Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fascist attack in Lewisham today

Reports on Twitter and elsewhere that one person (and possibly two people) needed hospital treatment today after extreme right wing thugs attacked a socialist stall in Lewisham town centre.

I didn't see the actual attack, but it did not surprize me. As reported here yesterday,  Unite Against Fascism had announced that an anti-BNP cavalcade would be starting out from Lewisham Clock Tower at 11 am. I was down there at 11 and there was no sign of the lorry, but there was a very obvious group of about 10 -15 fascists standing by Lewisham Food Market and closely watching what was going on at the Clock Tower. They had scouts posted on corners nearby presumably looking out for signs of the cavalcade.

I got a good look at one of them as she came away from the group and stood at the bottom of Lee High Road  - a woman with dyed black hair, pale skin and an eyebrow piercing, wearing a black Paul's Boutique coat with a yellow cancer charity daffodil, probably about 5 foot six.  I think the rest were all blokes, mostly in their 20s or younger with various rain gear including at least one big umbrella [can I just be clear that I don't have a problem with eyebrow piercing or Paul's Boutique - the description is included because it might help the victims identify their attackers, not to make any snobby point about EDL dress codes].

I tweeted 'In Lewisham waiting for arrival of anti-BNP bus, ten or so moody looking possible BNP by clock tower'. After about half an hour it looked like the cavalcade wasn't coming. I heard that the lorry had technical faults and so wouldn't be coming to Lewisham, so I headed off.

As I was leaving I saw a couple of local Socialist Workers Party members on their way to set up their regular Saturday stall and warned them about the dodgy crew nearby. Fair play to them, they refused to be intimidated and went ahead as normal. Shortly afterwards they were attacked.

On Twitter the attack is being blamed on the 'English Defence League', but it's difficult to say whether they were BNP or EDL or both. The EDL did post a crowing message on twitter (laughably comparing their opponents to 'fascists').



No doubt they will be boasting of their audacity in operating in a multi-racial area like Lewisham. Hardly an act of great bravery though for the cream of the master race to attack two people selling papers, at least one of them a pensioner.

Presumably Lewisham police were sheltering from the rain in their huge station opposite the scene of the attack. The perpetrators were present for at least 45 minutes before the attack, can't believe that a group of young black men looking menacing in the same place would have escaped their notice.

Update 1 (Sunday 29 April): two further witnesses have left acccounts in the comments -

- 'I was there and helped one of the attacked men up. He must of been in his late 60's and was punched to the ground.The other guy was headbutted and looked like he had a broken cheekbone. I offered to take them to the hospital but they opted for an ambulance. No police anywhere even though it was opposite one of the biggest police stations in Europe. They wasn't just young, there was older guys in there 40's with them too'.

- 'I was there too. A group had gathered quite a while before and even though I had no idea of the planned meeting it was obvious they were up to something. Maybe 7 or 8 younger men plus an older man and the woman with Paul's Boutique coat. After attack they left laughing. They hardly ran. Very surprised police did not come at all during this time'.

Update 2 (Monday 30 April) - Lewisham Anti Racist Action Group  issued a press release last night about what happened:

'Two local  anti-racist pensioners  were viciously attacked and hospitalised  this Saturday by racist thugs who said they were part of a group known as ‘March For England’ which is  very closely linked to English Defence League (EDL) and the BNP. Andy Smith, a retired teacher and active in Lewisham Pensioners’ Forum and the NUT was viciously attacked as well as another local pensioner.

The attack appears to be in response  to a planned Unite Against  Fascism event  across south London  whose aim was to  discourage  people from voting for or supporting far-right racist parties in the forthcoming London assembly elections.  It  follows  the humiliation they received in last week’s ‘March For England’ Brighton demonstration where 1000 anti-racists succeeded  in reducing the far-right march to a miserable  and defeated mob.

The attack happened during a busy Saturday on Lewisham High Street whilst manning a regular campaign stall, one that has been active for over thirty years in Lewisham and an integral part of the local community. Shortly after 12pm the stall was thrown to the floor by an individual loitering in the area and according to witnesses, already there waiting for the local activists to arrive.

A group, taking photographs and staring menacingly at the activists started to gather near the clock tower. Before too long, they passed the stall en masse at which point an altercation began, with shouts and heckling from the racist group. In response to Islamophobic statements one pensioner approached them and received a vicious head-butt as an answer, throwing him to the ground . Another pensioner  intervened and was quickly surrounded, man-handled and flung to the floor receiving a knock to the head. Both had to receive medical treatment for their injuries.

Earlier in the morning a photographer was also attacked by the same group of racists and had reported the attack to Lewisham police station...'

LARAG is arranging a coach from Lewisham to Luton next Saturday May 5th to join the counter-demonstration to the planned EDL march there.  Call 07508 633 045 to book a ticket.

Andrew Smith: 'one of them headbutted me. I’ve got a possible fractured sinus and a tear to my retina' (story at Unite Aganist Fascism). 

[note on comments: I moderate comments on this blog, and I'm not going to approve comments from EDL supporters justifying the attacks. I've also had comments naming one of the people who may have been part of the EDL group. If you follow people like the (anti-EDL) EDLNewsXtra on twitter you will see the same name being mentioned, but I'm not going to put names on this site - I don't want to prejudice any future trial. UAF has also circulated photos of two people who they believe may have been involved].






16 comments:

Cllr Mike Harris said...

I'll be in touch with the MET tomorrow to check they are monitoring violent far right fascists in our area.

This is appalling. Useful you blogged this.

Anonymous said...

I was there and helped one of the attacked men up. He must of been in his late 60's and was punched to the ground.The other guy was headbutted and looked like he had a broken cheakbone. I offered to take them to the hospital but they opted for an ambulance. No police anywhere even though it was opposite one of the biggest police stations in Europe. They wasn't just young, there was older guys in there 40's with them to.

