.

What about freedom of speech?
We don’t believe that hate speech, speech which advocates for the denial of liberty for specific minorities or oppressed groups, can really be considered ‘free’. Tommy aside, the rallies in support of him have consisted largely of hate speech – chants of “fuck Islam”, “Allah is a paedo”, and placards decrying the “rape of whites.” Perversely, Tommy’s intervention may have damaged the credibility of the proceedings and handed the defence ammunition to move for a mistrial.

Is it fair to criticise Islam?
As with Christianity and Christians, we believe it’s dangerous to conflate critique of Islam as a religion, with the demonization of Muslims as people. A religion – an idea – cannot be victimised, and it is right to look at religion critically. However, since the its inception the EDL, along with Tommy Robinson, and various associated movements across the right have used criticism of religion as a thin veil for their anti-Muslim hate speech. Instances of extreme adherence to the Christian faith, however, go undiscussed by these groups, because of the associated cultures and ethnicities.

Aren’t there valid feminist critiques of Islam?
There are valid feminist critiques of all organised religion – the world views and power structures involved are often toxic and patriarchal, preoccupied with policing and subjugating women. As with the free speech and anti-religious arguments, issues such as FGM, honour-based violence, and liberty for women at large, are being weaponised by the far-right. It’s disingenuous at best, when the narrative is so often simply one of saving “our women.” The Free Tommy march in Leeds on the 1st of June this year was majority white male by a massive margin, and on that basis alone it’s hard to take seriously the women’s rights angle. Conservative and reactionary politics are inherently hostile to feminism, no matter how much the right tries to cloak itself in an increasingly socially liberal world.

Is it racist to stand against grooming gangs and paedophiles?
Of course it’s not – unfortunately in spite of the numerous instances of sexual abuse on the right and amongst high-profile white offenders, the Asian grooming gang trope has become an emotive and effective mobilisation tool for the far-right. Naturally we saw no outcry from the ranks of the EDL, Britain First, et al when the Yew Tree revelations came to light as there’s no mileage in that for them. Everyone should be as disgusted by grooming gangs as they are Saville, and indeed all sexual abusers. Tommy Robinson’s decision to cast light only on Asian abusers is racist.

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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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