Demoralising is the word I’d use to sum up yesterday’s events. Fascists converged on my hometown en masse. I wasn’t quite expecting so many; I had been hoping they’d broken a few noses with all the infighting but they were here. If I had not been with my small group of white people, I would have been terrified. I think all anti fascists figured out very quickly we were going to be outnumbered and our plans to prevent them from passing were looking like suicide.
Even if we had managed to stand our ground, the police weren’t having any of it. They followed us around, stopped and searched us, mocked us for being stopped and searched, refused to provide a receipt cos apparently they didn’t need to and when the fun stuff was over, they physically pushed us for not immediately responding to command. They didn’t want to talk about whether what they were doing was lawful or how many human rights they were breaching, at one point I felt almost lifted off my feet as they pushed us out of the way and into the UAF kettle. Or hell as I’ve come to term it.
I don’t know if you’ve ever visited Birmingham’s Chamberlain Square, it looks like an amphitheatre with a fountain in the middle. Sitting on the stairs you can see everyone in the square. As we begrudgingly joined UAF and the like at the designated point for protest, I recognised the various groups assembled. UAF had a megaphone, English Disco Lovers were DANCING and SWP were handing out placards to people who have no idea who they are. Among the sea of white faces were local Asian lads, older black men and the odd member of an anti-fascist network. It was these people that helped keep us safe. Or at least made us feel safe-ish. They were going to defend our town, they were ready. They had to be; EDL had broken through two police lines and were injuring police officers and even each other in an attempt to attack us. When I heard this news, I felt chilled to the core. There were so many more of them than us. I felt we could come to serious harm. I felt conflicted. I’m not a fan of a Muslim Defence League any more than I am the EDL but given the choice, in that situation, they were my comrades, we had a common enemy and an appreciation for the seriousness of the situation. Unlike the others.
English Disco Lovers made me want to rage in fury. Here we were, under imminent threat of attack and they were boogying? I was on the other side of the square and watching in disbelief as they pranced. Was this a spoof? Is my whole life a parody? Unfortunately not. The group of white people in their retro disco clothes, having fun whilst the rest of us struggled to suppress the 10th panic attack of the day were able to do so because racism, let’s face it, doesn’t really affect them or at least won’t ever in the same way. It’s ok to be so blasé when you’re not the one under threat of attack at any given time. UAF just did not BLOODY SHUT UP once as they reminded us of this racist threat we were under. No shit Sherlock, that’s why we’re at this demo. I was already seething from a comment I’d read on their page where they said they would be dealing with ‘racists, fascists and trolls’. I found it irksome because UAF are known for shopping Antifa comrades to the police. They stifle dissent by criminalising people. I was worried. Worried for the Asian lads and black men and my friends. To be quite honest there weren’t even many UAF there.
I searched the news today, again incredulous, at the media’s portrayal of events. Pictures of EDL interspersed with the counter demo, all white front pages as they say. There were some pictures of people of colour but all of those were masked and threatening. They referred to an ‘anarchist element’ and ‘troublemakers’. The EDL looked like they were at a festival in a country they run. Tell me, if I, as a person with a foot in both worlds, looked at those pictures and identified PoC as the antagonists then what is your average Daily Mail reader thinking? Considering the white mainstream news sources, it is clear to see where their prejudices lie. Everything you heard/saw on the news was untrue. I did however; find a link to content that looked like the demo I had attended. It was a YouTube clip filmed off a telly, a Bangladeshi channel and it spoke to actual people of colour. I wished I knew what he was saying but I didn’t need to, he’d seen what I’d seen and that was good enough for me.
See, that’s what the anti-racist movement needs more of; more people of colour speaking up and defending themselves, more white people shutting the fuck up and listening. But they don’t y’see; they know what’s best after all.
A friend of mine got into a discussion on a UAF page where she echoed many of the sentiments I have expressed above. UAF were praising Disco Leaguers for their impressive shapes. She was told that the term ‘person of colour’ is offensive and that she, as a white woman was being patronising. Well, I had to correct them and sent them this, “Hey, so I’m a person of colour and think it highly patronising when white people undermine threats to our lives with happy clapping and stupid dance moves. You are quick to dismiss dissent and you can manipulate it to look like some white people appropriate the struggle as though it’s all about them, but what exactly are you doing? Thoroughly disappointed with UAF, SWP, English disco league. You make a mockery of our pain” which was then promptly deleted by them. Unite against Fascism, the anti-racist organisation don’t care for my opinion. Is it because I am brown? Or is it because I am a woman? Is it because these people don’t actually have a clue what they’re doing and are seen to be doers with very little respect for people of colour’s lived experiences? I think all three. The Disco Leaguers didn’t even know what PoC means! They had to Google it.
The face of anti-racism, ladies, gents and non-binary peeps.
I’m absolutely brimming with confidence and hope.