In Trafalgar Square protest, the atmosphere was ugly, the air heavy with the threat of the far right Policy


In Hyde Park, the speech was the whole final game – the eradication of racism. In Trafalgar Square, it was more of a war game. Under Nelson’s column, erected in honour of a national hero and, of course, a defender of slavery, a hundred people, mostly black and dressed in black, listened to a speaker dressed in white, leading them with their fists raised, in a song of “ore n.”Then, apparently out of nowhere, but probably coming from Whitehall, there was a group of about 30 white men, trying to get through a line of riot police. They were the people who had called themselves protectors of the statues, and widely rejected, especially by Black Lives Matters supporters, as football hooligans.

In Hyde Park, Sasha Johnson, holding a Black Lives Matter sign, complained: “We are painted thugs when real thugs are disguised as protection of these memorials. And when they’re drunk, they pee on these memorials.

We are portrayed as thugs when real thugs are disguised by protecting these memorials. And when they’re drunk, they pee on these memorials

Sasha Johnson, Black Lives Matter Protester

The irony is that no one was supposed to demonstrate in central London. Not only because, in theory at least, group meetings of more than six people are banned, but also because Black Lives Matter has called on its supporters to avoid central London and protest in their own neighbourhoods.

The directive was issued after a call was made by former English Defence League chief Tommy Robinson to defend war memorials. The so-called Democratic Football Lads Alliance – a title that resembles the product of randomly chosen words – urged members to join the protest, while telling them that they “do not engage with agitators.” No sooner had he stirred things up, Robinson withdrew.

“Black Lives Matter was wrong to make this recommendation,” said Johnson, who ignored it because she wanted to “resist bullying.”

What’s going to end up there?” asked Doug “the Fresh,” hidden behind a mask and sunglasses. “Is that going to get us home? No one really knows. I think we need more causes than just pulling down statues. The cause must be reparations for blacks so that we can become the same standard as you much.

In Trafalgar Square, a heavily tattooed tall man wearing a T-shirt wearing the “Parachute Regiment” drove the Democratic Football Statue Alliance, or whoever they were, away from the police. For a while, it seemed that confrontation had been avoided. But a few minutes later, a much larger crowd shouting “In-ger-land” ran around the north side of the square, near the National Gallery of Canada, dropping a series of loud bangs that surprised the crowd of spectators.

As many people fled the square, some of the Black Lives Matter protesters broke loose and, resisting calls to “hold the fire,” rushed to meet the white group at the top of the stairs. Suddenly, the common multiracial protests of recent weeks had become biracial and adacically antagonistic.

A far-right protester urinating near the memorial to PC Keith Palmer outside Parliament. Photograph: Thabo Jaiyesimi/Alamy Live News/Alamy Live News.

The atmosphere was ugly, and heavy with the threat of violence. Statue protectors didn’t seem very interested in statuary, instead of waving to them below in macho gestures familiar to football fields – an elaborate choreography of the phrase “Go if you think you’re tough enough.” Just in time, a phalanx of police arrived to separate the two groups as bottles were thrown by the white crowd.

After a few chaotic minutes, the “guys”, some in their 50s and 60s, managed to break through and there were several fist fights. An unpleasant spectacle was given a surreal advantage by the fact that a number of protesters on both sides wore masks, intending not to spread Covide-19, as they lay down in each other. Eventually, the police regained order by klinging the attackers.

Police protect injured man in Trafalgar Square

Police protect an injured man in Trafalgar Square. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Reuters

Once peace was restored, police cut off Trafalgar Square, but small groups of statue protectors, beer cans in hand, began to emerge from the alleys, as visible as a group of football hooligans in a Clubland of Pall Mall – where they were heading. Now they are the ones who have been outnumbered, and subjected to taunts and threats as they moved—some walking proudly, most at a rapid rate of escape—out of the region.

A handful of the crowd that had previously been under assault sought to confront them, and now with the police busy holding their line, they were dangerously exposed. But a well-built black man, who had photographed the demonstration, intervened at least four times to prevent anyone from fighting. His name was Clem – no last name, he explained, because he was a “public servant.”

“We marched peacefully last week and came out as elders today to protect our children,” he said, gesturing to his friend—both men were in their 40s.

They may have protected their children, but in the market were a number of people who had not long before launched an un provoked attack on the BLM protest. It took a lot of courage and self-discipline to prevent the kind of violence that the football guys had been only too happy to get started, and Clem had no quality.

Activists from far-right groups chant as they confront police in central London on Saturday.

Activists from far-right groups chanting as they confront police in central London on Saturday. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

As we were talking, another group of middle-aged white men in shorts and football shirts came out of a side street and Clem engaged them in conversation.

“It’s not about race,” the aging football democrat said. “you don’t have any problems with you. This is our history.

Why someone thought their story was so in danger that they had to attack peaceful protesters was not explained. They said they had nothing to do with Tommy Robinson. Apparently, “it wasn’t about that” either.

There were many opinions expressed in Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square to which one could be an exception. For example, I was told that Covide-19 was over. Doug “the Fresh” argued that there was an 80,000-pound wage gap between blacks and whites. And one woman seemed convinced that the “establishment” was funding the BNP in order to maintain racial tensions between workers.

But that is the beauty of freedom of expression. You can disagree without any need for thuggishness.


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