Posts Tagged ‘Unite Against Fascism’

Edinburgh against Fascism: 2013

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

I seldom photograph protests outside London, and I hadn’t gone to Scotland to take photographs, but we had been invited to spend a week there during the Edinburgh festival. We’d never been to the festival before, and had timed our two previous stays in the city deliberately to avoid it, but decided to go and see what it was like. We did actually enjoy the week, but haven’t felt it was an experience we need to repeat.

On Saturday 17th August we rushed out after breakfast to attend a play about a male clergyman and a female quantum physicist, time travel and religion; clever and quite funny but it was too early in the morning for me. However it was conveniently close to where Unite Against Fascism and others were gathering to oppose a march by the fascist Scottish Defence League, and while Linda went to listen to a classical concert I made the short walk to cover the protest – my first in Scotland.

Like many such events in London it was slow to start. The assembly time was a couple of hours before the SDL were expected to march and the Scottish police were determined to keep the two groups as far apart as they could. But it gave me more than enough time to take pictures of the marchers and their banners and placards.

At the time all of my work on protests was made using Nikon DSLRs, but I’d left them at home when I came away for a week’s holiday, and all of these pictures were made using the relatively light and compact Fuji X-E1 and a single lens, the Fuji 18-55mm zoom. It was the first time I’d used the Fuji camera for a protest, and I did it a little less responsive than the Nikon, with slower auto-focus and sometimes a perceptible lag between shutter press and picture-taking.

The electronic viewfinder couldn’t match the Nikon’s optical one either for clarity, and sometimes was noticeably slow to react when I moved the camera or zoomed the lens. And having just an equivalent focal length of 27-83mm I found limiting, missing both the extreme wide-angle and longer telephoto I usually worked with. But despite this I was reasonably pleased with the pictures from the day.

Eventually the march moved off and was escorted by police who kept them well away from the SDL as they marched to a large pen on Horse Wynd at the back of the Scottish Parliament. Approaching a thousand people had come to oppose the racist march.

There was still no sign of the SDL, but I avoided the pen and walked back up Canongate to meet them coming down. Through a tight police cordon around the group of around a hundred I saw quite a few faces familiar from EDL protests in London – and some of them obviously recognised me and made threatening gestures.

Once police had led them into a separate pen far enough away from the anti-fascists to prevent the two groups throwing missiles at each other but within shouting distance, it got a little easier to photograph some of the EDL. Although there were police lines stopping either fascists or anti-fascists from getting closer to each other a few anti-fascists found their way though the entrance area to Hollyroodhouse and were then arrested as they approached the EDL.

I left as the two groups were still shouting at each other to go to the Postgrad show at the College of Art before it closed, then on to a comedy show and finally to a meal with the dozen of us who were sharing a large flat at a convenient Thai restuarant. We were up early the next morning to catch a train back to London.

SDL and UAF in Edinburgh

One Law for All

Sunday, June 20th, 2021

Islam is now the UK’s second largest religion, with 2018 Office of National Statistics figures for Great Britain of 3,372,966, around 5.2% of the population, still considerably lower than the 36 million who declared themselves Christian in the 2011 census.

Along with the rise in numbers we have also seen a dramatic rise in Islamophobia, partly driven by the exploitation of the fear and hate against the terrorism of small groups of extremists here as well as in the US and France, and more recently by the rise of ISIS in Syria – where many of those who fought against and defeated ISIS there were also Muslims.

The ‘Prevent’ strategy introduced by the Labour Government after the London bombings as an aspect of counter-terrorism was essentially aimed at de-radicalising young Muslims through community-based programmes. It stigmatised the entire Muslim community – and did so at a time when extreme right-wing organisations were growing strongly and provoking racial tensions, and removed any real attention from their illegal behaviour – and the terrorist threat they posed.

