Grey Day, Golden Dawn


It’s hard to know why the Greeks should have such an ugly embassy in London, backing on to Holland Park, and in a street (also called Holland Park) otherwise full of rather nice Victorian detached villas from the 1860s. I wonder if embassies are somehow exempt from planning laws, not that these generally concern themselves much with aesthetics.

I’d come to photograph the five hundred or so who had answered the call from Unite Against Fascism (UAF) to show their solidarity with the people of Athens, several thousands of whom were marching in their city at the same time in a protest against racist violence, with the fascist Golden Dawn (GD)  party being implicated in many of the attacks. Although GD claims not to be fascist, many of its members have been shown giving Nazi salutes and it has published materials praising Hitler, Hess and others and one of its MPs has a ‘Sieg Heil’ tattoo. In earlier years the party made no pretences and decorated its party congress with swastikas and other Nazi symbols. More recently, its party magazine praised Hitler as a “great social reformer and military genius”  and it ran in the elections with the anti-immigrant slogan “So we can rid this land of filth“.

What I hadn’t expected was that police would allow a small counter-protest organised by a group calling itself the ‘British Friends of Golden Dawn’ just a few yards from the main protest at the embassy. They looked just like the EDL – and several of them recognised me from when I’ve photographed their protests.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

It is hard to to understand the thinking of protesting in support of a pro-Hitler group like Golden Dawn while holding up the Union Flag, the flag of a country which was one of the leaders in the fight against Hitler. You can’t really be an ‘English Loyalist’ and support the fascists.

I’d dressed up well but it still felt cold, round about freezing. Before the protest I’d walked through the snow-covered Holland Park, dotted with large snowmen. I didn’t stop to photograph them, I’d already seen far too many snow pictures.

The UAF protest attracted many leading figures on the left, including Tony Benn, who looked well but spoke only briefly, leaving others to make the real speeches. One of the others was Gerry Gable, editor of Searchlight, who I don’t recall ever having met before, though the EDL have accused me of working for him. I’ve never given Searchlight pictures and so far as I’m aware they have never used anything of mine, so I was surprised when one of the Golden Dawn supporters shouted out at me for being a “Searchlight photographer.” I’ve nothing against Searchlight, but it has never happened. It is just a part of a right-wing myth that sees all journalists as in the pay (some hope) of sinister left-wing conspiracies, when in fact most of us are struggling to make a living from a largely right-wing press.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

Weyman Bennett of UAF came to look at the counter-protest and shouted back rather jovially at their insults, doubtless heartened at their pathetic performance. Soon the police appeared to tell them it was time to leave, and having arranged transport to the protest for them led them away to the nearby underground station, along with a few anarchists shouting insults. I took a few pictures with the 70-300mm as they walked away, but couldn’t be bothered to run to get closer.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

There really was very little light all day, with heavily overcast skies. I’d been using flash to photograph the speakers, who were under a gazebo, and had set ISO800 for that, wanting a fairly wide aperture with theD800E on ‘S’ and working at around 1/60s, using the 18-105mm, a decent portrait lens at its longer settings. But when I switched to the longer zoom without flash I forgot to increase the ISO, and few of the pictures are really sharp. Working without flash on the D700 I was using a higher ISO and had no problems.

More pictures at Anti-fascist Solidarity Against Golden Dawn.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated are by Peter Marshall and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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