The following post is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views and policy of the UK Independence Party (UKIP)
During all the doom and gloom of the last couple of years, it has been good to see the upsurge in pride in our country that has been fostered by the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and will hopefully continue via this summer’s sporting events.
Labour leader Ed Milliband has been quick to jump on the bandwagon and proclaim his ‘Englishness’ earlier this week on the back of this renewed sense of national pride, although having gone through the speech it is more a collection of soundbytes than a coherent strategy to restore our national identity – But more about that later.
This year is exceptional in the number of events so close together and the Jubilee was a huge and welcome one off event, but it has been noticeable over the last few years of the resurgence in celebrations of England’s national day on 23rd April – St George’s Day.
St Patrick’s Day in March has been a loud party for the Irish community for as long as I can remember, with everybody getting in on the festival atmosphere and having a good time enjoying ‘the craic’ and the Guinness, whilst the Welsh and Scots also celebrate St David and St Andrew in fine style.
Many towns and cities in England put on a St Patrick’s Day parade,including in London where successive Mayors have supported and sponsored what have been a great series of events over the last ten years. With the increased popularity of St George’s Day, I would hope that Boris Johnson may consider doing something similar to celebrate our patron saint in the near future – After all, the GLA has also sponsored events for Vaisakhi, Eid and Diwali in the capital and it would be good to have a day when English culture could be celebrated in the same way.
Unfortunately, and despite Mr Milliband’s cry to arms, there does seem to be an agenda in some quarters to either suppress this national pride or to smear it as something entirely different as I witnessed during a St George’s day event earlier this year.
St George’s Day with March for England
March for England started a St George’s Day parade in Brighton in 2008 (Above), where it was led out by The Gurkhas. Conceived as a family day out to celebrate our patron saint similar to some of the St Patrick’s marches that the Irish organise, the initial two years saw kiddies face painting and a party atmosphere at the pubs that the marchers visited on the day. The events were lightly policed and went off in good order with no problems at all, as can be seen in the picture below from the 2010 march
Unfortunately, there are some in our society who can’t tell the difference between being proud of your country and culture and being a ‘racist’, and started to oppose the march in 2010. Shortly after the picture above was taken,members of an organisation called ‘AntiFA’ assaulted a Police officer and attempted to get to women and children drinking in a pub. This then led to a bigger Police operation in 2011, when members of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and The Socialist Workers Party decided to oppose the March – The difference in Police presence and equipment can be seen below
I wrote about the atmosphere and the event where I was a guest of March for England on 14th May last year under the title ‘Patriotism – Is it a crime now?’ on this blog.
Despite the Organisers offering to meet with the ‘Anti-Fascist’ protesters (above) to explain what the march was about, they refused to discuss it and also ignored Police requests for talks. In the minds of these people, having a St George flag means that you must be either a member or associated with the BNP or The English Defence League (EDL),or hold racist, homophobic or anti-Islamic attitudes.It begs the question – What is the difference between having a St George flag on our patron saints day or a tricolour on St Pat’s? Both are a celebration of a Patron Saint and a culture, so why must one be demonstrated against whilst the other is to be celebrated?
St George’s Day in Brighton 2012 – The Dragons of Ignorance
This year’s St George’s Day parade was attended by fewer than the previous year – Many felt that they did not want to put their children in to an environment that was hostile as was seen in 2011, which with hindsight was probably not a bad idea.
The UAF, SWP and their cohorts had also been putting posters up around the town claiming that this was an EDL event to drum up support amongst the local community for their counter-protest. Again, March organiser ‘Pompey’ Dave offered to meet with them and address their concerns – His reward was to be branded a ‘Leading Portsmouth football hooligan’ based on an incorrect newspaper story from a few years back (Dave is not even a Portsmouth fan!). You also have to ask yourself if Sussex Police would be liasing with a known football hooligan year after year on not just this event, but others including a recent charity fundraising walk?
I took the photograph above at Brighton train station before the March got going, and as you can see there is a broad cross-section of people attending. It was also noticable that the only flags present apart from one ‘Help for Heroes’ banner were either the Cross of St George or the old English white dragon – This was a request from the organisers to reflect that this was a day for celebration of our country and culture by all and not a demonstration. The UAF were having none of it and posted on the net that March for England were inviting football hooligans and thugs to attend incognito, despite the request being quite clear.
We got a taste of what was to come at the station as some characters approached us whilst we were waiting to move off with a sheet on which was painted ‘We are all imigrants’ (Not a spelling mistake, this was how they had painted it on to the banner as can be seen above,pictured later on in the day). This was accompanied with chants of ‘we don’t want you fascists in our town’. Charming!
When the March did start, we didn’t get too far before being brought to a halt in a street where the pavements were raised above the level of the road that we were proceeding down. The counter protesters had blocked the road off ahead, and we got our first taste of the abusive language and missile throwing that was to follow us to the assembly point at Victoria Gardens and back to the station afterwards.Police officers clambered up on to the railings to try and stop this happening.
