Submitted anonymously to North Shore Counter-Info
Over the long weekend on October 13th, London’s far-right freakshow known as PEGIDA will be returning once again to their protected space in front of city hall. Recent appearances in Toronto have had them supported by various right wing groups, but in London they often show up in low numbers. The last couple times however, we are beginning to notice that they are being flanked by groups like Soldiers of Odin, Proud Boys, and occasionally other groups. I am an individual who has seen my fair share of rallies and will not be able to attend for a variety of legitimate reasons and I am sending this in hopes that a call for help will be answered by comrades and allies in the region.
London has historically been known as a white power hub, but that has all changed in recent years. The white power boneheads are all but extinct or have moved on to more mundane activity unrelated to politics. Of course, we know that our big threat now comes from these new groups who don’t wave swastika flags and brawl at punk shows. These far-right groups are tenacious, showing up repeatedly despite the overwhelming opposition and multitudes of failures all while not having a cohesive leader to bring their movement out of obscurity. It is in this that London becomes a very dangerous breeding ground for new extremism as our city’s new immigrant population has to adjust to what amounts to a very white collar, conservative town with a new student population every year that could bring in just about anybody. Our opposition to this needs to be multifaceted and willing to be ready for any situation.
We know that these groups don’t represent London, they don’t represent the working class they claim to speak for, and they don’t represent what we want to see take root here again with roving gangs of white supremacists. Never again means never again.
PEGIDA, as we all know, is a branch of the broader European movement which directly connects itself to white supremacist groups and neo-nazis. Unsurprisingly, they don’t stray far from that path here and you can see their efforts in detail on the Anti-Racist Canada blog [Analysis of rhetoric and recent actions in London] . London’s efforts are primarily run by a single woman with too much time on her hands and her followers directly are lowly baby boomers with radical Christian ideology. It really isn’t PEGIDA that concerns me, it’s the optics and prestige that these other far-right militant groups get when they use it as an opportunity to attack anti-fascists in a setting that isn’t Toronto.
PEGIDA has succeeded in annoying London residents to this extent and as such, you never know what to expect at their rallies. Sometimes it is minimal police presence with minimal turnout and no incidents. (They sometimes do surprise demos with no one watching. Not sure what they think they are getting from this.) Other times, fists and massive counter demos such as last August have been the case for them. I can share with you my experience and suggestions for anyone coming to counter them that isn’t familiar with London and their efforts here.
First, something I noticed was that occasionally a young kid shows up to the counter demo masked up but alone. This might possibly be opinion but I don’t think this is wise as an individual as it makes you stick out like a sore thumb and draws immediate press attention to the desperate reporters who are on the scene. This is entirely your choice but if you plan on coming alone, cover up in a way that doesn’t appear out of place and don’t wear your punk jacket with giveaway patches.. Try to stay close with a group and just take the time to meet some people.
Second, PEGIDA appears on city steps in front of the main door, sometimes earlier, to allow for a wall of police to protect them and create a secure space to run from if they need to, probably down “Centennial Lane” (A side street/alley) or the parking garage where I assume they may park their vehicles. The counter usually happens opposite to that but as the last August rally showed, it was so big that some people got mixed up in the wrong group which could have took a serious turn for the worst. Police are of course not on our side and they are supported by private security which guards city hall so plain clothes will be a possibility especially on the flanks. If you need to escape for any reason, know that the area you will be in is pretty open and you won’t have a close alley to duck into so please plan your routes accordingly. PEGIDA’s militant wings have varying degrees of tactics and pseudo-military strategy but assume all are armed with any or all pepper spray, knives, flag poles, tasers, etc… If PEGIDA marches, their militants will try to get ahead of police to instigate confrontation and groups like III%’rs have attacked unprovoked before. They usually try to march to Richmond street which is a block away and can also potentially march through Victoria Park which is right next to City Hall.
Another thing I would like to mention is that the London activist networks have been in disarray for the past some years due to burn out, suspect individuals, and a stalled movement to build solidarity with other regional groups. On top of this, PEGIDA pressing charges against some anti-fascists is reducing the number of counter-protesters who can show up prepared or willing to stand in between those who choose not to engage in self-defence. We always outnumber them of course but we can always use more and we need more people ready to stand up to the more militant groups like Soldiers of Odin, Proud Boys, III%’rs, who all are out to make a name for themselves through violence. I don’t believe that some of our locals understand that a physical threat has had multiple opportunities to appear and only by sheer luck have we avoided anything serious.
By having other people attend, we will be able to forge stronger connections with each other and be better prepared to combat the insurgent far-right which is ramping up it’s violent rhetoric and getting down to the wire in terms of membership commitment. I hope this can get some groups thinking about this and get a turnout similar to what we had last August which understandably was right after Charlottesvile. This won’t be the last time PEGIDA shows up here unfortunately and I hope that this is another failure for them.