PRESS RELEASE: Anti-Fascist Network statement on Saturday 7th September EDL demonstration

10 09 2013

The Metropolitan Police arrested over 280 anti-fascist activists, local community members, and passersby in East London on 7 September, as up to 700 English Defence League supporters were allowed to march over Tower Bridge and rally at Aldgate without encountering any mass opposition.

A large community demonstration was restricted to Altab Ali Park, well out of sight of the EDL’s march route and rally point. A bloc of around 600 within the demonstration, coordinated by the Anti-Fascist Network (AFN), attempted to hold a march to get within sight of the EDL’s route and present a visible opposition, which was then blocked and kettled by police. Despite police attacks the front of the AFN bloc did manage to get within sight of the EDL march, meaning the only political opposition the racists saw on the day was a direct result of the AFN mobilisation.

Sarah Smith from London Anti-Fascists said:

    “The number of people who joined the Anti-Fascist Network bloc on the day shows that there is a real mood for forms of anti-fascism that go beyond static rallies where mainstream politicians and religious leaders spout liberal platitudes. The 600 people who attempted to march with AFN on Saturday shows that a moderate, ‘respectable’ anti-fascism based on deference to the state and the political status quo is no longer the only show in town.”

Anti-fascists, independent legal observers, and people who were just passing by were detained on the street for over six hours before the police announced their intention to make mass arrests. Arrestees were taken to police stations on the outer extremities of London — including Colindale, Sutton, and elsewhere — mostly under the pretext that they had committed an offence under the Public Order Act. Their alleged ‘crime’ was to march down a street the police didn’t want them to march down.

Some arrestees were held for up to 15 hours in total. Were it not for the work of arrestee support groups, many of those detained would have been thrown out of police stations in the middle of the night on the outskirts of London with little way of getting home. Most have now been released with highly restrictive bail conditions preventing them from opposing the EDL and other racist groups.

Tony Dixon from the Anti-Fascist Network said:

    “These mass arrests, following a similar operation at an anti-BNP demonstration in May, show how the state is using political policing to criminalise protest and intimidate people out of taking political action. Only the tamest, most moderate forms of protest are sanctioned; anything else is met with police violence, kettling, and mass arrests.”

Val Swain of the Network for Police Monitoring (NetPol), added:

    “Carrying out mass arrests on any demonstration is an excessive and draconian measure. In this case it was clearly not necessary to prevent disorder – many, if not most of the arrests were carried out after the EDL had left the area.

    “In this case the police have taken 286 sets of names, addresses, fingerprints and dna. It has been a highly effective data gathering exercise. They have also imposed bail conditions preventing all of those arrested from participating in future protests – even though they have not been charged, let alone convicted of any offence. The police have had a successful operation to disrupt, deter and prevent anti-fascist protest.”

Notes for editors:

– The Anti-Fascist Network is a network of independent anti-fascists and anti-racist groups from across Britain, fighting the far right on the basis of direct action and working-class politics.

– The Anti-Fascist Network can be contacted on afncontact@riseup.net


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5 responses

12 09 2013
wessexsolidarity

Reblogged this on Wessex Solidarity.

12 09 2013
15 09 2013
antifascistnetwork

Interesting comments reposted from indymedia:

Anti-Fascist Network + South London Anti-Fascists

Following the mass-arrest of the much of the black-bloc type group who responded to the call-out by the Anti-Fascist Network in Tower Hamlets on Saturday, AFN and South London Anti-Fascists issued a Press Release saying that “The number of people who joined the Anti-Fascist Network bloc on the day shows that there is a real mood for forms of anti-fascism that go beyond static rallies where mainstream politicians and religious leaders spout liberal platitudes. The 600 people who attempted to march with AFN on Saturday shows that a moderate, ‘respectable’ anti-fascism based on deference to the state and the political status quo is no longer the only show in town.”

1. What LAF disparage as “moderate” and “respectable” anti-fascism has never been “the only show in town”, and the only people who could think it was, must be people who’ve rarely attended anti-fascist protests! Equally, what LAF disparage as “moderate” anti-fascism has no intrinsic link with what LAF lazily dismiss as “deference” to the State. Often those who engage in moderate protest do so because they’re not physically capable of militant action, in many cases because they’re too old, too frail, or lack experience of and confidence in their abilities when it comes to confrontation (it is often people who lack physical confidence who Fascists seek to intimidate and bully the most, and arguably it takes more courage for physically less strong people to oppose Fascists than it does for people who’re physically tougher). Many of those who can’t personally engage in physical confrontation still believe direct action is justified, sometimes necessary, and many of those who do engage in confrontation hold liberal views (after all, most people, including most liberals, believe it was right to use violence against Fascism in WW2, even in countries where Partisans fought Fascism without the approval of the State). Also, even those who believe that confrontation can be justified, don’t always think it’s good to rise to far-right provocation (for instance in situations where the media could misrepresent images of young “immigrants” fighting Fascists as race-riots). Finally, if ANY protestors believed that “deference” to the State was part of anti-fascism, they’d probably leave it to the State (to the police) to control Fascist mobilisations, and stay at home, not taking part in anti-fascist protests at all.

2. In many cases what’s “spouted” at “static rallies” aren’t “liberal platitudes”, but are instead versions of the Trotskyist, class-struggle politics promoted by revolutionary groups like the SWP, especially seeing as how Unite Against Fascism is organised by the SWP (with UAF, for all their faults, having organised many dozens of anti-fascist protests, at most of which AFN had no presence at all)

3. There clearly is a “real mood” for forms of anti-fascism that “go beyond static rallies” (bearing in mind however notes 1 & 2), and of course it’s good to encourage people to have confidence in their ability to oppose Fascists and not be intimidated by the often hollow posturing of Fascist thugs (as long as the people you attract through that approach aren’t outnumbered by the other people that you put off). It is also important to recognise that just because physical opposition can be justified, sometimes effective, sometimes really exciting, satisfying, great fun, etc, doesn’t mean physical opposition is always the BEST strategy or won’t just plain back-fire. In this case, far from the fact of that “mood” confirming AFN’s analysis, what happened in Tower Hamlets was that AFN’s march landed nearly half of the 600 people who supported their call-out under police arrest, leaving those arrested incapable of offering further resistance to the EDL’s march, tying-up resources in helping the arrested that could have been used campaigning against Fascism, and leaving Casuals United, far-right bloggers and general EDL / BNP scum cock-a-hoop with joy at the sight of hundreds of Antifascists getting led away in handcuffs.

Not the Bookfair

21 09 2013
Fighting repression of our movements | Corporate Watch

[…] to police raids last week. Anti-fascist demonstrations this year have been repeatedly met by mass arrests followed by restrictive bail […]

30 09 2013
Why UAF don’t cut it | Red Cat Prowlings

[…] For some time now, there has been real dissatisfaction with the ineffectualness of the Unite Against Fascism organisation.  The Anti-Fascist Network and others who organised the direct militant action on the day state three clear objectives which explain the limitations of the UAF’s approach. (The following draws on commentary in the AFN press release:  https://antifascistnetwork.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/press-release-anti-fascist-network-statement-on-s…). […]

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