We found out afterwards that recycling bins had been emptied and that the protesters had been hurling bottles and other assorted missiles at the Police and their horses at the front of the parade, as can be seen in some of the images.Two Police officers were taken to hospital, and a number of Police horses were injured as was reported later by The Brighton Argus.
With the march unable to proceed past a makeshift road block, the Police took us down a side road where we found more abuse waiting for us. Bottles of urine were launched from the buildings above, and a wall of missiles could be seen flying in to the middle of the march from a side street. I was at the back of the march at this point, and as we were bunched up by the Officers at the back I could see that we were being herded in to the firing line from the side street that the Police on the left were unsuccessfully trying to stop.
A young girl in front of me was hit in the back of the head by a flying bottle and needed treatment by paramedics whilst a couple of officers tried to shield her from more harm. The gentleman escorting her, who I believe was her father, was given the opportunity to take her out of the march at this point but declined as there was no way of guaranteeing that he would be able to get past the ranks of counter demonstrators without further assaults being made.
Many of the protesters were taking pictures of those on the march, which I know from previous events are passed around and used to ‘identify’ targets for later on if you are still in the local area.
A particularly vile woman in a red jacket was shouting out that “It’s your fault, you shouldn’t bring your kids here you scum” as a justification for the assault. I later found out that she was the one identified by some of the marchers as having thrown the bottle! Fortunately, the young lady was OK and is pictured with a cool pack that the paramedics left for her to take the swelling down.
A number of megaphones were calling out and organising these attacks – Indeed, one behind the march was encouraging people to ‘get more missiles, they are putting the kids in the middle’. When I pointed out to one of the officers that this is an offence under the public order act and he should be arrested, I was advised that they were taking photos and would be making arrests after the event as any show of force at this point could lead to additional violence.Bearing in mind that many of the protesters had their faces covered and could not be identified, I couldn’t help but think that the main perpetrators would get away scot free.
On Victoria Gardens
The March finally made it to Victoria Gardens, where speeches were to be made as had been done in previous years. The UAF were out in force as can be seen in the photo on the left.
In 2011, a lady whose son lost his life in Afghanistan had made a particularly moving address but this was not to be in 2012. She was in attendance this time and I spoke with her at the start of the March where she advised me that those protesting had made her life ‘hell’ . It begs the question as to what sort of sick moron torments a mother who has lost her son in the service of our country?
You also have to ask what kind of ‘anti-fascist’protester would turn out with their face covered and parading a banner like the one in the picture below as seen on the walk down to the green? What has this to do with opposing racism and discrimination in your community?
Worse was to follow as we stood surrounded by our Police escorts. The black clad ‘AntiFA’ activists turned up and started patrolling the Police lines, looking to pick off anybody who was not behind the wall of officers.
The by now familiar taunts of ‘St George wasn’t English’ raining in from the other side of the line were greeted with a spirited chant from those assembled of ‘St George was a foreigner’ followed by a wag down the front starting up a chorus of ‘We’re not racists anymore!’ which was greeted by bemused looks from the assembled UAF before they reverted to a monotone ‘racists off our streets’.
We were then advised that the speeches were cancelled due to security considerations, and that we would be escorted back to the National Rail station where we should leave Brighton. In previous years, arrangements have been made with local pubs to carry on the day but with around 400-500 protesters intent on getting at the 120 or so on the march this time around that would not have been practical.It would also have been difficult to slip away for a quiet pint along the front with the amount of protesters on the look out for stragglers who they could pick off from the mass of photo’s they were taking, although I understand some did manage to carry on afterwards.
The Police brought vans across, and we were escorted out of the park behind the line of vehicles to stop the demonstrators getting to us once again. (Above) Unfortunately, the respite didn’t last for long and we were harried all the way back to the station by the motley collection of ‘anti-fascists’ with more missiles thrown.
Just before we went under the railway bridge, one particularly loathsome individual surged towards us with an Irish tricolour and started chanting, “IRA, IRA ” – I hope his ‘enlightened’ friends are happy with him for praising paramilitaries and for using the flag of the Republic in an inappropriate way at a celebration of England’s patron saint.
Unfortunately, it was typical of the bigotry and intolerance we had seen on the day from people who claim to oppose such things!
The patriots of March for England had once again shown restraint in the face of serious provocation from this motley assortment, and I am happy to say that there was none of the racist chanting that the UAF claimed that there would be at the event – Indeed, I have witnessed MFE working alongside people of many different races, religions and colours when covering their organisation for the blog so would have been far more surprised if there had been any! One idiot who nobody seemed to know threw a Nazi salute at the protesters and was swiftly and robustly dealt with by stewards and ejected from the march – It may have been a sarcastic reply to the taunting, but this kind of thing gets shown zero tolerance at events I have attended as a guest. A pity that AntiFA don’t show the same attitude as can be seen from the photo above.
