Resurgence of the Far Right: 1000+ EDL in violent rampage in Manchester

13 06 2017

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On Sunday a demo that was initially promoted as a ‘Gays Against Sharia’ protest, timed to exploit the anniversary of the Orlando nightclub attack, turned into one of the largest and most violent far-right protests seen in this country for several years.

This has come as something of a surprise, coming only a week after a national EDL demo in Liverpool pulled about 100 people and was comprehensively outnumbered, blocked and laughed out of town.

Although promoted as “silent” march to “honour the victims of hate”, the Manchester demo was an EDL demo in all but name and brought somewhere between 1000-2000 fascists to central Manchester. The large and combative far-right crowd were able to break through police lines and roam the streets of central Manchester. As we always find, whenever the far-right gain a free hand, they respond by abusing and attacking people in the streets.

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So we see what happens whenever the fascists get numbers big enough and get bold enough – they attack people, and direct racial and homophobic abuse against anyone they identify as looking not ‘English’ enough for them.

A Tale of two Tommies

The event was initially created by Tommy Cook (“Tommy English”) – the one-man band of the the EDL’s LGBT division – to coincide with the one year anniversary of the Islamist attack on a gay nightclub in Florida which killed 49 people.

Given the current shambolic state of EDL and that even when the EDL was at its height their ‘LGBT division’ was never very popular with their core constituency of prejudiced bigots, the demo was not expected to be big. It had attracted a mere 40 people to say they would attend on Facebook. The excellent campaign group Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants organised a counter protest, mobilising many in Manchester’s LGBT community to oppose this attempt to hijack the memory of the shooting in America to promote Islamophobic hate.

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Things then moved quite quickly after the suicide bomb attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester took place on 22 May.

Mr. Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, also known by his pretend name “Tommy Robinson”, got involved. Rubbing his hands with glee in the aftermath of the Manchester attack and the potential opportunities opened up for him, he swiftly took over the already planned demo, re-branding it in the name of his new vehicle UK Against Hate.

Yaxley-Lennon quit as head of the EDL in 2013 ostensibly because they were too drunk and out of control and infested with Nazis. Since then he has been a sort of free-floating bigot without any followers, looking to try and find a role for himself in today’s crowded racist marketplace. He tried to launch PEGIDA UK and it flopped, he tried to do something with Anne Marie Waters and it flopped, he tried to get gigs doing public speaking in schools and universities and invariably got banned. Most recently he has tried being a “journalist” (= harassing people while holding a camera) with Canadian alt-right outfit Rebel Media.

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They’re not fascists are they? Oh look – it’s a fascist – dressed in the uniform of the British Union of Fascists – in Manchester on Sunday. Hmmm…

It now seems he has come full circle and is back leading drunken racist mobs infested with Nazis again.

The combination of Yaxley-Lennon, who commands a large following of racists, combined with the Manchester attack and a demo taking place without the toxic EDL brand seems to have resulted in a return to 2009 numbers of racists in the streets.

Sunday saw many of the same old faces from the old EDL – Yaxley-Lennon’s protestations that it’s not the EDL make no difference – it is the same in all but name – it’s like getting the old gang back together again – even cousin Kevin showed up.

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They’re not racist are they? Racist placard from Manchester on Sunday. Hmmm…

Waiting to Happen

We should not be too surprised by this seemingly sudden resurgence of the far-right though. Even though the threat from the organised far-right has seemed to diminish over time, this was largely due to their lack of a credible leader, internal arguments amongst themselves and continuous pressure from anti-fascists and the police, not due to any lack of fertile ground or support for their views. On the contrary – the xenophobic climate created by the Brexit vote, the election of Trump, and the non-stop diet of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim scaremongering coming from the top down, led by Theresa May’s Home Office and large sections of the media has all created very fertile ground for the far-right – they were just waiting for the right combination of circumstances.

Next – Stop the EDL in London – 24th June

This new level of threat from the far-right must be countered by mass community mobilisation. Yaxley-Lennon has promised to bring his new/old mob to London in a fortnight on the Sunday 25th June. There is also an ‘official’ EDL demo in London on the Sat 24th. Check here and our Facebook and Twitter for more info when it emerges. We must ensure they are stopped.

Movement for Justice have already called for a counter-mobilisation to the ‘official’ EDL demo on the 24th: Facebook event here. Put the date in your diary – start spreading the word!

UPDATE – Yaxley-Lennon has postponed his call-out for the 25th. So now it appears to just be the ‘official’ EDL on the 24th.

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Sunday shows the necessity of organising to make sure the fascists are always outnumbered and kept under pressure – this is what happens when they get confident. We must make sure they do not have a success in London – because it will increase the threat from the far-right but also because with the hung parliament we are at a potential turning point in this country – with Brexit, with counter-terror legislation, with attitudes to migration – the last thing we need is a mob of racists trying to pull things in their direction.


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