Report taken from Leeds Anti-Fascist Network
This was written by a local Wakey person about the EDL’s visit the other week. A wonderful read and probably better than anything any of us could have written!
Dear 36 year old man from Wakefield who got arrested. This is a rant what was written on the day – hope it makes you smile. It wasn’t published cos it is mean and grumpy and says bad things and because the label on the Yogi tea-bag said ‘be nice’. It’s really hard to be nice – lets drink coffee instead.
On Saturday in Wakefield the EDL held one of their booze fuelled ‘demos’ against some or other mythical problem, and Unite Against Fascism set up a group to counter this called ‘We are Wakefield’. As we live here and therefore are Wakefield we thought it best we show our faces.
To start with the day went well. A group of Antifascists marched right into the pub the EDL had named as their meeting point. Someone described this as ‘a bit cocky’ but as many of those antifascists were women it’s perhaps not the phrase to use. It was however very effective in showing the EDL Wakefield would not cower and putting them in a tizz early doors. Yay!
The police wasted no time at all pinning their colours to the mast and the first antifascist wrongful arrests of the day were made, despite no criminal damage or argy bargy or indeed crime of any sort. Cops clearly are not down with the spirit of Wakefield, and they obviously lack an intelligence centre as in an act of surreality West Yorkshire Police allowed the EDL bun-fight to coincide with our annual Victorian Christmas market. Dear plod – next year don’t parade the Nazi’s when we want to buy a new teacosy and home made marmaladey type stuff! It’s very upsetting.
We wove our way past an assortment of ‘ordinary’ shoppers, England shirts, giddy kids, actors from the local pantomime, nonchalant teens, drunken racists and people dressed as Charles Dickens. Town was super busy and felt very random. There was even live reindeer, delightfully stabled next to a van selling their meat in burger form. You can’t make this shit up.
In an effort to avoid all this mayhem we walked up the cathedral steps away from the crowds to be greeted by a woman handing out green ribbons from a basket. Victorian novels always portray the sellers of ribbons as good people who have fallen on desperate times. This one was no exception – “We are giving out free green ribbons to celebrate that Wakefield is a multicultural city” she announced. Later that day I overheard a woman telling the staff in the hospice shop it was ‘for aids or something. It was free so I took one’ and that’s the thing with Wakey – we don’t ask twice.
With loads of idiot racists running riot in our town I didn’t take much comfort from the ribbons. How can ribbons defeat fascism?Are we supposed to take the safety pin off and try and stab one to death? Should we all tie our ribbons together and try and trip them up? Maybe we do like Kickass and make a ribbon based costume and become a superhero?
I know by now you think I am a right miserable bastard and I am, but in mitigation I do like ribbons, I like badges and stickers, I love tree plantings, tambourines and cake fairs and jumble sales and football matches and music and all manner of activities designed to bring communities together, (providing the initiatives come from those communities and are not imposed upon them). Its just there is a time and a place, and whilst the EDL are taking your streets, and the police are wiping EDL arses by stopping the traffic and holding their hands so they can have a nice march around – well that’s not the time for happy ribbons. So the ribbons pissed me off, even though it’s also awesome that people do care and do try and make statements when these wankers come to town.
In spite of many reservations I made my way to the UAF ‘We are Wakefield’ multicultural celebration in the vague hope that it might just be a smidgen of something I could call a counter-demo and I determined to make the best of it.
It took about 2 minutes before the niggling ‘annoyed’ feeling developed into a full on rage. What a shower of shit! To start with, it was right up on Westgate. I asked someone why we were stood there and was told we were’ engaging with the community and reaching out to the youth’ – Impressive since we were all standing slightly out of town where nobody goes unless they have a train to catch. In which case obviously they will all say “sorry I can’t engage or be reached out to right now because I will miss my train”.
Also, if we were in anyway hoping to reach out to the youth playing classic songs from the heyday of Love Music Hate Racism might not be the way to do it. The Clash had their day and it was not this one. That ‘lets do the time-warp’ feeling was omnipresent – perhaps standing outside Flares, the 1970′s nightclub for old people was a bad idea?
Why not stand somewhere else, somewhere more pertinent, somewhere like…dunno… maybe outside the pub where the EDL actually were? Even though I said it twice, and another few people said it a few times we were hushed and shushed, and ignored. The message was loud and clear – bow down before the mighty high visibility waistcoat and obey! And that’s what really gets me demented – I’m not naive enough to think that everyone gathered there would be willing and or able to get quite so close to the EDL – Of course not, but have faith in people’s ability to judge for themselves which actions they should take! The problem here was not lack of numbers – and massive respect to all who turned up and wanted to challenge the EDL. The problem was a tiny minority choosing on everyone’s behalf that its best not to do that or preferable to do this and withholding all the other information or choices.