A further viewpoint on the day was written by my friend ‘Esmerelda Weatherwax’ and can be viewed via the following link
St George – A figure to unite and celebrate
We are all aware of the Legend, and that our patron saint hails from overseas. Indeed, St George is the patron saint of many countries and regions around the world and as such could be held up as an example of how one man is a unifying figure to rally round and celebrate irrespective of your background.
Many countries have a patron saint who is not from their homeland, but still celebrate their life and have them as a focal point for national celebrations. St Patrick is a case in point – Whisper it low in Dublin, but he was actually an Englishman!
To my mind, this makes St George an ideal figure to represent a national day in England where we can all get together and celebrate the things that make our culture and country unique, a day where the kind of pride we have in who we are can be expressed in the same way as we saw last week during the Jubilee celebrations. The flag of St George is an inclusive flag as seen by his popularity around the world, not the badge of extremists as the likes of the UAF would have you believe .
Slaying the Dragons of ignorance
It appears that there are some who view being proud of your country as being some kind of affliction, that having such pride is tantamount to being some sort of swivel eyed fascist lunatic. The picture above from the 2012 St George event in Brighton makes it quite clear that in the eyes of the likes of the UAF and the SWP, ‘patriotism breeds racism’.
Unfortunately, this kind of ridiculous rhetoric seems to have many sympathisers in the corridors of power in this country. Green party leader Caroline Lucas MP was out with the UAF during the Brighton event, and has even had the brass neck to complain about the Police handling of the demonstrators, despite their violent acts towards both the women and children on the march and the Police themselves.
Her Green party colleague and Brighton councillor, Ben Duncan(left), has been vocal in his support for an anarchist group called ‘Smash EDO’ whose numbers include UAF members and who have staged violent protests against a military contractor in the town. Cllr Duncan is the cabinet member for community safety, and was reported by the BBC on 1st May as having tweeted that he ‘only smoked cannabis whilst murdering,raping and looting’, for which he has since apologised.
Whilst the rest of the country was celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee last week, Smash EDO were staging a demonstration against a war with Iran and the EDO factory, whilst other ‘left wing’ groups also staged a UK Uncut march through Brighton on the Saturday (2nd June).
The UAF staged a ‘stuff the jubilee’ party in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne on 4th June as reported on Sky News, yet they claim that this is their ‘democratic right to free speech’ that they would deny to others.
Which brings me back to why I feel that Labour leader Ed Milliband is purely paying lip service to the idea of Englishness and patriotism. Below is a link to the list of signatories to the UAF founding statement on their website
Look at how many MP’s are on this list from his party – Indeed, look at how many there are from all the parliamentary parties, including Prime Minister David Cameron!
How can any of them honestly hold their head up and make a speech such as Mr Milliband did earlier this week when this organisation claims that patriotism is racism? How does Mr Cameron have the nerve to go on national TV praising our Queen when members of this organisation that he is a signatory to are having a ‘stuff the jubilee’ party on the streets of England?
Indeed, new UAF Vice-Chairman Azad Ali (above) is the community affairs co-ordinator of the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) , a group dedicated to enforcing it’s own interpretation of Islamic law on to the democracies of Europe.He was quoted as justifying the killing of British troops and then unsuccessfully sued the newspaper who printed the story, has praised Al-Qaeda cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki and was filmed by undercover reporters from the Channel 4 Despatches programme saying, “Democracy, if it means at the expense of not implementing the sharia then of course no-one agrees with that” .
How does this square with the patriotism that Mr Milliband speaks of, when a senior member of an organisation that such Labour party luminaries as Ken Livingstone, Tony Benn and Diane Abbott are happy to have their name linked to would like to impose an alternative legal system above our own laws and democratic rights?
The way ahead
My idea of patriotism revolves around culture, country and community. We have seen recently how not just the English but all of our commonwealth cousins have come together to celebrate a joyous occasion in our country’s history. We are all part of the tapestry that is 21st century England irrespective of our backgrounds, and such events help to bind us together as a truly united nation.
I was fortunate enough to mingle with the crowds in London during the Flotilla on 3rd June and it brought home to me just how much we have to be proud of in England, a fact not lost on the multitudes who turned out from all corners of the world.In the face of onslaughts on our way of life from the twin evils of the EU and extremist terrorism, it is good to celebrate who we are and to be reminded of what we have achieved as a nation.
To continue to achieve as a country, we need to work together and have a feeling of belonging. A national day to celebrate this without the divisiveness of the likes of the UAF and their ilk would be a start, where the English people of all colours and faiths can gather under our flag and proudly say ‘We are a part of this community and we stand together, more alike and united than we are different’.
It has been brilliant to stand together under our flag for the last fortnight without any of the negative connotations put about by those who would destroy such feelings of belonging – Let us hope that this is a turning point where all the people of England, be they black or white and of whatever religion, can stand together and say, “This is our country, this is our community, and we want to take it back from the extremists and those who disrespect it”
A big thank you to Mickey English and Esmerelda for additional photgraphs used in this piece, and to Lawson Narse for the St George artwork.