Socialist Worker

Thousands gather for ‘Brexit betrayal’ rallies in London

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2648

Tommy Robinson supporters were on the streets

Tommy Robinson supporters were on the streets (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Around 10,000 people joined two competing right wing rallies against the "Brexit betrayal" outside parliament on Friday afternoon. 

The much larger Leave Means Leave rally in Parliament Square was addressed by a coalition of former Tory ministers, right wing Labour MPs, former Ukip leader Nigel Farage and other supporters of a nationalist Brexit. 

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A few hundred metres up the road Nazi Tommy Robinson and racist Ukip party leader Gerard Batten had organised a "Make Brexit Happen" rally.

From the beginning it was a rally for Robinson rather than for Brexit. 

Around 150 joined a counter protest organised by Stand Up To Racism and Unite Against Fascism.

Riccardo La Torre, on the counter-demonstration from the FBU union, said, "Whether you are Leave or Remain the far right are not the answer."

Establishment

Around 3,000 racists flocked to hear Robinson rant about how he has "proudly stood against the establishment" for the last ten years.

The crowd drifted off and more than halved in size when Batten took to the stage after Robinson.

Robinson barely mentioned Brexit and played to far right themes around globalism. He used the rally as another opportunity to showcase "Panodrama", a film about the BBC. 

Robinson devoted one of the longest sections of his speech to defend a school student who had attacked a Syrian refugee child in Huddersfield last year.

"There was no evidence that it was anything racist," he said. "He was a child, an English child—this would never happen to a Muslim child,” he said.

The crowd immediately burst into huge chants of "Oh, Tommy, Tommy" 

Stand Up To Racism held a counter-protest

Stand Up To Racism held a counter-protest (Pic: Socialist Worker)


The rally showed that Robinson is still deciding whether to mobilise around Brexit or on a politically harder basis. He has suffered setbacks on both fronts in the last year. 

Open Nazis and alt right supporters were a minority on the Leave Means Leave rally. It included more well-heeled, middle class supporters of the Tory party. 

The crowd was a sea of reaction, with British Union Jack and Ukip flags and cheers for a Loyalist marching band. And some sections of the crowd moved between the two different rallies. 

Farage received a hero's welcome as he said, "We will get our country back and we will get our pride and respect back".

"I am more determined than ever to fight back against this political class."

Other speakers included Tory MP and former defence minister Mark Francois, a member of Jacob Rees-Mogg's European Research Group. 

He was followed by Trades Unionists Against the EU spokesperson and FBU firefighters' union official Paul Embery, who tails right wing myths about migrants undercutting wages and terms and conditions. 

"It's the only time I've ever clapped a Labour person," one person in the crowd laughed after Embery’s speech.

The demonstrations showed the danger of how different far right and racist forces could seek to capitalise on the Tories' Brexit crisis and a possible second referendum. It requires unity across Leave and Remain voters to push back the threat.


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