Anti-fascists protested against supporters of jailed Nazi Tommy Robinson in central London on Saturday.
Demonstrators gathered at Piccadilly Circus, in defiance of a police order, and marched up towards Oxford Circus where the fascists had assembled.
There were about 400 people on the Nazi protest at its height. It was organised after Robinson was jailed following being found in contempt of court.
The united march brought together two counter-demonstrations. One was organised by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) and Unite Against Fascism (UAF), and the other by a coalition of groups led by the London Anti-Fascists.
SUTR said that “over 800 anti-fascists” protested.
Chants of, “Whose streets? Our streets,” and, “Tommy Robinson in a cell—take your Nazi mates as well,” rang out as the march made its way up Regent Street. It was young and many were on their first anti-fascist protest.
Elizabeth, a student from south London, told Socialist Worker, it was important to “come out onto the streets” when the fascists try to mobilise. “We have to show the fascists that they will not go unchallenged,” she said.
“We have to show them that their views are a minority and what they say isn’t alright.”
Police blocked the anti-fascist march when Oxford Circus was in sight, but it pushed on through the side streets towards the fascist rally outside BBC Broadcasting House. Along the way two small bands of “Free Tommy” supporters tried to rush into the crowd to attack anti-fascists.
Isa, another anti-racist protester, told Socialist Worker, “If we don’t protest, the other side will take the streets.Their side would be the only image on the television.
“Their fascist and racist ideas are spreading—and we have to fight them now.”
Anti-fascists rallied outside the BBC on Portland Place road, separated from the fascists by police and barriers. The police tried to kettle protesters and threatened arrests—including of SUTR national officer Julie Sherry—for refusing to go into a small designated pen.
And as cops focused on moving people into the pen, another group of fascists tried to charge into the back of the protest.
The counter-protest ended later in the afternoon as anti-fascists marched off together away from the BBC, chanting as they went. A small group continued to march through the streets after it had dispersed.
Roughly half of the Nazis broke away from their main rally outside the BBC.The breakaway marched up and down Regent Street apparently looking for anti-fascists.
They dispersed after a brief scuffle with police, and the main rally began to shrink. Some racists tried to attack some Algerian protesters who had arrived nearby.
Protest organisers told the dwindling crowd they would leave “once the police have moved the left”. Over 100 racists marched from the BBC to Whitehall.
When police cleared them from outside Downing Street, they moved across the road to surround a small group of Sudanese people supporting the revolution there.
Racists chanted, “Paedo,” and, “England,” at the Sudanese protesters. Some told them, “Go back where you come from.
The Sudanese protesters kept chanting and singing in response. Police eventually moved in and dispersed the racists, and the Nazi march ended.
Weyman Bennett, co-convenor of SUTR, said, “Tommy Robinson has a history of promoting fascist organisations. Days like today show the true nature of his supporters – racist and Islamophobic to the core.”
Robinson’s crew is drastically down from the 15,000 it mobilised last summer.
But the far right continues to feed off state-sponsored racism against Muslims, migrants and refugees – and so the threat remains. As Elizabeth said, “When you have Donald Trump and Boris Johnson saying racist things, it gives the far right confidence. We always have to speak out and do something.”
Weyman said, “We stopped Robinson when he was in the English Defence League. We stopped him becoming an MEP. We’ll stop him from building the racist street movement he craves.”