The coalition government changed ‘Prevent’ radically. No longer was it concerned with attempts to promote integration though community programmes but shifted to a police-led system to indentify individuals who might be vulnerable to ‘radicalisation’ and to provide intervention packages for them. Unfortunately there seem to be no reliable indicators of such vulnerability.

The 2015 Counter-Terrorism and Security Act (CTSA) made it a legal duty for “teachers, doctors, social workers and others to monitor and report people they consider vulnerable to extremism, embedding discrimination in public services.” As https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/fundamental/prevent/ Liberty point out, “The definition of extremism under Prevent is so wide that thousands of people are being swept up by it – including children engaging in innocuous conduct, people protesting climate change, and a nurse who began wearing a hijab.” They say the Prevent duty must be scrapped.

One Law for All, a campaigning organisation against religious based laws and in defence of equality and secularism, and in particular calling on the UK government to put an end to all Sharia courts and religious tribunals, and had organised a rally opposite Downing St om Sunday 20th June 2010.

Although the Church of England’s courts are now restricted to matters inside the church, courts based on Islamic Sharia Law and Jewish Beth Din courts still have official recognition as arbitration tribunals, particularly related to marriage. The Jewish courts work under the principle that “the law of the land is the law”, giving precedence to English law, but this is not always the case with Sharia courts.

A small group of Muslims dressed in black with a very powerful public address system had come to oppose the One Law for All protest. The claimed to be ‘Muslims Against the Crusades’ or ‘Muslims Against Crusaders’, a group widely thought to be a reincarnation of the banned ‘Islam4UK’ (itself a relaunch of the banned Al-Muhajiroun.)

Maryam Namazie of One Law for All made clear they were not anti-Muslim:

“The battle against Sharia law is a battle against Islamism not Muslims, immigrants and people living under Sharia law here or elsewhere. So it is very apt for the Islamists to hold a counter-demonstration against our rally. This is where the real battleground lies. Anyone wanting to defend universal rights, secularism and a life worthy of the 21st century must join us now in order to push back the Islamists as well as fringe far Right groups like the English Defence League and the British National Party that aims to scapegoat and blame many of our citizens for Islamism.”

And around 20 members of that fringe right-wing group the EDL were there to protest against the Muslims.

After a while police took them to one side and searched them, threatening me with arrest when I went to take pictures, before leading them away.

Half an hour later several hundred young British Asians arrived from a rally in Whitechapel against the EDL – but they were too late to confront them as the EDL had already been removed by police.

Soon the One Law for All rally ended and they marched off towards the Iranian Embassy in Kensington. I walked with them to Victoria and then went home.

UAF Arrive to Oppose EDL
EDL Oppose Muslims Against Crusades
Muslim Crusaders For Sharia
No Sharia – One Law For All

November 2014 (4)

Saturday, November 28th, 2020

One of the more disturbing trends in Britain over the past ten years has been the rise of fascism, both in mainstream politics and also in the rise of various extreme right groups. We have a government which is increasingly prepared to act outside the law – prime examples including the Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ set up by Theresa May, Boris Johnson’s attempt to close down Parliament and more recently to renege on parts of our agreement with the UK – and whose actions have encouraged extremist overtly racist and Islamophobic groups. But it isn’t just in the UK, and Germany, Poland and Greece are among other countries to have seen similar movements on a larger scale.

One of the nastier to crawl out from under the stones is the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece, where 50 leading members were then on trial in Athens for violent attacks, firearms and other offences. In the UK, New Dawn was set up in 2013 in support of the Greek organisation and, together with Polish neo-Nazis in the UK and British ‘White Pride’ supporters they had planned to march in London to the Greek Embassy to call on the Greek government calling on them to drop the charges and release the Golden Dawn leaders.

Their march was facilitated by the police and opposed by UK anti-fascist activists including Antifascist Action for Greece, Unite Against Fascism and many trade unionists, who gathered opposite the Greek Embassy an hour before the Golden Dawn supporters were due to arrive.

