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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Fascists Out of Leeds, 05/03/16: An Update

Leeds Anti-Fascist Network is mobilising this Sunday to oppose the presence of neo-Nazi activists at a makeshift ‘Vote Leave’ stall – that the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign itself has expressly disowned. We are not taking a position on the EU referendum – we are taking to the streets to make it clear that Leeds does not want fascists campaigning in our city.

5 June 2016 - Vote Leave Stall Leaflet

Join us! Be ready to travel to central Leeds for 10:30 on the morning – our contact number 07721861632 will be live on the morning to get the exact assembly point; alternatively, get in touch with us at leedsantifascistnetwork@riseup.net in the meantime. We may be required to move around quickly at short notice so we advise wearing practical clothing and footwear – the weather looks like it will be cloudy but warm. Stay alert and travel with friends. See you on the streets!

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[UPDATED] EMERGENCY CALL-OUT: Fascists Out of Leeds 05/06/16

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Neo-Nazi activists have been sighted in Leeds City Centre, holding stalls under the guise of the “Vote Leave” anti-EU campaign. Those involved include ex-BNP front-man Mark Collett, his swastika-tattooed partner Eva Van Housen, and various members of the neo-nazi youth group National Action. They have publicly promised to “continue to hold Vote Leave stalls and leaflet up until the referendum” despite orders from the official Vote Leave campaign to stop doing so.

Leeds Anti-Fascist Network will be taking to the streets to show these people they’re not welcome in our city. We want you to join us. Keep your eyes peeled for details to come, but be ready to travel to central Leeds for 10:30 am this coming Sunday, the 5th of June. A contact number will follow, or get in touch at leedsantifascistnetwork@riseup.net in the meantime. From the Pennines to the sea, Yorkshire will be fascist free!

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Far Right activists holding a stall in Leeds City Centre. From left to right: Jack Coulsen (National Action), Mark Collett (formerly BNP), Eva Van Housen, Wayne Bell (National Action) and Ian Roper (formerly BNP).

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LAFN Benefit Gig – Grotbaby/Radio Partisan/Syslak

Join us at Bad Apples in Leeds this Saturday for a night of local pop punk bands to raise funds for Leeds Anti-Fascist Network! Coming 26th of March, doors from  8 pm.

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GROTBABY
Leeds based, slightly 60’s influenced bratty punk band, pajama party!

RADIO PARTIZAN
Razor sharp post punk!

SYSLAK
Slacker Pop, Fuzz, Punk.

As always there will be a raffle, goodies stall, and glitter.

£3 quid employed
£1 unemployed
No-one turned away due to lack of funds

All proceeds go to fighting fascism

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No Nazis in Dover / Solidarity with refugees – 30 January 2016

We reproduce a call out from London AFN to oppose the far-right demonstration in Dover this January. Contact leedsantifascistnetwork@riseup.net if you want help with travel to London/Dover for the demonstration:

*** INTERNATIONAL ANTI-FASCIST MOBILISATION ***
Read call out below:

On Saturday 30 January neo-Nazis and violent racists from across the UK will head to the coastal town of Dover for an anti-refugee protest. Far-right groups are trying to exploit the “migrant crisis” to whip up racial hatred and bring about ever-harsher controls on those coming to the UK.

Across Europe the far-right have been organising against refugees and encouraging governments to increase their hostility to migrants. While governments close borders with fences and batons to keep those in need out, fascists fire bomb refugee housing. In the UK fascists have tried to organise their own patrols of trucks entering the country, looking for migrants.

This will be the fourth far-right protest to take place in Dover in the last two years. In September an anti-refugee protest in Dover saw more than 200 neo-Nazis rampage through the town calling for the border to be closed. They tried to attack anti-fascists, throwing bricks into crowds including pregnant women and elderly people. Anti-fascists were more than capable of defending ourselves, but the demo served as a reminder to take seriously the threat of fascist violence.

During this time, immediately across the channel, migrants living miserably in ‘the Jungle’ have to endure sadistic attacks from fascist and the police on a regular basis. As usual, the nationalist far-right took advantage of a series of extremely saddening events to spread its xenophobic venom among people and to scare an economically shaken French working class, viciously achieving historic gains in December’s regional elections.

We are calling on anti-fascists from across Europe to join us in organising mass opposition to the anti-refugee protest on Saturday 30 January, to show solidarity with migrants and prevent an escalation of racist violence.

This mobilisation is part of the global struggle between those who wish to see the murderous divisions of nations, borders, and class further entrenched and fortified with razor wire and racist rhetoric – and those who fight for freedom of movement and solidarity among the exploited, oppressed and excluded of the world.

We will be standing with Kent Anti-Racist Network and a growing list of trade union and community organisations to show working class resistance to the neo-Nazis. A victory in Dover on Saturday 30 January will be a victory for the range of movements involved in this fight back.

Organise, make plans, spread the word and see you on the streets!

London Anti-Fascists / Anti-Fascist Network

** COACHES FROM LONDON **

London Anti-fascists are organising coaches from London to Dover.

For more details email ldnantifascists@riseup.net with SUBJECT LINE: “Coaches2Dover”.

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Leeds Resistance Training

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Leeds Anti-Fascist Network hosts a weekly self-defence and fitness class, open to all genders, body types, and abilities (no bigots). This course is to increase your confidence and ability to protect yourself in a variety of situations and under pressure. We would particularly like to welcome those disproportionately at risk of violence, such as people from organisations that practice a diversity of tactics, and those resisting oppressions that often come with the threat of violence.

Contact leedsantifascistnetwork@riseup.net or message this page for details of the dates, times and locations of classes.

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