London vs #FreeTommy – Round 2
On the 24th of August members of the Anarchist Federation, as part of the London Anti-Fascist Assembly (LAFA), marched against an abortive “Free Tommy” demonstration. This was the second mobilisation of the month (read our report on the first one here) and the strain of attempting two marches in one month was showing on both sides. However, LAFA still managed to get about 150 people gathered at Oxford Circus before marching off to Portland Place to meet the far right demonstration there.
When we got there, the far right presence was only a small band of diehards, which grew later as another tiny far right march from Trafalgar Square linked up with them. Even with the Trafalgar mob, LAFA had them outnumbered, and the anti-fascist presence was further bolstered by an 80 strong march from Stand Up To Racism which joined us later.
As usual, the police were the most dangerous threat to anti-fascism and they devoted significant resources to keeping us contained. They pushed us away from the Tommy supporters and ended up kettling us on the pavement opposite the “Free Tommy” demonstration and mostly kept the two sides separate, although the far right did throw some flares and some Nazi salutes at us.
They day was mostly uneventful until we went to leave. At that point the police attacked our bloc without provocation and arrested three anti-fascists, although the “Free Tommy” demonstration also took four arrests for various acts on boneheadery. Luckily there were no serious injuries on our side as far as I know despite the heavy handed police response. Aside from police brutality the main threat on the day was the heat, with temperatures as high as high as 29C. We must give thanks to QueerCare again for providing medics to make sure everyone survived the heat as well as the police repression.
The far right showing was dismal compared to their last march in London on the 3rd of August, let alone the huge numbers they pulled last summer. This “Free Tommy” demonstration looked more like the motley band of cranks that characterised the far right after the disintegration of the English Defence League than the mass movement they seemed to be building last year.
But we cannot be complacent, several things were against the far right on the 24th that might mean this drop in numbers is only temporary. Firstly, they screwed up their mobilisation horribly, cancelling it before attempting to remobilise unofficially. Secondly, marching twice in a month is always an organisational stretch, and many of the supporters from outside of London may have stayed away. Lastly, the hot weather probably discouraged some people, especially the far right football hooligans who would have to choose between watching the games on at the time in a nice cool pub or marching around getting sunburn in central London.
However, the short gap between this and the last march, the difficulty in organising against the far right when they themselves do not know what they are doing, and the heat also made this a hard mobilisation for LAFA. Ultimately we outnumbered and out organised the “Free Tommy” crowd on the day and hopefully we can do it again in October, when the next march in London is likely to happen.
I will end on some groups for those who might want to get involved: