This week marked some dark days in American history following a far-right protest to stop the removal of a Confederate statue which turned violent and resulted in the death of a 32 year old woman – Heather Heyer.
Celebrities and politicians have condemned the violence and called for unity; although tensions remain high in America following US President Donald Trump’s handling of the situation.
The day after the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Lewisham, United against Fascism (UAF) held a rally outside the US Embassy in London. This was not to celebrate the resistance against the National Front – a day when British fascism suffered a humiliating defeat.
Unfortunately, this was to mark the death of Heather Heyer - a 32-year-old killed in Charlottesville counter-protesting against Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists and Confederate supporters. She was painted as part of the same “alt-left” – a term originally used by liberals to smear socialists – that Trump called “very, very violent”. In reality, Heather gave her life standing up to hate.
Indeed, it was interesting to see the North London Antifa representative standing in front of me – masked head to toe in black to ensure anonymity, the flag was carried high and proud. Whatever smears these groups get from the far right or – more likely – mainstream media, it’s the kind of direct resistance which is required. Fascists will not respond to logic, or reason – that is far gone for the majority – and we’ve seen, in history, what a policy of appeasement can do.
Speaking at the UAF vigil were trade unionists, anti-Trump organisers, and anti-racist group leaders. The whole event – rightly so – had a sombre tone to it. Even if the death of Ms Heyer sparks an uprising – we must also remember her as a human being.
While I was holding a sign saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ – we, as people of colour, must remember the necessary alliance – the “Rainbow Coalition” propagated by Fred Hampton – with our white brothers and sisters. We must not allow ourselves to get divided by race, but unite together against white supremacy.
In 1977, the National Front was emboldened. With over 14,000 members and growing electoral success, 500 party members met significant force when marching through Lewisham – whether it be from anti-racist campaigners or ordinary working class people. While it may not come to that in Britain, there is collective responsibility to crush hate where we see it. There is no argument about free speech here, no ‘both sides’ talk; pick a side.
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