antifa notes (november 16, 2009)

    Update : Your email was the first we have heard of this (see: three, below). Working with ICE and DHS are totally contrary to ARA’s points of unity (we do not rely on the cops or the courts) and also completely inconsistent with our two major current campaigns (defending migrant rights, opposing police abuse and political repression). However, when I tried to post a comment to that effect on the indymedia UK site, my browser alerted me that it was not a secure connection or a trustworthy, verifiable site, so I did not proceed further. Feel free to share this response. Thanks for the heads up. — X, Anti-Racist Action, Los Angeles


In the UK, the Anarchist Federation has issued a statement regarding the apparent fact that ‘Unite Against Fascism (UAF) stewards collaborate with police on anti-EDL mobilisation’ (November 13, 2009):

The Anarchist Federation condemns the group Unite Against Fascism (UAF) who, on Saturday 31st October at a mobilisation against the English Defence League (EDL) in Leeds city centre, openly handed one of our members over to the police. Several UAF stewards, including the head of UAF Leeds, physically prevented our member from rejoining the cordon, and then called the police over to arrest him. We will not tolerate collaboration with the state to halt the activity of genuine anti-fascists and ask other progressive organisations to do the same. UAF’s policy of negotiating with the state for its public protests is well known, as is its alliance with religious leaders, trade union bureaucrats and politicians. UAF, apart from being nothing more than a front group for the Socialist Workers Party, has never been an effective means to combat the rise of fascism in Britain nor does it offer anything to working class communities.

D. Yates, National Secretary (Anarchist Federation, UK)

With the author’s permission, I’d like to post an account of the protest from an anarchist’s perspective — we’ll see. The UAF/SWP version of events is provided by Christian Hogsbjerg in ‘Leeds Marches on against Nazis’ (Socialist Worker, November 3, 2009).


The Scottish version of the EDL held a demo in Glasgow on Saturday (November 14) and a brief report is available on Indymedia Scotland. According to this account, UAF failed to confront the EDL, but on the bright side the SWP presumably managed to sell some papers.

Here’s two photos from the counter/demo. See if you can guess which mob is ‘defending England’.


Rather moar oddly, a statement is circulating claiming to having been made on behalf of ‘ARA’ — ‘Anti-Racist Action’ — appealing to readers to:

…call their elected representatives, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security with any information they may have about a racist criminal alien who plans to travel to the United States this month.

Arthur Benjamin Kemp, a leader in the fascist British National Party, is reportedly attempting to gain US citizenship after arranging a sham marriage with a fellow neo-Nazi and Stormfront poster, Jeannine Delp Gerace, of Mount Joy, PA.

The statement has been posted on UK Indymedia by ‘Antifa’, which suggest it has been issued by ‘Antifa England’ — which is not the case.

Obviously, a call to take action of this sort can be judged on its merits, but to attribute it to ‘Antifa’ or ‘ARA’ seems to me to be very confusing — if not misleading. On Kemp himself, see : nutzis are W E I R D : Arthur Kemp / BNP (August 30, 2009).

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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5 Responses to antifa notes (november 16, 2009)

  1. Lumpen says:

    See if you can guess which mob is ‘defending England’.

  2. lumpnboy says:

    The actions which led to the arrest of the Anarchist Federation member didn’t go unnoticed by others. The Workers Liberty people criticized this, and the general strategy of ‘collaboration’ with police, in an open letter to SWP members: “UAF effectively handed over an anarchist demonstrator to the police. At one point, an EDL supporter somehow infiltrated the rally; he started ranting about immigration and was set on by a mix of anarchists and socialists. After the EDLer was thrown out of the pen, a young anarchist found himself on the wrong side of the barriers. The UAF stewards refused him re-entry, and he was promptly arrested.” In general, the accounts I’ve seen, from a variety of perspectives, seem to confirm the accuracy of the Anarchist Federation statement.

  3. Joker says:

    This is clearly an invented load of nonsense. Firstly, no anarchist would actually encourage collaboration with the Federal government, secondly the gratuitous naming of people who have absolutely nothing to do with Kemp proves that it is just a general smear with no validity at all.

