Went to protest the National Front celebrating “Flag Day” in Wellington yesterday – sadly fascism remains attractive to a minority even in 2008. And the New Zealand variety has a brand new website with helpful hints on how to deal with homosexuality.
I have to admit to indecision over whether to attend this protest. Anti-fascist protests when I lived in London were acrimonious and scary, with anger and fear often boiling over into seeking violence for some of the young male anti-fascists I marched with.
My last march was in the late 1990s, when broken glass and bottles were thrown and shoved at people on both sides, and my arguments with several young anti-facist men about how successful this “strategy” had been were unheard, because they claimed to have actively enjoyed the experience.
And this in a climate where fascists were winning local body council seats and polling well in elections, and my wee corner of London with it’s mix of African, Irish, Caribbean, Turkish and eastern European peoples had racist attacks, vandalism and regular leaflets delivered to our homes explaining that the loss of our public library/swimming pool/council housing was because there were too many immigrants in England.
Yesterday’s protest began with dancing, music, and information for passers-by at the Cenotaph. Then we moved to Parliament Grounds, where the National Front attempted to make speeches while we chanted and details of their activities were read out over a loudspeaker.
This quickly degenerated into name-calling – the most odd of which was both sides telling each other to “get a job”, while the least appropriate remarks would have to be anti-fascist demonstrators making gay-hating comments to National Fronters about liking other men too much. It has to be said, this came from only a few, exclusively young white male, anti-fascist protestors.
A male and female anti-fascist were later arrested for inciting violence. I didn’t see all of this, but the man arrested was standing next to me when he threw what looked like a piece of cardboard towards the police line between us and the National Front. It didn’t reach past the line, but he was immediately grabbed by three male police officers, wrestled with his body twisted into odd positions, and then carried into a police van. Protestors surrounding the van were then pushed away by shouting police officers.
Throwing things at a protest is undoubtedly stupid – but his treatment did the Police no credit.
I’m left feeling whatever the politics that over-fuelled macho braggadocio with a liking for violence is part of these protests. Not for everyone there, or even for most – but as long as some young men join fascist groups in part so they can be violent; as some young men attend protests against fascism but see no contradiction in queer-hating; as some young men in the Police use violence as a tool regardless of whether that kind of forceful response is warranted – well, as long as those things happen, I’m going to have to check in with myself about how safe I feel protesting against women-hating, queer-bashing racists.
And that is sad – because I am in no doubt how I feel about the National Front.