Demonstration in Central London against Fascist Football Lads – Action Writeup

A large black banner reading "Refugees Welcome" with a half folded set of black and purple antifascist flags on one side is held by blurred figures, either side police officers wearing dark fatigues and hi vis vests flank the demonstration.

On the 24th of September 2022, Antifascists came together to demonstrate against the far-right and block their route to the Home Office, and take a clear stand against the equally fascist Tory Home Office itself.

The day was successful with fascists unable to reach their demo location. Antifascists held our ground and the fash gave up on their plan, heading away defeated and marching in circles.

We want to say thanks to everyone who turned out, and had the patience, discipline and intelligence to stay together and in doing so, avoided injuries  and arrests – antifascists didn’t fall for the bait of Parliament square, did what we set out to do, and left safely.

The aim of the day was always to hold a key area on the fascists’ route – to disrupt their planned march in this way as much as was possible with a fairly quick mobilisation call-out, and this was definitely achieved. Too many times we feel that antifascists get lured into physical confrontations in central London which is ultimately the police’s home ground; some people who turned up on the day were disappointed that we didn’t march directly into the fascists for a clash but ultimately we wanted to stop the far right achieving their goal with as minimal backlash as possible and this was done effectively. Many of us have been on tens or hundreds of Central London demonstrations and we now only do them when absolutely necessary, we much prefer action and demonstrations in working class areas away from Whitehall.

A police line stands in front of a banner with a Yellow Raised fist with "LAFA" instead of knuckles on a black background. The people holding the banner are all wearing baseball caps and are mainly blurred.

With a police presence of over 100 dedicated to us alone, it was clear that going in physically would’ve ended with mass arrests; militant and confrontational demonstrations are best kept outside central London, in areas where the police don’t hold the streets.

One of the limiting factors on the day was the turnout, we generally had between 50 and 75 antifascists in our bloc, not including antifascists operating outside the demonstration. We were always unsure about predicting numbers for the demonstration because it’s been a long time since we called a protest like this. Turnout was lower than we were hoping for. We guess there are a few reasons for this: many people haven’t been on an antifascist demonstration in years and with a high turnover of left-wing activists, many experienced heads are gone, there’s always a new generation needing new experience and we’re very glad that this demonstration gave a safe environment for new antifascists to cut their teeth.

Overall we didn’t do as much in- person organising to bring people to the demonstration as we should have, we overcommitted slightly in the weeks before and then missed key events and meetings at which we hoped to invite people to join the demonstration. We also should’ve reached out to a wider range of groups to help us organise the demonstration from early on. We relied too heavily on online spaces to promote the demonstration, a well-known bad indicator of commitment to show up. In the future we would like to work more closely with like-minded groups to co-ordinate demonstrations more effectively and build trust with groups who have been around much longer than we have.

It didn’t help numbers that The World Transformed was taking place the same weekend, but ultimately this would always be an issue to be overcome and we didn’t do enough to deal with it.

On a wider level, we feel it’s important to emphasise the importance of antifascism to the many anarchists, abolitionists, leftists, activists and organisers who didn’t prioritise the demonstration. In recent years since the decline of the EDL and Tommy Robinson who made the far-right very visible to the public, it feels that a number of radicals don’t see antifascism as important or essential to the radical movement, we want to make it clear this is a short-sighted and dangerous position. We cannot view the murderous policies of the home office as separate from the people advocating for them on the streets.

A person holds a red sign with black writing reading "State Racism and Street Racism are Two Sides of the Same Coin" with blurred figures at a demonstration around them.

Too often it feels like antifascists are playing catch-up, waiting for the far-right to have a huge terrifying march or large victory before jumping into action. We don’t want that to be the case and therefore need as many people as possible to stamp out the far-right, whenever they appear, especially as more and more governments in Europe either adopt far-right positions or are fascists themselves!

Along these lines, we also wanted the protest to make a vocal stand against government racism; only challenging the far right on the street and not going after the government, when near the home office, would have been a missed opportunity. One of the nicest moments on the day was being cheered on by pedestrians who saw our large “Refugees Welcome” banner as we marched to our dispersal point – this does obviously raise the point that with a genuinely popular message, it means low numbers is an issue of organisation on our part as opposed to a sign that the message is widely disagreed with in London.

The logistical aspects of the day couldn’t really have gone better, with strong discipline on the demonstration, with low numbers, we would’ve felt vulnerable if not for firm borders to the demonstration being held tightly. Leaving the area safely was also important, especially for newer antifascists, and our march to take people directly to an underground station made this easy.

A first aid team from Queercare was on site throughout the day and was very helpful in assisting activists and making our protest more accessible.  We are also grateful to the Legal Observers for documenting the vast police overkill operation! Met Police deployed a facial recognition van, violent specialists from the Territorial Support Group and a large number of regular officers numbering in the hundreds.

We also want to massively thank activists from a range of Antifascist groups, LGBTQ+ groups, workers unions, Irish and Scottish republican activists and Socialist groups, we made it clear: London is Antifascist! NO PASARAN!

We want to Thank Fields of Light Photography and @Baptistemas_ for their great pics from the day.

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