  4. @ndy says:

    Anyone is free to use the term “Antifa” (or to declare themselves to be the reincarnation of Napoleon Bonaparte for that matter) and IndyMedia has an open publishing policy, so I just think it’s curious that someone would opt to use that terminology. Use of the term ARA, however, is much more specific, as it refers to an actual organisation. I wrote them to ask if they was responsible or knew anything at all about the post, but I’ve yet to receive a reply.

    As for anarchist collaboration with the (US) Federal government: yeah, generally speaking, it tends to be frowned upon. In Australia, a self-proclaimed anarchist named Joe Toscano is running for a seat in the Federal parliament, and has been running for a Senatorial seat in a half-dozen elections over the last 20 years. From what I understand, everybody including Joe acknowledges that he hasn’t got a snowball’s chance in hell, but the attendant publicity is somehow thought to be worth it. (Oh, and Joe also wants to see the creation of a ‘People’s Bank’.)

    Oh, and another thing — not all ‘antifa’ are anarchist: the term merely refers to those somehow involved in (generally ‘militant’; that is, embracing direct confrontation) ‘anti-fascist’ activism. And in this context, when I write ‘antifa’ I mean both individuals but, moreover, formally-organised groups.

  5. @ndy says:

    A report on the EDL/UAF stuff in Leeds…

    …Once I’d got to the train station it became pretty clear pretty quickly that I may have made a critical error of judgment. Originally there was supposed to be 4 comrades that I’d arranged to meet up with here in Hudds to go to the demo with, but all had canceled for various reasons. So, now I was on my way to Leeds alone.

    Outside the station there were several people with bonehead and England football shirts on. Fortunately, my placard was covered by a plastic bag and I managed to get past them without any trouble. As I got close to the platform though I started to hear shouting coming from the train I was intending to board. The train was crammed full of boneheads, who were shouting and swearing at any Asian people they saw. One of the station’s staff came running over to me and said “Don’t get on that train. It’s not safe”. The train was delayed while police were called to board as well and ride with them. Some of the cafe staff were also feeling intimidated by the EDL’s chanting and abuse.

    Fortunately, while I was looking around, I spotted a few members of the local SP branch, and joined up with them. We were packed onto another train, again with delays for police to ride the train with us. It was very cramped on there, but overall, it was a calm atmosphere, with the vast majority seeming to be anti-fascist demonstrators. One guy did push past us wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Bin Laden on it with the slogan “Wanted: Dead”, but he wasn’t attacked or intimidated in any way that I noticed (although he was wise enough to keep a low profile — as best he could).

    Leeds had transformed on Saturday. It did not feel like the same city that I frequent every other week. As we reached Leeds station, there were dozens of police on the platform, including two FIT teams — one was filming everyone getting off the train. At this point one or two people were grabbed and pulled in front of the other FIT team to get close-ups taken of their faces. I don’t know what they had done or what happened to them afterwards — to be honest, I was more interested in keeping my eyes forward, sticking with the group I was with, and avoiding looking suspicious.

    Just as we were getting to the ticket barriers, a large group of about 20 police ran past us and drew their batons along the way towards the back of the line. Again, I didn’t dare turn around and look at what was going on, but I could hear shouting.

    Outside the station wasn’t much more comforting — 8 mounted policemen were at the taxi rank watching the doors, and a helicopter was zipping around in the sky.

    On the streets of Leeds that afternoon, the only cars had blue lights on the top and the only people I saw on the way to the Head Row were either anti-fascist demonstrators or police. All along Park Row, all you could hear was the helicopter and the occasional distant siren.

    It was very eerie.

    While we were walking, I managed to link up with the comrades I usually work with and who’d decided to come dressed head to toe in black. They had their banner confiscated by police, but still had a few anarchist flags. I was stood there in a bright red hoodie and felt a bit of the odd one out. Nevertheless, I thanked the SP for letting me tag along and getting me as far as Leeds, and then I stayed with the other anarchists for the rest of the time.

    We’d just been chatting between ourselves and catching up when one of the anti-fascists in the street suddenly yelled “THEY’RE IN HERE! The fascists are in Wetherspoons! That’s why the police have these vans hiding the windows and guarding the door”.

