Tuesday 7 June 2016

What to do if fascists do ‘flash mob’ demonstrations in your town

Britain First's stall surrounded by anti-racists last Saturday

Britain First’s stall surrounded by anti-racists in Leicester

Many towns in Britain have suffered from small, often violent, fascist demonstrations in recent months. This isn’t a sign that the Nazis are confident. In fact fascists in Britain are splintered and isolated. Britain’s far right does not expect electoral success and is Britain First’s stall surrounded by anti-racists last Saturday[/caption] no longer trying to look respectable. This is largely due to the anti-fascist movement exposing the reality of groups like the British National Party and the English Defence League.

One group, Britain First (BF), has got a lot of publicity from “flash mob” demonstrations it has organised, most recently in Leicester. But in each case it has been rebuffed because of prompt action by local anti-racists and anti-fascists.

This is a practical guide on what to do if you find groups of Nazis and other racists descending on your town. It is partly based on experience from those areas that have already dealt with such demonstrations—often mobilising at short notice.

1 – Prepare in advance

When BF showed up unannounced in Leicester recently to spread its racist message, its stall was soon surrounded by hundreds of people. The racists had to be escorted out by the police. Local Unite Against Fascism (UAF) supporters were central to this. And they were able to mobilise people so quickly because they already knew local contacts and had a phone tree set up.

They contacted local trade unionists, Muslim groups, students and others. A simple phone tree, where each activist contacts a couple of people, who then each contact a couple more can tell hundreds of people about an event in an hour. This kind of organisation gets a lot of people to take part and feel they are part of the movement against racism, rather than a few trying to organise everything.

It can be used in conjunction with websites, Facebook groups and so on, but with personal contact it is easier to know who is actually coming to a protest. Ask people to bring banners (or make them). Banners from local groups and organisations show the range of people who are angry at the fascists coming.

2 – Keep your database up to date

UAF members have built up excellent databases of members, supporters and anti-racists over years of campaigning. Local UAF groups in Rotherham and the West Midlands have been able to respond fast because they have up to date lists. This makes it possible to build a large, broadly based anti-racist demonstration in a few days.

When people give their details at meetings, on stalls or on protests, all emails and phone numbers should be added within 48 hours. The more people there are on such a database, the bigger your chances of organising successfully if fascists intrude in your town. Encourage people to join UAF—the deeper the roots it has in your area, the easier it is to stop fascists coming in.

Remember to keep security tight. Think twice before printing out lists of supporters to take on stalls or discussing plans who you will call in public places. Make sure that the person sending out emails knows not to simply CC everyone in the mailing list (which gives the email addresses of all supporters to everyone on the list). Fascists often join lists to find out what anti-racists are doing. Do not let racists get hold of a list of all the best anti-racists in your area.

3 – Be Confident

It can be daunting to take a stand against fascist thugs. But fascism is detested for good reason. Generations of people know what poison it is, and UAF groups get a good response.

Often protesters are told, “We’re glad someone’s doing something about these racists”. Many people in local mosques, workplaces, colleges and schools will be ready to answer a call to stop fascist activity in your area.

4 – Think big on social media

Many people will come out to show their anger against racism if they are told what is happening and who is being opposed. At recent protests musicians have joined and—in Leicester—even the local mayor. A buzz created on social media helos inspire people to act. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, all and more are useful and speedy in getting the word out that fascists are in town and can be opposed.

A Facebook group, carefully administrated, is a good opportunity to ensure that anti-fascists can reach out beyond a narrow core of people and from there talk to many more. A good admin or two is always necessary to stop fascists or simply rumour mongers disrupting the activity of the group. In some cases it is better to have a “closed” group, so you know who is taking part in discussions.

5 – Use People’s Talents

There is more to building a local presence than having a group of people who can get out on the street at short notice. People who can’t get out, perhaps because the have children, may be able to feed information to others via social media, or talk to the local press, TV or radio about what is happening. Someone else might be able to set up and run a local UAF web page.

It is important to get your story out. Do you have someone who can do a pithy report on what happened, getting a few words from people who have taken part for national UAF or the media? Is someone good at producing posters, taking pictures or making short videos to put online?

Everyone takes pictures on their smart phones. Put out a call among supporters and tweet the best. Send a good picture to your local paper (see next section). Go share! Show everyone that we are many, they are few…

6 – Media

Someone calm, reliable and informed should let the press know what’s occurring when fascists arrive. They should be someone that journalists can call back if they want to follow up on a story. Local journalists are often against the fascists and will try to give you fair coverage.

Journalists like exact reports so “Several trade unionists spoke about their anger at fascists coming” is not as good as “Jane Doe, USDAW rep at the local Megasupermarket, said, ‘I’m furious that these thugs tried to put up a stall spreading hate outside my workplace.’”

Remember to send pictures with reports. Crowd shots of anti-fascists with union banners, flags, etc, are often used by the media. Papers will often take pictures from Twitter. Try and get pictures of people’s faces. Lots of people are happy to be photographed if they know what it is intended for.

Send short reports to the national press. The Independent and the Huffington Post in particular often feature articles on anti-fascist protests. But others, including the Guardian, are worth contacting. Check on their website who has written about this kind of thing before and email them.

Don’t give up because they don’t take your reports the first time you try. UAF is well known and some journalists are sympathetic to what we do. Remember to add press contacts to your database—as press contacts.

7 – Students

There are thousands of students in every town and city. You may not have a university, but is there a local FE college? Contact NUS in your area, to let them know what you are doing. Include them on your contact database/text round. Ask students to set up a student Facebook site and get a delegation to come down. A sea of banners really sends a message of where our power lies, in opposition to fascism.

8 – Trade Unions

Unions and union members have long been central in organising against the far right. Let key union contacts know what you are planning and ensure they are on the database/phone tree. As with students, delegations of trades unionists make a difference. In Liverpool, trades unionists, with others, mobilised at short notice against a fascist sect, this year, to great effect. It’s an idea to revisit links with trade union offices and ensure that key stewards/Branch officers are part of your plan. They can get the word out far and wide.

9 – Places of Worship

Contact local churches, mosques and other places of worship. They are often anti-racist and usually have their own phone trees and contact networks. In East London, UAF and United East End have worked closely with Muslim, Christian and Jewish groups to stop racist and Islamophobic incursions.

10 – UAF Membership

UAF matters. In towns like Rotherham, and Dudley, or Coventry, local, rooted groups have been central to stopping the fascists. These roots mean we can respond quickly and efficiently when the fascists try and capitalise on Islamophobia. We should ask everyone who agrees to go on the database locally, to be a member of UAF. The money raised for National UAF will go on providing the placards, leaflets and other materials that we use. Please use the form here, uaf.org.uk/join-donate

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