On Saturday afternoon, June 24, antifascist protesters opposed Britain First supporters rallying in the city centre. With anger on both sides, they targeted each other with mirroring chants: “Nazi scum, out of Brum” versus “Muslim scum, off our streets”.
With video footage from the starting point, interviews with protesters and supporters, and the Britain First march to Centenary Square, Landinside brings the highlights of the events.
The battle of slogans went on
The Britain First rally and the antifascist counter-protest both started at the corner of John Bright street, in the centre of Birmingham. Two vans and rows of police force separated them, with patriotic music booming in BF loudspeakers under a wave of flags, speeches and slogans flowing on the protesters side.
Both Britain First and the antifascist protesters chanted “who’s streets? our streets” repeatedly, often in reply to the other side having just claimed the same.
Other slogans and songs used by the antifascist protesters supported the idea of diversity and solidarity in Brum: “more in common (than that which divides us)”, “no to racism, fascism and islamophobia” and “we are black, white, Asian and we’re Jews (and we’re gay!)”.
The local protest was organised by Unite Against Fascism Birmingham and joined by Stand Up to Racism Birmingham, National Union of Teachers and Birmingham City University Students’ Union.
Britain First supporters wave flags all the way from John Bright street to Centenary Square. Protesters
rely on placards and singing.
Protesters interviewed, BF participants declined
A few antifascist protesters accepted to talk in front of the camera about what made them take part. Watch Susan Green and her friend, Jeevan Singh (below), who have been protesting for 30 years against racism and in support of women’s rights.
Britain First supporters seemed less inclined to be videoed. Marching towards Centenary Square, they stopped to shout and angrily wave flags at couple of Asian looking photographers, before the police moved them away from the crowd.
Later again, the supporters targeted media people with their flags and by reaching out towards their gear. They waved and laughed as soon as police force placed themselves around the journalists.
Once in the square, where leaders Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen had their speeches, the rally clustered in one corner, with two rows of policeman keeping them separate from the antifascist arriving on the other side, in front of Birmingham Library. Photographers and journalists were kept behind the police force, which made it difficult to film or hear the speeches in the general noise.
A questions of symbols: from national flags to Knight Templar battle pennon
The Union and England flags predominated in the British First rally, followed by a few Welsh and Scottish ones, but also a number of Knight Templar battle flags. Red cross on a stripped black and white background (see squares in photo below), this was historically used in crusades approved on by the Pope in the Middle Ages.
A number of Knight Templar battle flags were on display on the streets of Birmingham.
A Polish flag was also spotted, as well as the presence of a number of people speaking Polish and wearing “Poland” T-shirts. According to mainstream media, far-right activists from the European country have been detained at the border on their way to join the rally in Birmingham.
Kasper, a Polish man, was the only Britain First supporter who replied positively when approached for an interview. When the rally started, he held a placard displaying the Edmund Burke quote:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”
Watch the video of Kasper on Landinside Facebook page. He says:
“I joined the Britain First march against Islam because Islam is evil. If you don’t believe that, look on the map of terrorist attacks. I’m for Poland, look on Poland, there is no terrorist attacks on Poland”.
Despite his anti-Islam message, Kasper displayed a very friendly and polite manner throughout. He stayed behind as the march started moving so he can explain why he supported the movement.
Policeman versus protester: a snippet of humanity
With BF rally pushed on one side of Centenary Square, and the antifascists shouting slogans and chanting on the other side, the square felt at times charged with tension. However, things did not degenerate and generally the anger was contained. Local mainstream media used inflamed language to depict the gravity of the situation which videos from the scene do not account for.
As it got sunny, water bottles were distributed for the police force. One policeman took a sip of water, then offered the bottle to the man with the banner (photo below). The protester thanked, but said: “you need it”.
The man in the uniform insisted, assuring him they will get more water shortly, and asking to pass the bottle around. A few others thanked and said they couldn’t, as they were fasting, but the protester kept offering the bottle to people around him.
At about 15:00, when both the rally and the protest were scheduled to end, most participants left the square. Some stayed behind and kept shouting at each other. The police vans ready to leave also remained on location to further separate the two sides.