Saturday 17th November saw a mass march in London organised by ‘Stand up to Racism’ , allegedly against racism, ‘Islamophobia’, fascism and anti Semitism – having come across the organisation before, I was intrigued to see if this was really what they were concerned about or if there were other factors at play and to this end put my freelance journalist’s hat on to record the day and talk with people about what they were looking to achieve.
I arrived just before 12pm at the meeting point outside the BBC Centre in Portland Place to find the streets already awash with posters, various stands and placards piled up for people to help themselves to.
Some of these posters and papers, as you can see, had mixed messages – for a march that was supposedly against anti-Semitism there were a lot of banners, flags and papers denouncing ‘Zionism’ as ‘Racism’. When I pointed out to a few of the protesters that Zionism is actually the belief that Jews have the right to self determination and their own homeland, many walked away from me. Those that did engage either advised that they were happy to support Israel’s right to exist but not on ‘Palestinian’ land or disagreed with the dictionary definition – but more of that later.
The trade unions were out in full force and large balloons were up alongside a makeshift stage outside the TV centre as more filed in to the meeting point. Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party stands were dotted around at various points, with sellers out pushing the Socialist Worker magazine and The Morning Star. Buckets were passed around asking for ‘donations’.
I started to mingle with the crowd and introduced myself to a few people as a freelance reporter for UKFM News to get their take on events.
Whilst nobody wanted to be filmed, a number were happy to give quotes. Lisa from Chester said that she was attending as racism is a tool to divide us and that Theresa May’s ‘Hostile Environment’ policy was an example of extremism. She advised me that we are all one race but that racism now is worse than it has ever been. In her opinion, only a change of government and Jeremy Corbyn in No 10 would change that (She was wearing a Momentum badge). I was going to question her further but had to beat a hasty retreat as I saw some faces in the crowd who may have recognised me and I was not taking that risk at this stage.
Mary from Sheffield advised me that she was there to show unity against the ‘far right’ and that she was representing the majority against a hostile press and a ‘racist’ President Trump.
I walked further up to try and get some other views, walking past the following stand
Attempts to engage in conversation about what they thought Zionism actually is proved fruitless, hostile body language and refusal to answer a straight question was all I got.
I then engaged with a young lady called Dani who advised me that her parents were from Chile – she was holding two posters and spread in between was a banner saying ‘Immigrants get the job done’ which she advised me was a quote from the popular musical, Hamilton. She was happy to talk and told me she was there to oppose all forms of racism and push a positive image of migrants such as her family. I asked if she was aware of an MP in London who had opposed migrant workers coming to act as nurses in a hospital in her constituency, stating that they had no connection with the culture and community there to which she was rightly indignant – her view was that those of the medical profession help to save lives irrespective of where they come from. When I advised her that the MP in question was Diane Abbott, patron of SUTR, speaking about Swedish nurses in the 90’s she was quite shocked.
I also asked if she was aware of a Labour meeting last week in London, promoted by SUTR, that featured a known anti Semite and Islamist extremist, Shakeel Begg, talking about antisemitism (Poster below)
Again, she was genuinely stunned and told me that their ‘movement’ needed to have a better and more uniform stance on opposing all forms of racism.
This was a vast improvement on others who I had spoken with who either refused to believe it, stated it was a ‘one off mistake’ or simply walked away with a disgusted look on their faces.
I was impressed with Dani’s commitment and her openness on these issues and reflected to myself that if more on the march were like her then perhaps the day would not be a complete waste after all.
Unfortunately, as the march started to form up and move towards Westminster, my hopes in that regard were dashed.
Flags were in evidence with images of Che Guevara, a man whose stance on black people being ‘indolent’ and lesser beings than white Europeans is well documented,whilst the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union was also flown – a real bastion of tolerance and diversity
I then bumped in to Will, a Labour Party member who had been with us during the protests against anti Semitism on Parliament Square earlier this year. Whilst I disagree with many of his political opinions, he is a decent fellow and a man who has spent thirty years opposing racism from all sides, even being assaulted in his home borough of Harrow for sticking up for Jewish friends.
He advised me that he was happy to be filmed for his opinions and you can see that video here
I believe that Will truly is against all forms of racism but I felt so deflated by his answers to the questions about Shakeel Begg and the Labour candidacy of Ali Milani in Uxbridge & South Ruislip. Milani is a proven anti Semite and to switch the conversation to criticism of Israel being legitimate and having to have proper scrutiny is the cop out that Labour have been using to try and avoid confronting the rampant antisemitism in their party. To also mention JVL (Jewish Voice for Labour) when they actually OPPOSED us on Parliament Square when we called out Labour anti Semitism can, in my opinion, only be for appearances sake whilst he tries to reform from within – good luck with that.
Will was shortly afterwards accosted by a woman who took him to task over Labour’s stance on Brexit, saying they were no longer socialists and that they have towed the UKIP line on the issue (I wish). She was harassing Labour members at the march demanding a ‘People’s Vote’, although she also revealed that she is not eligible to vote in this country. The march seemed to have a lot of angry remainers on it who blame our government for the ‘rise in racism’ and think that the EU will solve all those problems – hardly likely when their mass migration policies are fuelling tensions in the first place!
