Blundering far-right fantasists the Scottish Defence League ventured down to Preston in mid-October for what promised to be a fun day of getting pissed and shouting incoherently about Muslims. Joining with their pals in the North West Infidels, they took to the streets of the Lancashire town – which has a sizeable Muslim population – for an “anti-refugee” protest.
But as is frequently the case where the SDL are concerned, things didn’t quite go to plan. It’s possible that they didn’t bank on bumping into the Merseyside Anti-Fascist Network (MAFN) – the same group whose total humilitation of the Liverpool “White Man March” a few months ago became a viral sensation (because who doesn’t love videos of neo-Nazis cowering inside a left luggage shop?)
Not long after arriving in Preston’s Market Square, the SDL and NWI found themselves under a barrage of missiles and firecrackers from local youth. With the fascists quickly losing their tempers, they charged through police lines before suddenly finding themselves on the retreat, fleeing the square and abandoning a number of their flags and banners as they left. So it came to pass that one of the SDL’s banners fell into the possesion of Merseyside anti-fascists – along with one of the NWI’s flags. “A local skater kid confiscated a third flag, from a member of the so-called ‘Right Wing Resistance’ who’d decided to start a fight he couldn’t finish,” a MAFN member told this blog.
“The North West Infidels are a disgrace to Liverpool, so always mindful of our duty to public health, MAFN decided their flag was hazardous material, and incinerated it at the Pier Head,” they continued.
That fate didn’t befall the trophy of the SDL banner though. After a recent anti-fascist conference in Liverpool, held in early December, MAFN decided to make it the centrepiece of the after-party, where it was hung upside down and had anti-fascist slogans daubed across it. Another glorious chapter in the history of Scotland’s street fascist movement.
However, the events of October do point towards a worrying recent trend.
“On the face of it, it’s always funny to laugh at the SDL and their kind, and we certainly had fun letting our supporters improve the banner as they saw fit,” said a MAFN spokesperson. “MAFN believes that Glasgow fascists are attending events in England more regularly to network with other racists and to strengthen their relatively new racist cliques. As their confidence and numbers grow this can only be bad for Glasgow, the city’s communities, and Scotland as a whole.”
Part of this renewed momentum in Scotland’s far-right appears to stem from the so-called “Right Wing Resistance” group, who have been joining the SDL on their recent protests. With a small cadre of older members, the group has been targetting Glasgow’s notorious “Four Corners” – which has been a meeting point for Glasgow youth subcultures for several years – and have recruited a number of impressionable young members. Self-proclaimed “first in command” of the RWR is the much older Gary Crane, who lives in the Ayrshire town of Cumnock and is particularly unhinged. He is also very dangerous, as MAFN explain:
“More disturbing than the flags, however, was what activists found in the backpack of Glasgow-based fascist Gary Crane. Gary got a bit clumsy and dropped his bag in Preston, which meant he also dropped his condoms, sedatives, zip-ties and facemask, which are – how can we put this? – not the kinds of things we’d normally pack for a day trip. We can only invite readers to draw their own conclusions, but it may be the case that Gary Crane is a threat to his local community in more ways than one.
In light of the disturbing new cross-border activity between Glasgow and North West based fascists, MAFN have issued a call for stronger links between anti-fascists.
“We’d like to use this opportunity to highlight the fact that fash are still mobilising in and from Glasgow, in groups that haven’t been seen before. So we’d encourage closer links between activists in Liverpool and Glasgow – two proud cities with distinct cultural identities, as well as strong leftist traditions and outlooks that untie them. At a time when it can sometimes seem that racism, xenophobia and prejudice are on the rise in society at large, agitating and educating against the far-right is in everyone’s interests,” they said.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that Scotland’s bumbling far-right have suffered the indignity of having a banner stolen. In 2010, the right-wing blogosphere went into meltdown after anti-fascists in Glasgow smashed up a BNP stall. A photograph of the BNP’s banner in the hands of anti-fascists later circulated online – much to their chagrin – leading to an arrest and prosecution. Some three years later, this resulted in a Not Proven verdict.