Each weekend and most days since the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA, we’ve had huge marches through central London and around the country. We risked coronavirus because we knew history wouldn’t wait. At times when the state goes too far and exposes its racism it creates a turning point. It is imperative that leaders emerge in action on the side of the oppressed to win. It means overcoming mis-leadership and fears of our own power in action. MFJ is an organisation building leaders in action, speaking the truth about racism. We know that to overthrow oppression, the oppressed must strike the blow.
On Saturday 6th June from Parliament Square we marched for miles – to the US embassy, to Home Office Headquarters, Parliament Square and Whitehall. It was an outpouring of anger by young people taking to the streets, to reckon with time-worn British racism. The speed of the escalation is testament to the line being drawn against all the ways we are being killed and sacrificed to the profit, political opportunism or convenience of a few – deaths at police hands; deaths in detention centres; being left to die from Covid-19; left in Grenfell Tower; left to drown in the Mediterranean sea; deported to countries we don’t know; losing everything to a bloodsucking immigration policy; Windrush generations humiliated; young people and immigrants scapegoated for the failures of a system that for ten years has bailed out banks not communities.
A reckoning has been a long time coming.
A struggle for power
A dynamic youth-lead anti-racist movement asserting its power in the streets is the most serious threat to the government’s racist policies and practices; racist Brexit, the hostile environment for immigrants, health, education and work inequalities and racist policing. It is also the strongest hope of the exploited and oppressed as we face a world in crisis desperate for revolutionary change.
That power – on the streets – has incensed racists and fascists across the country and led assorted far right groupings to call a counter demo against the BLM protest on 13th June, under the pretence of “protect the statues”. Their ‘defending statues’ was really about defending their racism against the awakening of a movement that could come to challenge the politics of nationalism and racism that gave them Brexit, and which most divides and weakens the working class as a whole. Their answer is to put black people back in ‘their place’.
Wherever the fascists march or demonstrate, their goals are simple: brutal racist intimidation; physical attacks on black people, Asian people, LGBT people and anti-fascists; recruiting more racists to their ranks. They want us weakened, afraid to act, and really afraid to fight back. Fascism has to be defeated; it cannot be negotiated. The past four years since the Brexit vote has seen racism and racist attacks increase, some of the largest fascist mobilisations including in London and Manchester since the 1970 ‘Keep Britain White’ marches. With the election of the most far right government since Thatcher, under Boris Johnson, and his rallying cry to racists everywhere of ‘Get Brexit Done,’ fascists have been emboldened. The timidity of Labour who turned a blind eye to Brexit racism allowed a weak Tory government to stay standing. It is no accident that bigoted racist and anti-Muslim attacks increased; Brexit gave licence to racists to act.
Overcoming the misleaders
The march BLM LDN called for Saturday 13th June would have outnumbered the fascists and easily driven away any right-wing racists trying to disrupt it. Turning back the fascists with their tails between their legs from the start would have cemented the power of the anti-racist movement. Instead BLM LDN announced they would ‘give’ the fascists Saturday, by moving to Friday instead. They lined up alongside everyone from the police, media, Akala and Boris Johnson, telling black people to clear out of the fascist’s way. That betrayal was a comfort to the far right, who may well have increased their attendance as a result. It is always a mistake to give ground to fascists to organise and grow; it leads to racist attacks on the day and in the aftermath. It treats black people as though we are weak, when it is precisely our strength that has brought about this critical point in history.
A distraction rally was held in Hyde Park, called by Stand up to Racism, which should have marched straight to Trafalgar Square, but the leaders of that rally also told people to go home after a few speeches. Thankfully hundreds ignored that advice and came to Trafalgar Square. London Black Revs and Malcom X Movement had called on protestors to go to Trafalgar Square from the start, and not back down to fascists.
The decision of the 200 or so, to stand ground in Trafalgar Square against all racist provocation and abuse, getting the word out as far and wide so others would come and join us, turned a near defeat into a major victory. The day ended with mass action lead by overwhelming black, working class young people, driving the fascists out streets by street, and taught them a hard lesson. It was a truly historic defeat for fascism.
An MFJ account of Saturday 13th June – Trafalgar Square to Waterloo
“It was known the racists and fascists came in largely through Victoria on coaches and trains to head to Parliament Square. They always start drinking early. Altercations with police began quickly, they attacked journalists and gradually fought through police lines to get to Trafalgar Square. These were the groups looking to attack any BLM / anti-fascists and do damage. They had glass bottles and fireworks as weapons.
