as Saturday Crowd Turns on Them
Using the threats of the English Defence League, the ‘Quakers’ quaked and cancelled the room we had hired at the Friends Meeting Centre to launch my book on Fighting Fascism in Brighton and on the South Coast. Fortunately Labour History Workshop hired the Brighthelm Church & Community Centre elsewhere in Brighton and the launch of the book went ahead to a packed audience. Ironically the Police and the EDL had built the meeting! People were determined not to be intimidated from reading about the struggle of people in Brighton in past years to prevent the fascist threat.
The cowardice of the Friends Meeting House is something we will deal with earlier. As the Argus article makes clear, they did so on the basis of an EDL attack on a UAF meeting at the FMH last year. Quite disgracefully they talked of ‘anti-fascist aggression’ (see below) whereas it was, as usual, the racist EDL who were the aggressors. They talked of pacifism. Presumably they believe that the targets of fascism should simply allow themselves to be walked all over. In particular the behaviour of the Police, in contacting the owners of halls to try and get them to cancel meetings because of such threats is an attack on freedom of speech. If the Police believe there is a threat their duty is to deal with those who cause the threat. I hope they adopt the same attitude to the March for England on April 22nd.
The Police once again showed that they are not upholding the law but actively intervening to warn the owners of halls that the left hire that there may be trouble. In other words they are consciously using the threats from fascist groups to attack free speech for the Left and thus effectively doing the work of the fascists for them. Of course, if official propaganda is to be believed, the purpose of the Police is to ensure that such threats are faced down and dealt with. But not when it comes to fascist threats.
As it is the Police made clear their annoyance by virtually putting a picket on the hall and arrested one activist on the spurious grounds that they were ‘forestalling a ‘breach of the peace’. He was later released and it is to be hoped that he sues the police for false imprisonment.
The EDL – all 7 of them – later went off to Churchill Square where they began to intimidate and threaten members of Palestine Solidarity Campaign who were commemorating the latest victims of Israel’s war crimes in Gaza. But to their surprise, shoppers, teens and hundreds of ordinary people turned on them. Two EDL members were arrested during the events. The ‘threat’ that the Police used as a convenient excuse amounted to 7, mainly juvenile supporters of the EDL. Hundreds of people let them know what they thought of them and the EDL retreated behind police lines shouting and swearing obscenities. This was an extremely important example of how people are not prepared to submit to the bullies and racists of the EDL and we hope that in future the Friends Meeting House take note.
It is also of concern that there were so many Police at an anti-fascist book launch – around 50. It was unwarranted and made people going to the meeting feel they had to pass a police picket as they were blocking the entrances. A complaint will be made in due course to Sussex Police. And of course to the Friends Meeting House itself (firstname.lastname@example.org.).
And to cap a fantastic day, we held an excellent demonstration outside Hove Town Hall in protest at the attempts to privatise the NHS and marched to the offices of Mike Weatherley nearby. Needless to say, despite being forewarned, the cowardly Weatherley and his side kick, Simon Kirby MP for Kemptown, were absent. Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion however spoke at the demonstration.
Letter from Friends Meeting House Cancelling Anti-Fascist Meeting
We are writing to inform you that we are cancelling your booking at the Friends Meeting House on Saturday the 17th March. Under our Conditions of Hire we have the right to cancel a booking (Clause 6).
We have come to this decision following concerns raised by the police about possible violent confrontation at the meeting house on Saturday from members of right wing groups opposed to your event. The Quaker Meeting has a duty of care to all users of the building and we have a number of other groups here that day we are particularly concerned for and do not want caught up in any way with confrontation. We have our own experience of anti-fascist aggression - there was a fight between an anti-fascist group and the 'English Defence League' in our front garden less than a year ago. We do not want a repeat of that situation and cannot risk the possibility of that happening again.
We regret that this is short notice but we feel that we have not been fully informed of the nature of your event and possible controversy surrounding the book launch. We have also been made aware of the cancellation of your venue booking in Worthing.
This decision has been made by the Finance & Property Committee and Trustees of Brighton Quaker Meeting.
Whilst we support stands against fascism we as Quakers are committed to non-violence. We will be happy to arrange a meeting with you if you want to hire the rooms here on another occasion. Thank you.
Terry Byrne, Jim Wallace -Wardens.
Terry McCarthy www.labourhistory.co.uk