Against the ‘Brexit Betrayal’ march

Two groups had planned events in opposition to a march by supporters of Tommy Robinson, advertised as the ‘Great Brexit Betrayal Protest‘ march in London on Dec 9th. One was Unite Against Fascism & Stand Up to Racism, both largely dominated by Socialist Workers Party members and the second was a broad coalition of anti-fascist groups, including Momentum, Plan C, Feminist Anti-Fascist Assembly, Global Justice Now, Women’s Strike Assembly, Brazilian Women Against Fascism, Women’s March London, Feminist Fightback, Fourth Wave: London Feminist Activists, Sister not Cister UK and many others who had managed to bring a previous fascist march through London to a halt, delaying it for several hours until police managed to re-route it, while UAF/SUTR held a separate small and innefectual static protest in Parliament St.

This group has a much broader representation of women’s and ethnic minorities than  UAF/SUTR, and a wider political base including many from Labour, left wing and anarchist groups, but is largely London-based. Outside of London there are fewer groups opposing racism and fascism and I think UAF and SUTR are groups with broader support than in London, often virtually the only game in town.

UAF and SUTR made a big appeal for unity, to stand up to the fascists together, and the anti-fascists agreed, only to find out that on the day of the march it was more or less a takeover by the other group, who with the aid of the police rather hi-jacked the event. The march to Whitehall took place, and it was a fairly large one, with perhaps roughly three times as many as on the Brexit Betrayal march, but they were stopped from presenting any real opposition to the fascists, and the rally at the end of the march close to Downing St was entirely a UAF/SUTR event, with no speakers from the anti-fascists.

For most of the march, the main banner, held by UAF/SUTR supporters with the message ‘No to Tommy Robinson – No to Facism’ was at the front of the march, carried at the head of a group of supporters carrying Stand Up To Racism and Socialist Worker placards. But when police halted the march briefly on Haymarket as there were a small number of fascist who had come to oppose the march in the area, the a hundred or two anti-fascists came to the front to defend the march,

Somehow with the aid of the police the No to Tommy Robinson – No to Facism’ banner was again at the front of the march as it reached Trafalgar Square, but it was the anti-fascist who left the march to tackle the counter-protesters who had gathered there, while the rest of the march moved on towards its end in Whitehall.

I paused briefly to photograph this small group of extreme-right couter-protesters in Trafalgar Square and was threatened with violence by them if I took their picture, as well as being pushed around a little by police who rather seemed to be on their side. But having taken a few pictures I soon moved off, keen not to miss the start of the rally in Whitehall.

As the rally went on and one I became more and more disappointed. Although there were some good speakers –  including Paul Mason – it became obvious that there was to be no representation at all of any of the many groups in the anti-fascist coalition that probably represented considerably over half of the march, and when a musical interlude was introduced I turned to leave.

Most of the marchers seemed to have come to a similar conclusion, and there were relatively few people in left Whitehall. It was a cold day and probably many had decided not to stand around listening to speeches – or had soon drifted away, perhaps to one of the many pubs and coffee shops around. But there was still a largish ‘black bloc’ group towards the Trafalgar Square end of Whitehall who had decided to leave together for security and make their way to Charing Cross station to disperse. I walked through a line of police without being stopped, but more police moved in to stop them leaving.  Evventually the officer in charge decided they could go and arranged for police to escort them to Charing Cross, though they were more than capable of making their own way their in safety.

More about the protest and many more pictures at Marchers oppose Tommy Robinson


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