Around 800 fascists and racists—including Tommy Robinson and far right Anne Marie Waters—turned out in the West Midlands town of Telford on Saturday. It’s a sign of the dangers of the far right.
Robinson called the protest in an attempt to stoke up Islamophobia by cynically using child sexual exploitation cases.
Around 200 anti-fascists joined a counter-protest organised by the Telford and Shropshire Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) group, under the banner, “Don’t let the racists divide us—justice for the victims.”
The counter-protest included members of the local Unison union branch and Bilston and Walsall trades union councils. Supporters of Black Lives Matter (BLM) Shrewsbury also turned out.
Martin Lynch, an SUTR supporter, says Robinson originally wanted to hold his rally in the town centre. But anti-fascists assembled in the centre and then marched to the car park, where the far right had been moved to.
“The pressure from calling a counter-protest definitely meant they were moved,” he told Socialist Worker. “More people saw us than them, but their huge speaker system reverberated. It’s very hard to tell who in the crowd were vaguely interested local people and who were serious fascist supporters.
“Waters was awful, putting a pitch that the problem is Muslims and it’s a religious problem. She said the police aren’t doing anything, politicians aren’t doing anything so vote for me. They are seeing this as an opportunity.”
Waters said For Britain will stand in the area.
Martin added, “We need to strengthen SUTR and we need to engage in all the battles over current issues. People are going to feel the squeeze over the next few months. No doubt these racists think they have a chance of being champions of people against the establishment.”
— Socialist Worker (@socialistworker) January 29, 2022
Robinson had boasted that he would mobilise 2,000 to 3,000 of his supporters onto the streets. While that many fascists didn’t turn out in Telford, the size of their protest should serve as a warning.
Four years ago the British far right saw a resurgence around the “Free Tommy” movement. Robinson had been jailed for contempt of court after breaching a reporting ban by filming men accused of the sexual exploitation and live-streaming the footage on Facebook.
In the largest demonstration, Robinson’s supporters mobilised 15,000 onto the streets of London in June 2018. That movement brought together organised fascists, racists and right wing conservative elements.
That resurgence was broken. Anti-fascist mobilisation helped to drive a wedge between the hardcore Nazis and the “softer” right wing elements. They were beaten then and they can be beaten again.
The far right is feeding off the state-sponsored racism against Muslims, migrants and refugees pushed by the Tories and the media. For instance, home Secretary Priti Patel’s scapegoating of refugees crossing the English Channel creates an atmosphere for those who want to take it to more murderous conclusions.
The fascist mobilisation in Telford marks a partial return for Robinson after several years’ isolation. It was far bigger than his supporters’ last outing in Batley and Spen last year. And Robinson openly embraces the fascist elements.
Anti-racists need to build a bigger fightback against the state-sponsored racism that fuels the far right—and be ready to mobilise on the streets against the fascists. It’s vital to build for big turnouts on the SUTR demonstrations on 19 March in London and Glasgow and 20 March in Cardiff.
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