    The police started shouting at him and ordering him to shut up or get arrested. A few of the other demonstrators had slowed down after hearing all this and that’s when we noticed about 30 police come running around the corner in one big group, so we decided to start moving onwards. We did see the guy again, so we know that he wasn’t actually arrested.

    When we got to the designated UAF area there was trouble getting the anti-fascists herded into their pen. The pens were stainless steel barriers about 3 feet tall which were being guarded by police and UAF stewards. This is the scene we faced as the police tried to cram us in:

    As you can see, there’s a lot of pushing. What you don’t see though is that the FIT were stood on the covered up statue filming everyone, the police were confiscating placards and banners left right and centre, as well as a red flare that somebody let off in the crowd to much applause.

    The 30 police we’d seen earlier had arrived, and started pushing us from behind. I had my placard confiscated by the police. The constable seemed to plead with me to part with it, rather than demand it, or wrench it out of my hand quickly. He’d moved through the crowd fairly easily to get to me though, so I guess he could have dragged me out just as easily if I’d put up any resistance.

    I let him have the nasty rotten piece of wood.

    Inside the pen there was mainly calm and a lot of space to move around. Several speakers were on the megaphone at the porch of the art gallery. I heard two from UAF and one from the unions talking about anti-fascism. It was pretty generic stuff that we’ve all heard before, although the deputy secretary of UAF did also announce that he’d been ordered by the courts to pay Nick Griffin’s cleaning bill for the egg incident and that he was refusing to cough up a penny which got some cheers.

    The FIT were on the porch with the speakers, pointing their cameras mainly at the black-clad anarchists.

    It was around this time that things started kicking off. Somebody in the middle of the crowd was suddenly set on by everyone around them, presumably because they thought he was EDL, although I’ve heard since that he may have been a BBC runner who was getting some batteries for the camera. I was nearby and managed to see that there was at least 10 anti-fascists kicking somebody on the floor. The police stormed in and rescued the man without drawing their batons and carried him away.

    Interestingly, West Yorkshire Police claims that there was no injuries at the demonstration:

    We then realised that we’d lost a member of our group and spotted him on the other side of the barriers talking to the UAF stewards, clearly trying to get back on the other side. He was not being aggressive in any way and was smiling and holding his hands out peacefully. The UAF steward put his hand on our comrade’s chest and gave him a firm shove away from the barriers. Still maintaining his cool, our comrade walked back to the barrier and was grabbed this time by the steward and thrown into the arms of an approaching policeman, who quickly dragged him away from the barriers, towards the shops where the police were keeping their vans.

    Despite us trying to reach our comrade from the second we saw him on the wrong side of the barrier, we were not quick enough, and by the time we’d got to the barrier, we was having his face held up to a FIT camera and being dragged away towards Park Row. We had no idea what had happened to him and understandably, most of us were very upset that the UAF had literally handed over our friend to the police.

    The stewards’ response to our accusations of collaboration with the state was that they didn’t personally agree with anarchist ideology. They made no attempt to justify their actions, or even deny them. One member of our group fiercely defended anarchism and direct action, while other anti-fascists started asking questions about what had just happened.

    Within about five minutes, a substantial number of the anti-fascists had heard about what had happened, and began to chant “We want to march!”, in what appeared to be a rebellion against the UAF’s leadership. Several hundred anti-fascists began to march towards Greek Street to try meet the fascists and/or rescue our comrade.

    Soon the pace began to pick up and along the way I saw a young man hold out his hand to somebody with a placard, to be handed it, whereupon he tore off the UAF sign, threw it behind him and began walking briskly with the 3ft piece of wood in his hands like a club. Several other such clubs began to become common and by the time we’d reached Greek Street, there was very few UAF placards in sight. I never did see the clubs used though, and there was no sign of them being abandoned on the ground.

    We began to try moving down Greek Street to reach Park Row and the Square where we knew the fascists were hiding, and where we thought our comrade may be held. The police came screaming down from Park Row in their vans to block us off, but there wasn’t many, maybe 40 at most, to hold off what looked like at least 200 anti-fascists.

    As we approached the police lines, we linked arms and began to chant “‘ere we go”. The police line lasted no longer than 30 seconds under the weight of the demonstrators, and a small group of us managed to push through, followed by another few, similar-sized groups that had managed to break through the lines.