I don’t enjoy photographing extreme right groups, who tend to be hostile, and as usual I was threatened and spat at, though the police presence prevented any physical violence and stopped the press getting really close to the protesters. As a journalist I would have liked to have been able to talk to some of them, but this wasn’t possible, and their approach to the press generally is to shout insults and complain the press treat them badly by reporting their actions. I think we generally report accurately and if reports are bad it is because their actions are reprehensible.

Both police and protesters tried to prevent me and the other photographers taking pictures and, not unusually, I and others were threatened with arrest. A videographer with the protesters made a point of recording those of us who were taking photographs. Those of us who report on right-wing protests have become used to having our pictures posted on the web with the intention of provoking violence against us.

The main speaker at the event was Peter Rushton of the England First Party, associate editor of its magazine, Heritage and Destiny. According to Hope Not Hate he was expelled from the BNP in 2002, joining the more extreme White Nationalist Party, and later the British People’s Party. Reputed to be one of Britain’s leading Holocaust deniers they say he was a close friend of the banned terror group National Action.

I left after photographing Rushton speaking, walking through the police lines to make my way to Holland Park underground station. I thought it wise to leave the area before police allowed the New Dawn protesters to leave.

More at Neo-Nazi ‘Free the Golden Dawn’ Opposed.

London Protests: 17 November 2018

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

Saturday November 17th 2018 saw the start of Extinction Rebellion’s beidge blocade in central London, bringing the city to a standstill by blocking Lambeth, Westminster, Waterloo, Blackfriars and Southwark bridges. I joined them for the first couple of hours on Westminster Bridge.

From there I went to pay brief visits to three of the other four bridges that XR had blocked, choosing those downstream which were relatively easy to reach on foot.

I didn’t go to Lambeth Bridge, upstream from Westminster, as I ran out of time before another event I wanted to cover. It would have meant too long a walk as the nearest tube station is some distance away and there were no buses able to run. Later I found that it was at Lambeth that the police had been more active in making arrests and attempting to clear the bridge.

I arrived too late for the start of the march organised by Stand Up To Racism, co-sponsored by Unite Against Fascism and Love Music Hate Racism, and supported by many other groups and individuals including Diane Abbott MP and John McDonnell MP against the against the rising threat of Islamophobia and Antisemitism by far-right groups in the UK.

It was a large march and had gathered outside the BBC in Portland Place because the organisers wanted to point to the failure of the BBC to recognise the threat of these extremist groups with a level of support for fascism not seen since the 1930s.

The BBC does appear to have a policy limiting reporting on issues such as this, and of ignoring or minimising protests in the UK against failures of government. When they have reported, they have often talked of ‘hundreds’ of protesters when a more objective view would have said ‘thousands’ or perhaps even ‘tens of thousands.’ They do a far better job in reporting protests in foreign cities than in London.

Half an hour after I began taking pictures the marchers were still walking past me, but I thought that it was nearing the end and I left, not to go to the rally in Whitehall but to return to Westminster Bridge for the Exctinction Rebellion protest where there were speakers from around the country and around the world, some of whom travelled to speak on several of the five blocked bridges. After the speeches there was a Citizen’s Assembly but by then I was tired and left to go home, edit and file my pictures – more hours of work.

Protests by XR have done a little to shake the complacency of our government and others around the world and move them to action to avoid the rapidly approaching climate disaster, but it remains a case of too little, too late. Certainly so for many countries in the global South already suffering dire consequences, but probably also for us in the wealthier countries. Covid-19 has shown that governments can take drastic actions, (if ours cost many thousands of lives by making decisions too late and avoiding basic precautions) but it will need a similar upending of priorities and changes in our way of life to avoid the worst effects of climate change – and there can be no vaccine to end climate change.

More about the events and more pictures on My London Diary:

Extinction Rebellion Bridge blockade starts
Extinction Rebellion: Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo
Unity Against Fascism and Racism
Extinction Rebellion form Citizens’ Assembly


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