Several Bristol antifascists attended the very well organised AFN conference on 10th March. The event brought together antifascist groups and individuals from around the country at the impressive and welcoming Kurdish community centre in Haringey. A lot of good links were made, not least with the Kurdish comrades, over the course of the day. There were a range of discussions and talks, from antifascist history to present day struggles and prisoner solidarity and prison abolition.
A last minute addition to the programme saw a well attended talk by some comrades from the US antifascist movement, who got a warm welcome. They talked about the tough terrain they face in the states since the inauguration of a white supremacist president and subsequent ongoing resistance in the face of escalating repression.
Elsewhere there were several welcoming and accessible self defence sessions throughout the day, with a good mix of people taking part and strengthening our ability to fight to win! The antifascist kid’s zone was the scene of much uproar and lots of fun times for antifascists big and small. The next generation showed great promise at antifascist skittles, stick the fist on Richard Spencer and flag burning for beginners, amongst other appropriate activites.
A big meeting on the subject of strengthening and sustaining our antifascist movement was packed out and there were loads of really useful thoughts and contributions shared. We talked about the problems we face and how to make links, grow and make sure we are as effective as possible as antifascists.
The last words, appropriately, went to the Kurdish comrades, as an activist from the Kurdish youth movement gave an excellent talk and answered questions about the Kurdish struggle and revolution as well as information about the Turkish attack on Afrin and the complicity of the UK in the atrocities being perpetrated. The comrade spoke so powerfully and made it absolutely clear that their struggle is ours, against capitalism, fascism and for all humanity.
So it was that when we heard that there was a Kurdish demo for solidarity with Afrin organised that evening, several of us went to stand with them.
Long live Afrin!
Organised within two hours of hearing about the advance of Turkish forces on the centre of Afrin, this demonstration was an absolute inspiration for antifascists everywhere! At 7pm there was a group of around 20 or so but within half an hour that number was nearer 200. It was clear that lots of the predominantly Kurdish demonstrators had friends and family back home facing the genocidal Turkish army and trying to survive the bullets and bombs. There was a real feeling of urgency and anger and the slogans, initiated by the Kurdish women, were shouted loud and clear by everyone. At a signal, everyone was in the street with YPG and YPJ flags flying alongside pictures of the victims of the bombing, the devastated lives and the destruction being wrought by the murderous Turkish state in Afrin. Traffic and business as usual was heavily disrupted and hundreds of passers by learned about the atrocities of the murderous Turkish state, fully supported by the UK government, arms companies and the silence of the BBC.
Police attempts to “facilitate” (read neutralise) and then physically attack and stop the demo came to nothing as people were having none of it and their strength and determination pushed the police back. Many onlookers did the right thing and joined the demonstration, swelling number significantly and adding their voices. After nearly three hours of marching and staging sit ins at strategic positions (to maximise impact and visibility) such as Trafalgar square, Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus, the demo went to have a few words at the BBC, shaming them loudly for their unacceptable silence and complicity with the genocide.
As the demo dispersed animated discussions and preparations were already underway for next day’s demonstration. These people will not give up and neither should we. We need to recognise we share the same struggle and stand, march and take action together.
We said our goodbyes and left feeling very inspired and motivated by such solid organisation, determination and people so committed and clearly living by their principles. If it wasn’t clear already, let’s make it clear now – we could learn a lot from the Kurdish movement and the revolution they are fighting so hard for!
“We will fight, we will win, Viva, viva Afrin!”
— Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign (@KurdsCampaign) March 10, 2018