As tens of thousands of protesters gathered to watch a video link from Jeremy Corbyn in Grosvenor Square, in opposition of Trump’s travel ban on Muslims thousands of miles away, a few short miles away in Central London there were activists getting to the heart of the matter.
Earlier in the week, a secret callout went out from London Antifascists about a clandestine meeting being held by the ‘London Forum’, a group behind neo-Nazi organising in the UK. According to London Antifascists the majority of Neo Nazi mobilisations in the U.K. can be directly linked back to these meetings.
According to the received intelligence Jason Reza Jorjani, a close associate of Richard Spencer – of Nazi punch meme infamy, would be speaking along with an assortment of other Nazis, anti feminists, Holocaust deniers and conspiracy theorists that make up the “alt-right” in the Holiday Inn Kensington. It’s worth skipping your Weetabix for.
At 12:00 noon on the dot, the time the publicly announced ‘flash demo’ was due to begin and a short time after our spotter arrived, there was nothing in front of the Hotel besides a solitary policeman in a van and three characters outside having a smoke. Were they antifascist protesters? No, as it turns out they were attendees to the very meeting being opposed. A missed opportunity for Antifa and security risk for any supporters turning up wondering where the anti fascist mobilisation was.
Come 12:20 the front of the building was blockaded and smoke flares let off. This started the physical pressure on the Hotel following from the phone calls and tweets they’d been receiving. The staff on the inside looked fraught and under pressure at how they’d been allegedly tricked into hosting the meeting (fascists are seldom upfront about the nature of their events and often book under false names). Police soon arrived but not in terrific numbers. Their response was surprisingly calm although that may have been down to resources: both having to cover the much larger Central London demo and local Chelsea game.
As more Antifa arrived their numbers gradually spread around the hotel covering all exits in the obvious anticipation that the meeting would be cancelled and the Nazis removed from the Hotel to cease the demonstration and protect its image. This didn’t transpire presumably as the situation could be best managed by keeping the fascists inside the hotel and the antifascists outside of it.
With the obligatory chopper whirring overhead to take photographs, over the next few hours eight vans full of police resources arrived but parked out of view and seemed to be there for precautionary measures than to escalate the situation.
This stand-off lasted three hours until the Antifa numbers started dwindling, with the fash having won the war of attrition in the warmth, against their opponents surrounding the hotel in cold. It’s unclear if the meeting was disrupted but the Hotel representative our spotter spoke to seemed keen for it not to go ahead.
Summary: What can be learnt from this?
Businesses hosting fascists absolutely should be picketed and the information publicised. This frustrates their attempts to organise effectively.
More numbers would have been more desirable but the last minute calling of the flash demo plus the bigger Trump happening on the same day may have put a drag on attendees. It was a good turnout non-the-less.