The March moved off but it was difficult to gauge numbers as the Police stewarded it in to one side of the road and they could not have been more than 6-8 abreast at any one time – the speakers later claimed there were 30k but looking at the form up at Portland Place I would reckon around 6-7k, although more did join as the march progressed.
It was a mix of students, posh people from South London, trade unionists, left and far left supporters and what Paul Joseph Watson refers to as ‘swamp donkeys’ – I will leave that final description to your own imagination!
The megaphones were in full force and amongst the chants were references to Tommy Robinson – “Tommy Robinson go to hell, take your nazi friends as well”
I found this quite ironic when you see the hostility towards the Jewish right to self determination I had come across earlier, many of the responses in breach of the IHRA definition of anti Semitism. Indeed, there were leaflets and banners out opposing the right of Jews to decide what is hostility towards themselves under that definition but those same people were fully behind the right of certain sections of the Muslim community to define ‘Islamophobia’ – maybe the extremists such as Begg and Azad Ali of the UAF whose organisation was listed as funding the march? I pointed out Ali’s history to some of the attendees – saying that British soldiers are ‘legitimate targets’, praising Al Qaeda cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki and stating that nobody would accept democracy at the expense of implementing sharia law. When challenged, I pointed out that journalist Andrew Gilligan had been taken to court over exposing this and Ali had lost – the response in the main was that they didn’t trust the judge and that Gilligan is not a reliable source. The exposure of Begg as an extremist in a Judge’s opinion was also similarly dismissed.
The purpose of the march was also I feel compromised by banners such as the one below
Prevent is the government’s anti-extremism strategy. Whilst it is flawed, it is a starting point from which engagement can be made and a modified strategy is essential to stop extremism at the root. Those I engaged with on the march about this were convinced that Prevent is ‘racist’ and the real problem is the ‘far right’. At the end of the march I discussed with two gentleman that the real problem is three fold – the real far right, Islamists and the regressive left. When I stated that Maajid Nawaz of the anti Extremist Quilliam Foundation has mentioned the triple threat on his LBC radio show, he was denounced as uninformed, a Zionist shill and his organisation was denigrated as a hotbed of extremism propped up by ‘Zionist’ funding.
In the pen
When the march ended at the meeting point on Whitehall, a screen and stage were in evidence.
Opposite 10 Downing Street is a pen that demonstrators are allowed to book and I soon saw some colleagues I had demonstrated alongside before in evidence – they are pro-Israel campaigners and had their flags with them
They were confronted by people from the march carrying Palestinian flags and being pretty intimidating – indeed, Harry who is in the picture on the left was assaulted from outside the pen with pro Palestinian campaigners trying to slap him around the face – I recognised one of them, a short man of Arab appearance, as being one of the people who was at the PSC event in London in October where a 70 year old Jewish woman was hospitalised.
They were trying to engage with the marchers to put across their point regarding the Gaza situation but, having joined them in the ‘pen’, I could see it was virtually impossible. Very few would debate with most just screaming insults and waving flags – I got a dose of this when I picked up an Israeli flag.
Those who did engage had little real knowledge of the situation – one even told me that Balfour was an ‘anti-Semite’ as he only drafted the declaration to get the Jews out of England. When I asked him why they are still here, although in reduced numbers, he didn’t have an answer.
Again, when I stated that there is a triple threat to Jews, I was told that there is no problem with the regressive left and the Islamists and it is all to do with the ‘far right’. When I questioned why Israeli flags are flown at the demonstrations they refer to as ‘far right’ I was told it was because they want the Jewish state so that they can send them somewhere else. When I put forward the opinion that maybe it was because they supported Israel against Islamist extremism from Hamas and Hezbollah then this was taken as an example of ‘far right Islamophobia’. I then gave examples of regressive left anti Semitism (Events where Jews are denied entry, the aforementioned assault on a 70 year old woman and Corbyn speaking alongside Islamists at Al Quds in 2012) which were all summarily dismissed as ‘smears’.
Stand up for Communism
When leaving the event, I walked past yet another stall with the below banner up
The Scottish gentleman manning the stand had been suspended by his trade union for constantly pushing this rhetoric but had seen nothing wrong in it – he said that ‘some of his best friends are Jews’.
It was a familiar theme throughout the day – despite allegedly being against anti Semitism, a large proportion of the march refused to accept that Jews can decide what they see as discrimination but you cannot question what everybody else sees as discrimination against them.
What I did see was a huge presence from the regressive left with an agenda against Capitalism, the current Government, Brexit and Trump.
Speakers included Weyman Bennett of the UAF, who ranted about the ‘thugs’ of the ‘far right’ – neglecting to mention that he has criminal convictions for assaulting Police officers and was part of the Committee of the Socialist Workers Party who covered up a rape allegation against senior member, ‘Comrade Delta’.
That they can masquerade under the banner of being anti racist and pull in decent people like Will and Dani under a false pretence should be a worry for us all – their real agenda needs to be exposed so that the integration rather than balkanisation of our country can be achieved.
Their divisive rhetoric for leftist political aims must not stand