Anonymous said...

Go to the police, even if you don't think they will help. If they get enough statements they will not be able to ignore. Cllr Mike will help I'm sure

Anonymous said...

I was there too. A group had gathered quite a while before and even though I had no idea of the planned meeting it was obvious they were up to something. Maybe 7 or 8 younger men plus an older man and the woman with Paul's Boutique coat. After attack they left laughing. They hardly ran. Very surprised police did not come at all during this time

Irish Gary said...

"a pasty faced woman with dyed black hair and an eyebrow piercing"

Transpontine said...

@ Irish Gary

I recognise that giving that description of the woman member in the gang might feed into some people's prejudices about 'EDL Chavs'. Personally I am very critical of the use of the term 'chav' and I dislike the tendency of some to deploy it when talking about EDL.

The problem with the EDL is not that some of their foot soldiers tend to be white working class (though some of their leaders are actually very well-heeled) but that they are a violent and reactionary racist organisation.

The (accurate) description was included because she was the only one I got a close up look at, and I thought it might help those attacked to identify their attackers.

Anonymous said...

I was there and of the SWP members on the stall and i can confirm they are both pensioners

Anonymous said...

Over on Urban75 somebody has noticed that some people appear to have been boasting about the attack on Facebook - shouldn't be hard for the police to check that out and cross reference to Lewisham town centre CCTV:

http://www.urban75.net/forums/threads/fascist-attack-on-swp-in-lewisham.292635/page-2#post-11126530

BobFromBrockley said...

My deepest sympathy for the SWP folks attacked. Shocking this can happen in Lewisham town centre.

I hate to say: it shows how irresponsible UAF style "anti-fascism" is, making a big deal of a "cavalcade", which brings out these thugs, and then UAF don't follow thru people in the area have to pick up the pieces. I think the paper sellers' own party have to take a little responsibility.

Morbid Symptoms said...

@Bob from Brockley

A little unfair, the blame for what happened is firmly at the door of the EDL (and I do believe that it was EDL supporters as people who have identified themselves online as so-called Millwall EDL seem to be boasting about their involvement, as discussed at Urban 75 and elsewhere).

However the incident does raise some questions for anti-fascists. The UAF lorry breaking down couldn't be helped, but I do think they could have at least sent someone down to let people who had turned out to support the event know what was going on, as we did feel we'd been left a bit exposed (as we immediately clocked the opposition). UAF should have been aware too that EDL were there, as I noticed that it was reported on twitter with UAF twitter mentioned (they should at least have been monitoring their twitter account on the day of a major event).

What's more looking at the UAF's inexplicably unmoderated facebook page for the event, I can now see that it had attracted lots of hostile EDL comment in the last week, including from people who it is now being suggested may be linked to the attack (see https://www.facebook.com/events/314552255284337/).

If attacks like this are going to become a pattern, anti-fascists are going to have to improve their security and planning for safety of their supporters.

Anonymous said...

Oh my ,,you can not help yourselves can you tut,You blame everything on the EDL and others do you not ,Shame on you.

Bob from Brockley said...

Sorry, I maybe overstated my case. Yes, the full responsibility is with the right-wing thugs who carried out the attack, and we have to condemn them with no qualifications. The guys attacked did nothing to provoke it and my heart goes out to them, and to their courage in staying there despite the presence of the thugs and then in standing up to their racist comments. I didn't mean to diminish that.

Being not especially courageous and no street fighter myself, I'd love it if an anti-fascist strategy of organising "cavalcades" on unmoderated Facebook sites was enough to beat the far right. But the last year or two has seen several instances of EDL-linked thugs violently attacking left-wing paper sales, Palestine Solidarity stalls, Occupy camps and trade union offices. This is the trend, and it is likely to deepen.

Social media makes it easy for them to organise, easy for them to know what the left is doing. Easy for them to turn up mob-handed and pick of easy targets like two older paper sellers.

The plausible deniability for the "official" far right organisations (and the EDL is not a membership organisation, so can deny anything) means that they don't need to worry about it damaging whatever limited electoral credibility they might have. What they care about is strength on the street, and keeping the left week and scared.

I'm afraid this means we have to change up our game, and start thinking about security, stewarding and physical confrontation more seriously. At the very least, it means we can't call a "cavalcade" and then call it off without
(a) making a massive effort to inform people who might have made it along and are left stranded and vulnerable; and
(b) making a massive effort to make sure the area is secure if the far right is in town.
Just because your truck has broken down doesn't mean you can't get some bodies there to at least check there's no thugs about - or, you know, maybe keep an eye on the Twitter account.

Just to be clear, I'm not saying that groups of well-organised stewards is the way to defeat the far right. To defeat the far right will take the ordinary people of places like Lewisham collectively having the courage to reject them. But we do need to at least think about stewarding arrangements, and the UAF needs to either change up or stand down.

Mb said...

Is there not a danger that UAF "security" no matter how well intentioned, professional or proportionate in its actions could get drawn into punch ups? The EDL may be nominally political but there is an element of wanting a punch up 'cos its fun?

Fabhat said...

This awful. A small but important way to fight back - could be leafletting against the BNP/EDL candidates for the London Assembly - you can sign up here. I'll be at London bridge station tomorrow morning, if anyone wants to join me...

http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/page/event/search_simple

Anonymous said...

its out of order when pensioners get caught up in things like this, but did'nt the leftie uaf mugs attack women and children in brighton last week!!!

Anonymous said...

Why is anyone at all surprised that the police didn't turn up?? These fascists (state or otherwise) work hand in hand with each other, get used to it. Self defense is the only option. Take up martial arts. Police yourselves!