But of course UAF had gone to a lot of trouble to arrange this event…
We listened and I tried really hard to engage with those arranged to speak on our behalf. People who, like us, ‘are Wakefield’. Like Mary ‘second home on expenses’ Creagh MP. Obviously she is Wakefield except when she is living in London. The local Tory boy was there as well – god forbid we exclude anyone, even the representative of the party whose policies and belief system place such a crushing pressure on Wakefield that groups like the EDL can thrive. Perhaps he can explain to us how we are ‘all in it together’?
You can imagine the relief when, fresh from last weeks Song’s Of Praise, we were entertained by the Bishop of Pontefract. Kill me now! Oh for someone to relate to! But no. If only that woman from Emmerdale who usually turns up to this sort of thing hadn’t been previously engaged to switch on the Christmas lights in Cleckheaton. I like her.
In another ‘shout out to the youth’ we predictably had speakers from teaching unions, discussed the glorious miner’s strike and the solidarity found within and played some more records from the early 1980s. This is where it’s at kids! Come and be patronised.
Of course whilst we sang along to the revolutionary Paul Weller in our self imposed exile off the main street the EDL were not standing idle. They joined us at one point, snatching the microphone to chant filth like ‘paki scum off our streets’. They didn’t get away with it – I’m sure the volley of disapproving looks and tuts they received for that outrage will haunt them to their graves.
The EDL also amused themselves by taking photos of the assembled great and good. I am not worried – they won’t spot me and my mates amongst the mass of so many well fed white faces. Sadly the army of self appointed hi-vis wearing ‘reps’ were too busy ‘liaising with the police’ to notice. They helped the police by pointing out a group of understandably pissed off people who had gathered at the back and were ‘getting a bit carried away’ by actually shouting back at the nazi fuckers. “Let’s not wind the EDL up egh lads – or else we are as bad as them”. REALLY? Are we?
I almost bought a copy of the Socialist Worker to twat myself in the face with.
Thankfully, unbeknown to most, at the other end of town, the antifascists were not standing idle either, using the genius tactic of simply standing where the EDL could see them. A tactic which obviously pissed off the ‘Wombwell division of the Yorkshire Infidels” and their stunning banner. The police, obviously desperate to join their colleagues on Westgate where the real action wasn’t happening, decided to make spurious arrests and randomly snatched activists for simply standing there exercising their right to protest.
We’ve all seen Minority Report and I’m sure Tom Cruise will be the first to say that arresting people for possibly / maybe / perhaps thinking about crime is a technique that is often used to support the needs of the ruling classes and restrict the vocal cords of the rest of us. However, in their infinite corruption (see any / all episodes of Red Riding) West Yorkshire Dibble rounded up the good and left the EDL to play. If a few more people had joined the antifascists maybe we could have kept the EDL in the pub and prevented the planned march? Or we could have shuffled along a bit to stand outside The Stafford Arms, the next pub the EDL were due to visit. The occupy movement have shown time and time again this is an effective tactic.
Activists brought the news of arrests back up to the gathering at the top of town. Surely a group of people preaching about solidarity would offer support? Well, you may be surprised to learn that it didn’t extend itself, not even just two streets away to Wood Street nick. Despite previously strutting around with puffed up chests and telling each other with whispered nudges that ‘our lot took the pub you know’ suddenly nobody wanted to listen. Nobody cared about ‘our lot’. On hearing of the arrests the most sympathetic UAF response was ‘it’s only anarchists’. ONLY anarchists? Do they not know we have Russell Brand now? Surely he top trumps the Bishop of fucking Pontefract?
Well fuck you very much control freaks of UAF Wakefield – you sit back and enjoy that warm glow you get in the trouser region when you re-hash all the old victories. Don’t let what’s happening, today, under your turned up noses stop the flow of the stories you tell and all those theories you know about from your weekly discussion groups. However, please consider the following points next time;
Cable Street, and all those other historic victories when ‘we’ defeated the nazi’s could happen again – it could have been Saturday.
That solidarity the miners showed and you love to harp back to – we needed that on Wood Street when activists were arrested.
Nobody gives a shit how many coaches you took down to the stop the war march. It was ages ago – move on.
Getting people to ‘sign petitions’ so you can put their details on a mailing list is undignified. Don’t bullshit the public.
