Tuesday, 24 April 2012
I'm proud to be a Brightonian
Last Sunday saw the 'March for England' come to our seaside town. In a nutshell, some 100 fascists were outnumbered about ten to one by anti-fascist counterdemonstrators. They couldn't really have the march they planned, as a result, and most of the visiting fascists were forced to spend a while in holding pens down on Valley Gardens before being marched up to the station and escorted onto trains back to Crawley and London.
The whole affair made my proud to be a Brightonian. The police, depsite earlier warnings on this site and elsewhere, did use the inhuman tactic of kettling - but since they only seem to have used it on the fascist marchers I haven't heard any complaints: although there were a few negative rumblings about the way the police behaved towards counter-demonstrators (see this video clip for an example) most people I've spoken to seemed pleased that the police did act in an even-handed way, and didn't come across as being on the fascists' 'side' - something that has ceratinly been alleged in previous years and would have been an absolute disaster given recent reports of racism in the police in London, Northern Ireland and elsewhere (but, thankfully, not in Sussex).
As Brighton and Hove City Council's Cabinet Member with responsibility for community safety, I'll be discussing all the issues I'm aware of with the police - and seeing if any lessons can be learned for our city. If you are aware of any incidents you'd like me to pick up, do leave comments below and I'll do so of course.
There has been much debate since Sunday - at least among Green Party supporters - about whether the enormous counter-demonstration, which ensured the event became front-page news locally and regionally, and even attracted some national coverage - was effectively giving the 'oxygen of publicity' to the fascists.
I see the argument - the first time the March for England came there was almost no resistance, and they were left, bemused, to have their picnic at Valley Gardens before sloping off home again, relatively unnoticed.
But I take the opposite view.
Fascist ideals are so invidious, attacking not just individual groups but our whole sense of community, that I think it's important that they DO receive the 'oxygen of publicity' - and are therefore subject to the scrutiny under which these sort of ideas (and their cheerleaders) almost always collapse. And it's vital that such scrutiny takes place in the context of a clear majority message that fascism won't be tolerated here in Brighton.
The numbers on the streets on Sunday made that point really well, and that's one reason why I'm really proud to be a Brightonian.
They also seems to have thrown the fascist movement into some disarray: it has been reported today that the English Defence League is to merge with the British Freedom Party, with a new set of (lovely) policies, including a ban on new mosque developments, leaving the EU, banning the Burqa and Niqab, promoting what they claim are Christian values, and halting ALL unskilled immigration. Nice.
Fascist-watchers are already predicting the move will mean the end of the British National Party as the far-right field just isn't big enough for all of them. Good!