The travelling roadshow of hate that is the Scottish Defence League rolled into the Lanarkshire town of Wishaw this afternoon, under the premise of protesting about refugees who have been settled in the area.
It was less a case of “we came, wi’shaw, we conquered” than… “about 30 of them rolled up, got marched about by the police, drowned out for 45 minutes, and then promptly marched back out again”. A typical day out for the SDL, in other words.
For a long time, this sort of event has followed a pre-defined and narrow script, courtesy of Police Scotland, in which both sides have been kept apart, treated in much the same manner, and “facilitated”. More recently, things have started to change, with a revitalised anti-fascist movement that has not shied away from direct action and confrontation when necessary. This has coincided with an uptick in SDL activity as they attempt to specifically target small communities hosting refugees through the Syrian Resettlement Programme.
The reinvigorated Scottish autonomous anti-fascist movement, under its many banners, was out in force today, following on from its resounding victory over the embarassing “White Pride march” at the Scotsman Steps a few weeks ago. This was complemented by a sizeable number of local republicans, alongside a UAF-organised demonstration. Ahead of the demo, there was some controversy as online conversations emerged in which local UAF organisers threatened to hand anti-fascists over to the police if they disobeyed orders.
Wishaw was predictably buzzing with polis by the time your correspondent arrived shortly before 1.30pm, when the SDL were mooted to be gathering. Police were closely monitoring movements in the residential streets between the station and high street, where anti-fascists and onlookers had gathered on four sides of a junction, as well as in a pen some distance away, that was obscured from the high street by police vans.
The SDL, meanwhile, were being held down nearer the station. At some point after 2pm. the police marched them up to the crossroads where most folk had gathered.
Virtually all of the SDL – a few first-timers aside – had their faces obscured and several were wearing balaclavas for the duration of the protest. A large group of republican protesters then rushed the police lines as the SDL were marched by, which was successful in rattling the fascists who scurried past into their pen.
By this point, the SDL were out of sight, hidden behind a number of police vans. The main block of the UAF demonstration was on the other side of this, involving a 10 minute detour around the town centre to reach.
The SDL were allowed by the police to demonstrate for an hour or so within their pen. There was no visibility of them (or, for that matter, the main anti-fascist protest) from the high street – although few can have been unaware of what was unfolding. This meant that all of the SDL’s efforts were focused on the anti-fascists, who outnumbered them several times over.
Demonstrations like today’s are important because, first and foremost, the SDL need to be broken as an organisation and made to have as miserable time as possible whenever and wherever they venture out.
The work of advancing pro-refugee and anti-racist arguments must go alongside that, however. The SDL are pathetic and small in number, racist and xenophobic sentiment is – unfortunately – growing. Indeed, after the SDL had been marched into their pen, arguments began breaking out on the high street as a handful of onlookers began expressing similar views. Fortunately, though, there is no capable political party or street organisation in Scotland at present properly able to exploit or even articulate that sort of racist “populism” – and the balaclavaed-up SDL with their Nazi tattoos and shit chants will never be that organisation, as some of the more astute fash have come to realise.
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