The police don’t respect you – you are not friends – they are using you for cheap crowd control.
Don’t assume your views reflect mine. Calling yourselves ‘We are Wakefield’ does not reflect everyone else’s pride in this city nor it’s residents ability to get along. If you want to understand Wakefield, stop getting people you think are important to tell us how to behave or what to think and listen to the voices of real Wakey folk. We are not stupid – we do know what Nazis are, but we know what cops and politicians are too.
Part of being an accepting society is accepting responsibility for yourself and relinquishing the control you have other others. You do not always know best – despite your education, your awareness of issues or your best intentions.
Informed consent isn’t just for the bedroom. Bring it to picket lines and protests. Events like these should be fluid and changing – stop talking to the police and listen to each other. Ask how people feel instead of prescribing the days events. How could it have been different? – Let us, the gathered people decide. Fuck the pros and cons – your pros and cons are fow people feel instead of prescribing the days events. How could it have been different Let us, the gathered people decide. Fuck the pros and cons – your pros and cons are for you alone. We can’t know everyone’s situation – don’t complicate the matter with ‘What if’s?’ – what if somebody’s got a kitten at home that needs feeding, or a child to collect from Brownies, or night shift, or a phobia? Then trust they will have the good sense to deal with that. It’s as simple as picking up your microphone and saying ‘there are some people who want to stand outside the pub where the EDL are.’ Tadaa! How hard would that be? Or if you want to go the full stretch to awesomeness add a phrase like ‘What do people think about that?’. The fact that you didn’t share the platform or open debate is precisely why people hate groups like ‘We are Wakefield’. You become just one more authority figure that makes us feel powerless.
Bring more than one CD.
Living as a anti-racist, non-homophobic person isn’t a philosophy, a life choice or a thing to aspire to – it is a moral fucking baseline. Reflect that in your literature and your talks.
The EDL do not fear you. Stop telling yourselves they do.
Be transparent about who makes up the group. If almost everyone in a high viz jacket / role of authority is a member of the Socialist Worker Party it makes us suspicious and uncomfortable that this might be another ‘movement building’ exercise rather than an action to actively oppose the EDL.
The revolution you sell your papers for? – it doesn’t take money. It takes feet moving in the right direction, and today the feet of the true revolutionary spirits were standing right outside the Wakefield Tavern toe to toe with the wank stains of the EDL whilst you preached and posed and patted yourselves on the back. “Didn’t we do well – what an extraordinary turnout!” Fuck me.
I’m sorry UAF – You are all lovely, lovely people at heart and I know you hate the EDL just as much as I do. I try and tell myself that it’s cool for people to do things different ways but, as with the stop the war movement, I keep feeling bad. It’s weirdly restrictive to be around people like you. You say ‘no platform for racists’ but has this slipped into ‘no platform for anyone who disagrees with us?’ All the cheesy lines get trotted out and its like ‘illegal’ to admit that it was a shit day, and when I try to talk – well lets be honest you prefer it when I just listen. And I’ve heard it all before – no more meetings, no more ‘respectable’ speakers, no more ‘public awareness’, no more discussion groups. This is my temper tantrum – I’m leaving you UAF, you and the Bishop of bastard Pontefract. I’m starting a new life with Russell…
Big up to the antifascists, wherever they came from, for showing true Wakefield spirit and facing up to the real foe, which wasn’t lack of awareness, a green ribbon deficiency or a gap in the education of the people of Wakefield but a set of fascists bent on trouble. Bigger ups also for standing outside the police station, for making sure everyone got released and home safe and that those released from their wrongful incarceration had a meal, warm friends and sound legal advice waiting. You were the shining lights on a dark day in my home town – see you on the streets.
Respect also to the good people whose actions said ‘We are Wakefield’. To the young couple who helped the elderly lady carry all her shopping to the bus station when the EDL stopped the buses running through town. To the family outside Debenhams who took the time to ring everyone in their contacts lists to tell them to stay at home because ‘town is full of knobheads and the bloody police are everywhere but they don’t know what they are doing as usual, it’s shocking. If we hadn’t already put the money in to park we would have gone to Cass’. To the man in the coffee shop dressed as an elf – if we can live in peace with the forest creatures there is hope yet. To the kids at the temporary ice rink who did that thing we used to do at school where you pretend to rub your chin so you can really stick two fingers up at the passing coppers but not get done for it – if the children really are the future then its going to be fine.
And lastly, love to friends and neighbours who actually live in Wakefield and join in a daily celebration of living in a multicultural society by simply not being a twat. I salute you.