“In Trafalgar Square the anti-racist demonstrators were overwhelmingly black, young and working-class, a lot of women. Everyone knew why we were there: we had to defend the growing movement by holding the ground to stop the fascists taking advantage of the day, and not clearing ourselves out of the way.
“We were only around 200, if that. There were police nominally separating the sides. The fascists (all men, some EDL, some violent groups connected through football) were gathered around the south west of the square shouting racists and misogynistic taunts, ‘go back to Africa,’ being provoking, and some in berets like ex-army gathered on Nelson’s Column. They carried on until they felt confident enough in their numbers to attack physically. At that point they moved like a flock around from the south end of the square, then up the east side to the higher ground along the top. They used the higher ground to lob glass bottles and fireworks into the crowd of black people, while making monkey noises and chanting. At the same time there were other racists milling around allied with the racist mobilisation.
Some police moved in, but a lot of the time the police stood back. The police caught up some fascists around Charing Cross, and later with police dogs stopped another breakaway group of fascists near Haymarket. There were fascists on side streets around Trafalgar Square.
Despite the mis-leaders who stayed away, everyone who stayed showed boldness greater than any of those fascists and racists. Our cause meant more – we are making history.
After an hour or so another big group of anti-racist protestors (some marched from Hyde Park, probably picking up others on the way) got to Trafalgar Square. Then our numbers were closer to a thousand, as it should have been. There were still confident fascists and racists verbally abusing black people around the square like it were a sport. They quickly found Trafalgar Square was no longer a space where you could be openly racist. Emboldened and our numbers growing the racists and fascists got shut down.
We got moving down the side streets around the square. Fascists spotted in Leicester Square were chased out. Back in Trafalgar Square some of the earlier fascists who had been so confident and bold before were caught up with. Everyone who had aligned with the racist abuse found themselves questioned and confronted.
We marched down The Strand to Waterloo Bridge, widening the field where the fascists could no longer operate. Over the bridge at Waterloo station a group of fascists in the train station had presumably left behind a couple of their fascist friends. By now the numbers of anti-racists was still growing, still overwhelmingly black and working class. Some of the crowd managed to chase the fascists into the station.
Our side’s goal was clear, we wanted to defend our city, our people from the fascist threat and we wanted to ensure that any fascist or potential fascist thinks twice before returning to attack us. We ended up as thousands, and we took the streets back from them, from Waterloo to Trafalgar Square to Whitehall, to Vauxhall – we chased those fascists out, any who thought to challenge us, any who sought to spew their racism or attack us got taught a lesson in the power of working class black, white and Asian people fighting in unison to defend our communities”
A historic victory against fascism
It is impossible to overstate the enormous victory over fascism which took place on Saturday 13th June, for the first time ever a mass black led, working class mobilisation in central London managed to beat back the fascists, force them out of our city in tears. There have been victories like this in our local communities such as Tower Hamlets when the EDL were defeated by masses of Asian youth and anti-fascists determined to defend their community, but in central London the fascists have been able to hold increasingly large demonstrations freely – they see central London as their space. The victory was confirmed when the Democratic Football Lads Alliance put out a statement afterwards saying they would be withdrawing from future mobilisations to ‘defend statues’.
Fear of this expression of the power of a black-led struggle, and the great significance of our victory, has meant that much of the left, and the leaders who use the ‘BLM’ name, are refusing to tell the truth about what happened. Most people who were not there will just have seen the footage from earlier in the day when the fascists had the upper hand and the photo of a fascist being carried to safety. Neither of these things tells the true story of what happened, the scale of the physical, emotional, political defeat for fascism – something that only happened because thousands defied the call to ‘stay at home’.
Movement for Justice by any means necessary exists to mobilise that power, to make the power of exploited and oppressed communities a social force that will defeat the racism of the state, abolish its brutal system of oppression, and smash the fascists. That movement will give new hope to youth, to the poor and working class, and to everyone suffering discrimination and prejudice.
MFJ is a movement of leaders, most of us immigrants and asylum seekers who have fought to be in Britain and fought to stay here. We fight to abolish the anti-immigrant system that is central to racism in Britain: – to end the racist scapegoating of immigrants and the government’s ‘Hostile Environment’ policy; to shut down all detention centres and stop deportations and immigration raids; to win the right of ALL descendants & family members of the Windrush Generation to stay in the UK; and to extend the Settled Status for EU citizens in Britain to EVERYONE, from any country, who is living here without secure immigration status.
MFJ does not rely on politicians, judges or any institutions of the state. To secure our rights and futures we must build an independent, integrated mass movement, led by youth, immigrants and the black & Asian communities, and fight by any means necessary for civil rights, immigrant rights, and equality for all.