    Unsure what to do, we put a bit of distance between the police and ourselves and waited for our comrades to finish off the line. The police retreated back, abandoning their vans and setting up a new line, this time with batons drawn.

    We started walking up again, with our little group at the front. Mounted officers started forming up behind the new police line and came after us, herding us into a corner, and telling us to get back with the rest of the marchers. We complied and as we were moving, the police on foot shouted charge and were coming at us.

    People panicked and abandoned the vans.

    As we ran back the other way, we saw that police had formed another line at that side of the street. The only way out was the way we had come and there was yet another FIT team there, this time with an unconscious man at their feet in a pool of his own blood being tended to by other demonstrators.

    Again, West Yorkshire Police is currently saying that there was no injuries.

    With nowhere else to go and nobody being too eager to charge horsemen and batons, the marchers began to make their way back the way they’d come.

    Our group reformed and decided what to do, which was to eat our sandwiches and then see if there was any other way to get around to the fascists and find out what had happened to our comrade.

    There was a nearby park and we noticed that we were being followed by an officer and about a dozen constables. We sat down on the benches in the park and unpacked our sandwiches and began eating, believing that they had no reason to come after us. The officer walked to within a few metres of us and stopped, the constables forming a wide semi-circle around the benches. It did twig then that maybe we should move on. We considered climbing the trees to tie up the police and allow us to finish our lunch, but decided against it as a pointless move, so instead we approached the officer and asked what he was doing.

    He claimed we were committing a public order offence if we did not stop eating and left immediately: Section 14 if I remember him quoting correctly.

    Yup, eating lunch with intent to cause riot.

    This didn’t seem like a battle we could win, so we packed up and began walking towards the UAF demo again.

    Along the way, our “lost” comrade came belting at us on a pushbike and a fresh set of clothes. Apparently he’d not been charged, but had been ordered to leave Leeds for 48 hours or face arrest. He just got changed instead and came looking for us when he heard that we’d gone looking for him. We were pleased to see him and sat down on some steps close to the art gallery to discuss what to do next.

    There was a wedding going on behind us and we did feel a bit sorry for those people who were getting married that day and had the EDL ruin everything for them no doubt.

    The officer from the park had caught up with us again and told us to move along again. Either get in the pen, leave the City Centre for 48 hours, or go to the cells were our choices. Apparently our meeting was an illegal demonstration now.

    After this we just wandered around Leeds trying to spot any small straggling groups of fascists. We came across quite a few in Yates’ near the Corn Exchange, and we could hear them chanting near the rail station. Outside of Yates’ for no apparent reason a young black man was beaten up against the escalators and then arrested by police. Every one there was shouting for him to be released and that he’d done nothing wrong. A few tried to grab at the young man, but he was taken away all the same.

    The police had formed a line outside Yates’ to keep us and the fascists apart. I think everyone was too down and demoralised to begin chanting again, or making any challenges to the EDL, even when a small march came right past us draped in England flags.

    The last thing we did was take a walk to the rail station where we saw a group of maybe 40 EDL kettled in a tiny circle by mounted police on the pavement. Again, we were told to leave and by the sounds of things everything had trickled away to nothing throughout Leeds. The fascists were contained, at the very least, in pubs, if not these little kettles. I made sure that I wasn’t wearing anything that would identify me as ‘political’ and made my way to the bus stop…

    I’m not unsure what to make of this. I think that 1,500 anti-fascists learned some important lessons yesterday about organising, the police and tactics, not to mention to be very wary of the UAF.

    Did we prevent the EDL from networking? Not really.

    Did we prevent them from marching? I’m not sure.

    I think the police’s efforts to keep us apart did most of the work for us there in regards to preventing an EDL march, but the police did fail too as there was a breakout at Boar Lane which apparently was nasty.

    So, who came out trumps on this? Well, it was the police really. The wanted to keep us apart and they did it. They wanted to get all the pretty photos of us nasty leftists and they did. They wanted to keep us controlled without beating 10 bells of shit out of us, and they did. I think we must learn from this and make sure it’s not a regular occurrence.

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