Every time the fascists decide to show themselves and walk through our streets, as happened on August 22nd, it presents us (antifascists and antiracists) with a unique opportunity to come into physical contact with them. It’s always good to fight them and shout ‘Nazi Scum’. Their marches allow us to see their banners and faces, listen to their chants, and witness how they incarnate an old image of a lumbering white patriarchal pride, embodied by drunken, out of shape, working- and middle-class men. To decode their messages is not hard. When the ‘Mad Viking’ organizes a march, or where white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups such as Werewolf Resistance, the DFLA, Q ANON, Whitelaw and Yorkshire Patriots attend, it is not because they are concerned about child abuse or the rights of Veterans; they just want to make ‘Britain White again’. What a shock. We knew this already (see the article we published on the far-right uses of Child abuse). So, I won’t spend another line talking about what happens when notorious racists like Paul Golding and Jordan Pont attend a march promoted by Tommy Robinson. It is pretty clear, and if you don’t see it that way you shouldn’t be reading this article.
In any case what should be addressed is how this march forced us to see ourselves. It unveiled the political dynamics of the struggle, on the street and from below, and revealed the true colours of each local group and institution beyond their manifestos and official statements. The 22nd was not only about physically facing the fascists, but also about taking positions on a pressing moment; about being there, on the street with everyone else to show that fascists are not welcome in Nottingham. Saturday was one of those days that proves on many fronts how real and present the struggle against fascism is, and more importantly, who is fighting it back…and who isn’t.
When the BLM demo began at 10.30, we were no more than 50 people and our numbers remained pretty low until midday. We spent all morning hearing reports and updates that their numbers were growing fast, and by 12:30 we knew that they managed to mobilize more than 500 people. The situation wasn’t looking good, everyone was tense and nervous. We knew that many of us weren’t exactly fighters, and from the very start fascists had been infiltrating our demo to take our pictures and intimidate us (including a guy wearing a Rebel News t-shirt). Although fascist demo leader Dean Cumberpatch openly called for their people to take pictures of us for violent purposes (see our article about this), the police, unsurprisingly let them do it anyway. That day, as it seems they do at every march, the police took a side . They stopped the antifascists that were arriving at the BLM demo with the excuse of searching for weapons, while more than 500 far-right marchers were free to walk, harass people, get drunk, disrupt the city, and attempt violent attacks on the BLM demo. The fact that the police are a racist institution, with sympathies to anti-migrant and right-wing groups, a recent revelation to some, comes as no surprise to anyone that has attended any march like this one.
But there is another institution that truly failed Nottingham on Saturday: The local branches of the Labour Party. They did very little promotion for the BLM demo (only a few mentions on internal emails and the occasional tweet) and omitted the fascist threat. They were invisible. It was only after the event that some of their illustrious members tweeted some very standard phrases that allowed them to profit from a demo that they did not help to defend. It showed where they stand when migrants and racialized minorities needed them the most. We know that a party so rooted in the establishment and institutional politics would rarely get involved in a situation that could turn into violence. However, the bare minimum they could do in these circumstances was to use their visibility on social media to call for people to support the counter demo. It was literally the only day of the year that the entire spectrum of the Nottingham left needed to form a strong united front against the clearest common enemy, but they did nothing. It was fitting that a Labour candidate attended the BLM demo, but refused to speak. It seems it wasn’t his cup of tea, even though his party hasn’t missed a single opportunity to take the floor on previous BLM protests in Nottingham and profit from it politically
When the time came to face the fascists and defend the city and its people, the only ones that were willing to do what was necessary were working-class organizations and groups. We were less than them, probably no more than 250 in our best moments, but we were brave. We stayed there and defended the BLM demo. We fought the fascists that attempted to cross our lines and maintained our positions. Everyone that was there did an amazing job and we should be proud that Nottingham remains antifascist. On the mics we had local organizations of a diversity of tendencies such as Notts TUC, Open Nottingham, Nottingham United, Nottingham’s Revolutionary Communist Group, Nottingham Against Racism, and the Socialist Party. Defending the demo were the London Antifascist Assembly, Football Lads and Lassies Against Fascism, and London antifascists alongside the locals Midlands Antifascist Network and Nottingham Anti-fascists. These Antifa and Anarchist groups that are criminalised and rejected by some people on the left were the ones taking the stand that mattered that day. For them it was irrelevant if a Communist, a Socialist, or a BLM activist was speaking. Everyone understood the importance of being there as a united front against fascism. There were people that travelled from all over the UK to support us. This is real solidarity, a solidarity that goes beyond any manifesto, a solidarity that is expressed on the streets and face to face. Thanks to them, we managed to hold our position. But thanks to the Labour Party, the police, and the local newspapers we had to let the fascists pass and walk through our streets. As a migrant, fascists descending on the city I live in is no joke, and it shouldn’t be for the organizations that did not rise to the occasion either. This is one of many fascist events to come and we must be better prepared to show that fascists are not welcome in Nottingham. Solidarity to the ones that were, and to those that weren’t there!