Leeds Protests Against the Far Right

The far-right “Yorkshire Patriots” a split from “Patriotic Alternative” who have been behind some of the recent anti-refugee demonstrations outside hotels held a small rally of no more than 60 in Leeds on Saturday 10th June. In opposition around 200 trade unionists and left activists joined a counter-protest organised by Stand Up to Racism.

Louie, Leeds Socialist Party

The initial demonstrations were mostly peaceful. Speeches made by figureheads of both sides were barely audible to their respective oppositions and chants thrown back and forth. Placards, Flags and Banners were waved. A few overly excited (or drunk?) “patriots” attempted to make their way towards our barriers but were ushered back to their own side by police. No action seemed to be taken when they repeatedly seig heilied or waved a SS Totenkopf flag.

In contrast, the same couldn’t be said for the police surrounding the cpunter-protest. There were no signs of the polite warnings and requests instead we had a mid-30’s man almost wrestled to the ground for the crime of wearing a surgical face mask. Details of people wearing bandana style face coverings were taken by police at the start of the counter demonstration.

Everyone I saw complied with directions given by the police but apparently the Covid pandemic never happened and disabled or vulnerable people wearing medical PPE don’t have the right to protect themselves in groups of more than 10. When asked whether it is against the law to wear a face mask the police only answered “right now it is” and further questions were met with “You will be arrested if you put your face covering back on.”

A group from ‘Football lads and lasses against fascism’ were also kettled by police for a period of time to stop them joining the counter-protest. This highlights the importance of democratically stewarding such demonstrations instead of allowing the police to control it’s fringes.

Also lacking was putting a clear political alternative from the organisers, whose chants and messaging seemed to focus on celebrating diversity and welcoming refugees rather than tackling the issues underlying why the anti-refugee rhetoric of far right groups has gained some echoes. It was therefore welcome that a FBU speaker raised the need to put forward a socialist alternative to the far right.

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