Yesterday roughly 30 fascists, namely from the Pie and Mash Squad and Leicester Casuals and 100 pro-refugee and anti-fascist demonstrators overwhelmingly from Portsmouth, met in Guildhall for what can only be described as a slanging match. Embarrassed by the far-right’s repeated failures to mobilise daily mail readers from their armchairs into the streets in Dover, and a recent cock-up in Portsmouth at a local pub, the fash turned up at around 9.30, two and a half hours before their ‘rally’ actually started. We can only assume that they couldn’t find a pub serving stella at this time, or that due to their recent embarrassments they couldn’t risk being refused entry to their own rally point by anti-fascist activists. In this respect, this was the far-right’s only political victory of the day, that they didn’t get tanked up on a Friday night so they could wake up early and sit on some steps waiting for something to happen bright and early on a Saturday morning.
When pro-refugee and antifascist activists did arrive, their enthusiasm to make idiots of themselves soon appeared. While activists countering their protest chanted, sang, and informed passers-by of what was happening, 30 fash stood on the steps, black blocked up like something was going down, drinking, and offering out activists for a fight. Hampshire police with the assistance of Thames Valley attended the event with no less than 12 riot vans and a couple of horses that laid a trail of shit between the two groups to deter any clashes. Despite lingering on the steps for around two and a half hours, their most political statement made by fash was their banner reading “Portsmouth says no to Refugees” which, judging by their small turnout, obviously fell on deaf ears in the city they claim to represent.
The fash called it a day at around 12 after which pro-refugee and antifascist activists took to Guildhall steps to make speeches and launch an appeal for an upcoming convoy to Calais. Shortly after crowds dispersed and made their way home after doing precisely what we set out to do which was to not allow fascists to go unopposed in Portsmouth.
It was expected by activists that the fash would make a day of it. With the Pompey lot receiving support for their action from other far-right groups, it seemed only natural that they would want to do some sight-seeing in Portsmouth’s finest drinking establishments. It is common knowledge that the fash love to get tanked up before, during, and after any demonstrations regardless of their success. As such, the fash went on a pub crawl round Portsmouth. Evidently not satisfied enough that they had ‘outsmarted’ the ‘loony lefties’ by setting their alarm clocks a couple of hours earlier, they decided to intimidate bar staff and make a nuisance in several bars and pubs along Elm Grove and Albert Road some three hours after their rally had finished. It seems an unfortunate coincidence that a couple of police officers stationed outside a local pub who were monitoring the dispersal of pro-refugee and anti-fascist activists alerted the fash to the presence of ‘undesirables’ inside the pub. With a few beers down them, the fash decided that they would step up their intimidation and this time started fronting up to a window of the pub where the bar staff stood on the other side. Due to their behaviour in earlier pubs, all bars had been notified by their colleagues elsewhere that the fash were heading their way, and as there were small children in and around the premises, took the decision to close the doors and refuse them entry to ensure the safety of locals and their staff.
Several activists who had been at the rally and were having social drinks with friends were smoking outside when they were forced inside the pub by the police who were stationed outside, unaware of what was happening. Pie and Mash have since enjoyed bending the truth with their propagandist posts on social media and are somehow trying to make out that this was an extension of the rallies that happened earlier that day. What this shows more than anything is that Pie and Mash, Leicester Casuals and all their fash friends aren’t interested in peaceful political protest as they like to have people believe. They are fully engaged in some sort of turf war in the style of football firms and seem to think that Portsmouth, like Dover amongst others, are places to play that out. For Portsmouth antifascist the fight against fascism is 100% a political fight and we believe that opposing fascists en masse and where possible, preventing them from marching or mobilising in our cities, is the only way to rid our communities of bigoted bile. Their behaviour yesterday, intimidating locals, frightening children, and forcing local pubs to close shows what they are really about, and, that as much as they claim it, they do not represent Portsmouth and their actions are not for the benefit of Portsmouth. While Portsmouth Antifascsists know who and what they are, many local people do not and it is for them that we condemn their actions. Portsmouth Antifascists are not, and will not, be intimidated by fascists – whether across the square at a rally or stood inside a pub.
We believe that the actions of yesterday further demonstrate why the police cannot be trusted and should not be relied upon by activists to protect demonstrations, defend our communities, and deliver justice. The police, though not all deployed, outnumbered protesters (fash and pro-refugee) by about 2 to 1. This is one of the largest police presences that Portsmouth has seen for a political protest in many years. The police are actively seeking to avoid a repeat of Dover, but further to that seem desperate to prove their worth with further cuts to frontline officers looming. The use of mounted officers seemed utterly disproportionate, cruel, and a colossal waste of ‘public’ money. While actively encouraging some 6-10 pro-refugee and anti-fascist protesters who had their faces covered to remove their scarves, the police happily stood by as 30 fash stood in all black wearing hoods and sporting masks with skulls on them. Pro-refugee and antifascist activists were encouraged to disperse into small groups and go home while the police facilitated 30 fash to hit the pub. The police consistently and pro-actively facilitate fash protests and expect everyone else to stand by and let it happen. Furthermore, they try to subdue opposing protesters, usually through coercion and manipulation in the name of ‘public order’. Portsmouth Antifascists believe that the facilitation by police of the fascist actions yesterday confirms that the police cannot and do not respond appropriately to fascists.
Neither side can claim victory for yesterday’s rally and subsequent events in Portsmouth. In fact, the entire episode is best described as a stalemate. However, for Portsmouth Antifascists no action or demonstration in isolation is a victory. The only victory will be when we no longer have to mobilise against fascism, and to that end we continue to fight!