By Simon Magorian.
Unite Against Fascism.
Photo: Les Crompton.
For weeks the Pie and mash squad have been screaming about their local anti-Immigrant ,anti-Refugee demo and declaring in stentorian tones that they speak for Portsmouth.It was called in the name of South Coast Resistance,the group who did not exist until two weeks before the demo were called, and are P&M in all but name and were the flag of convenience for this particular debacle.
Their protest was due to start at midday, however, they got down there early, taking a position on the Guildhall steps from about 1030 onwards. At this point they numbered about 20, the Unite against Fascism/Stand up to Racism protest started to assemble opposite them on the main concourse in Guildhall Square. From the outset we clearly outnumbered them substantially.
Their claim of course is that they represent the people of Portsmouth. This would be true if the people of Portsmouth went around in skull masks necking vast quantities of lager at 10 o'clock in the morning, but thankfully they don't. As soon as we got there we got the chanting going. A lot of work had been done by all the groups organising for this.Not Just from Unite Against Fascism and Stand Up to Racism who had called the demo.There were of course Portsmouth Trades Council banner who supported our protest along with banners and flags from Portsmouth AntiFascists , Unite,Unison,PCS,NUT,RMT, NASUWT and others.It was broad ranged, lots of students, people from town,the Pompey Pensioners. Dozens of people had turned up from the Anti Fascist Network from Portsmouth Southampton and Brighton. We quite clearly represented a very broad range of groups from across the south.
From the outset we decided that our protest was not merely going to be an antifascist protest but we were going to define the meaning of the day. This was not merely to be a protest against them but a protest in solidarity with refugees.
We had a Stand up to Racism stall set up in the square where people could sign a statement in solidarity with refugees. Throughout the course of proceedings many people came up to sign this and sign up to our convoy going to Calais with stand up to racism on 18 June. One of the reasons why racists in Portsmouth have been feeling more confident is due to the disgraceful behaviour of Donna Jones Tory leader of Portsmouth City Council, who led a campaign attempting to have Portsmouth removed from the government asylum hub. She also pushed through the scrapping of the councils Hate Crimes Unit, which was shortly followed by the dumping of a pig's head carved with a swastika on it outside a local Muslim school. Many of the people speaking at the rally felt that the antics of Donna Jones and her Conservative colleagues have created a space where racists feel more confident in Portsmouth.
Needless to say Donna Jones was nowhere to be seen during our protest.
However amongst many people who came up to sign a statement in solidarity with refugees was the only newly elected Labour councillor Stephen Morgan.
The Nazis in comparison seemed very quiet and totally unfocused politically. They seem to spend most of their time just swaying or gesticulating in our general direction.
Perhaps they're not feeling too chipper. We recently had an enormously successful packed launch rally for Stand Up to Racism in Guildhall Library.
David Cameron has just had to backtrack on allowing child refugees into Britain amidst accusations that this was akin to refusing the Kindertransport who brought jewish children to Britain fleeing Hitler.
The election victory of Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, as London Mayor, after one of the most disgracefully racist campaigns in recent history,whose family came over from Pakistan in '47 and whose father was a bus driver and his mother a seamstress is a victory for anti racists the importance of which is difficult to overestimate.
These things make them very,very angry .
It also makes them very,very demoralised.
We had predicted they would get about 40 people for their protest, and the presumption was that there might be other people coming, that was certainly the impression they had been giving for the few weeks.In reality we had flattered them ,they had a couple of dozen,we had 150 and including people who came over to give support and moved on around 200.
When the Guildhall clock let out the peals for midday we assumed that their protest might actually be starting even though they had no more people, however they just continued in a desultory way, swaying and gesticulating. At this point I think the penny dropped that was all the numbers they were going to get for their protest and decided the best option would be to walk off the steps and head to the nearest pub.So hot and dehydrated they stumbled off to get more alcohol.
So that was it. Their protest was supposed to start at 12 o'clock and finished at 12 minutes past.
Truly fainthearted fascists.
We promptly took all our banners and placards marched onto the steps the Guildhall's square to declare it antifascist space.
A big cheer went up when the delegation from Dover arrived from the Kent Antiracist Network, in solidarity with the magnificent opposition they have been giving the fascists down there.
We then proceeded to have a pro-refugee rally. There followed speeches from Unite Against Fascism,Stand Up to Racism, the leader of Portsmouth Trades Council John Woods, Mick Tosh of the RMT, Pompey pensioners, AFN, and poems were read out.
Close to a hundred pounds was collected for our convoy on June 18, this is alongside £100 from Portsmouth Trades Council and £150 by Unison City Branch pledged earlier in the week . Another important statement was made in terms of Portsmouth standing up for refugees and against racism.We turned a day that could have been negative into a positive day of humanitarian solidarity.
Another miserable day for the fascists.