On May 7, various racist groups will be attending a rally in Portsmouth Guildhall against refugees. Portsmouth Antifascists and other groups will be out to stop them. Here they tell Star & Crescent why.
Against the backdrop of the biggest mass movement of people since WWII, Portsmouth has seen overwhelming acts of solidarity with refugees and migrants. From the numerous convoys across Europe and Africa by Don’t Hate, Donate and other individuals, to various rallies, marches and meetings in the city. Not everyone has been so welcoming, however.
Council Leader Donna Jones shamelessly wrote to the Home Secretary asking for Portsmouth to be removed from the refugee catchment area. Knowing that there was no chance this would be accepted, Jones deliberately released this story to the press in a disgusting public relations exercise to boost her right-wing credentials (as if destroying local services was not quite doing the trick).
Perhaps invigorated by the council leader’s actions, local fascists from the Pie and Mash Squad held a banner drop in Guildhall during a Council Meeting in support of Donna. This ended quickly when large groups of students and anti-cuts protesters moved them on. When locals organised a march against Donna’s letter, the same fascists turned up again. Outnumbered and unable to intimidate the crowd of mostly students, the fascists were again moved on and the march continued unhindered.
Portsmouth Antifascists believe actions such as these breath life into local fascists and increase their confidence after multiple successful oppositions to their actions had all but stopped their activity in Portsmouth.
Would these events be occurring without the council’s actions, or without city MPs voting to refuse 3000 unaccompanied children access to the UK?
Who’s organising the rally?
The rally has been called by South Coast Resistance. Formed purely for the purposes of the day, South Coast Resistance are made up of members of Pie and Mash Squad’s “Pompey mob”, thought to be made up of ex-members of the English Defence League’s Portsmouth Division. Since becoming active a few years ago, this group have become increasingly far-right.
They mostly post on social media about crime involving people of colour, celebrations of migrant deaths and pictures of themselves. They are responsible for protests outside Portsmouth’s Jami Mosque, and failed attempts to attack left-wing, anti-racists events in the City, including their infamous mistake of trying to ambush a punk gig in Albert Road.
Their last action in Portsmouth was to try and oppose a Stand Up to Racism meeting in Portsmouth Central Library. Sadly for them, before they could act they were quickly surrounded by members of Portsmouth Antifascists and were stuck in the smoking area of The Isambard Kingdom Brunel pub in Guildhall by police and antifascists.
Despite this, their actions and politics pose a direct threat to our communities in Pompey. It is only by the continued opposition to their actions that their activities remain a collection of failures and calamities. It is up to everyone in the City to stand up to them.
Who are we?
We are Portsmouth Antifascists. We are a group of local people from a variety of political backgrounds who agree that racism and fascism must be opposed wherever it raises its head. We are affiliated to the AntiFascist Network, (AFN) which is made up of many groups up and down the country. We believe that whenever fascists take to the streets, they must be physically opposed. Some may say that to us, physical opposition means violence, however, we believe this means putting our bodies in between fascists and their objective, such as blocking their marches. In taking their space in the streets and defending it as necessary, we destroy their confidence, stop their activities, and create space for progressive, pro-working class politics, as well as protecting vulnerable communities.
We are nonhierarchical, and decisions are made by a collective vote in the group. We receive no funding from political parties or unions, and all our money comes from ourselves, donations and fundraising. We do not work with police. We hold this principle as the police’s role in society mean that they cannot be depended on to stop fascists or help us. In fact, as recent events in Dover have shown, often the far-right are only able to march after police kettled and forcibly removed anti-fascists from their route. As well as being anti-fascist, we are also anti-sexist, anti-homo/transphobia and pro-working class as these beliefs are inextricably linked to the fight against fascism and are in polar opposite to their politics.
What can you do?
If you are reading this, and want to do something, good news! The fight against fascism always needs help! You can:
- Come to Guildhall at 11am on May 7 to oppose South Coast Resistance (and bring your friends, placards, banners etc!)
- Share the facebook event and tell people about it
- Get involved with Portsmouth Antifascists (Email Portsmouthantifascists@riseup.net)
Portsmouth has a proud history of opposing fascism, whether it was the fight against the Nazis in WWII, volunteers fighting for Republican Spain against Franco, opposing Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts to stopping the National Front in the 80’s and 90’s. This struggle continues today against South Coast Resistance. Together, we can keep Portsmouth fascist-free.
Image By Sarah Cheverton.