Members of the far-right Scottish Defence League (SDL) were outnumbered in Alloa yesterday by anti-fascist demonstrations.
The official excuse for the SDL demo was that Clackmannanshire Council, like many local authorities, have participated in the Syrian Resettlement Program.. The SDL initially claimed they would march through Alloa and hold a rally where refugees were being housed, a deliberately inciteful claim, given the group have rarely gained permission for more than a static demo throughout their entire history and any attempt to “march” has always resulted in confrontation with anti-fascists.
What actually happened was 40 or so “Scottish Defence League” AKA The National Front, National Action and a few other white nationalist groups stood in a pen at the top of Alloa High Street, waving “White Pride” flags and trying and failing to get a sound system preloaded with racist chants to work before being bussed back down the road.
It’s fair to say the pitiful turnout from the SDL, especially with so many clearly displaying flags from English groups, doesn’t suggest they’re going anywhere fast but it’s still concerning they’re organising at all. Unlike the English Defence League, who at least tried PR for a bit, the SDL have never bothered pretending to not be fascists and Nazis and chants like “we are white nationalists and we’re proud” suggest their message is hardening even if the numbers and the demos remain static.
The SDL were opposed by 2 protests, the first held outside Alloa Train Station and organised by local residents and the second on High Street organised by our old pals, the UAF. As per, their involvement split people needlessly and resulted in predictable aggro.
[CONTENT WARNING: Discussion of rape]
Regular readers will be all too familiar with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and their many front groups but it’s particularly shameful that anyone is still operating under the “Unite Against Fascism” (UAF) name, when this was the front which employed the SWP member whose rape and predatory behaviour the party tried to cover up. Attempts to get any kind of explanation as to why this SWP front was being resuscitated were met with the usual mix of silence, denial and abuse. A Thousand Flowers can perhaps not exclusively reveal the SWP and their chums were there yesterday, meaning everyone loudly suggesting otherwise (and being abusive to anyone pointing this out) was talking pish.
The counter protest at the station gathered prior to the SDL demo, loudly opposing various SDL members as they were herded through the station by the polis and breaking through police lines briefly, while largely ignoring the kettle the police “suggested“ they stand in.
At one point, UAF types confronted one of the organisers and it quickly escalated, with some UAF hack squaring up to a legal observer and shouting, “I’ll knock you on your arse” before slinking off.
After an hour or so, many decided to head to where the SDL were assembling and joined the High Street counter protest.
I’d snuck myself a spot handily between the two kettles and managed a solid 45 minutes of not being moved along by an annoying polis before I got tired of looking at his torn wee face.
When they “all” finally arrived, the SDL were massively outnumbered by the counter protest but everyone was massively outnumbered by the hunners of police, barriers, dug units and your friendly neighbour helicopter all drafted in to keep the groups apart – it was the now familiar “singing kettles” of racists vs anti-racists which have become a staple of these demos in towns and cities across the country. While there was little doubt who did the most singing and while we have no alternative but to get on the streets each and every time the SDL do, it’s very clear this strategy has its limits. Most obviously, it doesn’t prevent fascists from organising. Not that they were very organised.
After yet more attempts to get their automated hate speaker to work, the SDL gave up and settled for old fashioned hate speech, as some guy took to the megaphone to denounce all the “Communist SNP councillors” who were to blame for refugees and everything else. I had at first wondered if their weird yellow and black flags were some kind of anti-SNP symbol…but no, it’s a nazi symbol most closely associated with a program of child kidnap.
The whole thing went on for what seemed like hours more and it’s fair to say I got very bored of looking at and listening to the same few dozen fascists, so went back to the counter protest – only to find that not only had the Stand Up to Racism banner been torn in 2 (by anti-fascists not so keen on uniting with the SWP/UAF/SUTR) but that it had been badly stuck back together with…A Thousand Flowers stickers?!?! At that point, I decided to head up the road before things got any more surreal or I somehow got the
blame eternal credit.
A massive amount of credit is however owed to those who organised the more autonomous demo at the station and to everyone who turned out to oppose the SDL in their various ways. But they could have been totally embarassed yesterday, it wouldn’t have taken much to get a vocal group at the top of the High Street, as well as at the bottom, or even to prevent the SDL assembling all together by going to their pen, rather than begrudgingly doing what the UAF/cops wanted and standing in the one assigned for the counter demo.
Yesterday was pretty embarassing for the SDL, who just looked cold, lonely…and racist, mainly racist. Most people on the High Street seemed confused by their bewilderring array of flags and the many silly mask/sunglasses combos being sported by all the National Action Kids.
The existence of a non-UAF space was a massive positive as were the number of non-aligned activists who weren’t up for being bossed around by either the Police or the UAF kettle masters but we’re lucky the SDL don’t have their shit together and can’t muster more than 40 folk. That can’t ever be taken for granted though and the main force yesterday remained the Polis not anti-fascists.
The SDL may have been outnumbered in Alloa – but the police outflanked any attempt to shut them down. With more SDL events on the horizon, those opposing them on the streets need to think about the most effective ways to do that and remember a time before the only answer was doing as we’re told.
SDL drowned out as Leith marches against racism
SDL outnumbered in Glasgow before being dumped on pub on High Street
The SDL went to England and anti-fascists nicked their banner
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We’re in full agreement with you that we need to think about more effective ways of opposing the fascists, but to help with that thought it was worth adding a bit more tactical information:
The group that broke police lines at the train station in an attempt to reach the SDL didn’t then choose to join the static UAF demo, but rather was frogmarched there forcibly by the polis. They were then monitored very closely by bluejackets and yellowjackets, and generally followed around when they tried to do things as individuals — a tactic preventing them from being able to get somewhere more useful. They also didn’t have any legal observers with them, or remote contact with the other demos, or many nondescript people who could get past the police to collect intel. Some thoughts on this:
– There wasn’t enough information-gathering beforehand to do something creative like nicking the SDL’s pigpen off them, so the militants spent their energy trying to reach them at the train station — energy that, owing to police violence, was then hard to get back later
– There weren’t strong lines of communication during the action to enable people to get closer to the SDL at a later stage: most of the initial breakout group didn’t even know there was a closer confrontation site on the street corner until far too late.
– There was little evidence of pre-organised affinity groups with roles and plans of action, meaning that most action was taken by autonomous individuals seizing tactical moments. This can be effective sometimes, but only in a very limited way, especially without an established black bloc approach.
This isn’t to blame anyone or criticise brave actions and important reporting, but just to describe the situation so we can all be better prepared in future.
Where does one even find (fresh) ATF stickers? the ones I have salvaged for my shrine have all been peeled off pedestrian crossings at central station…