For 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?
We 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.