On 22nd April 2012, a front organisation for the profoundly racist English Defence League (EDL) rounded up some supporters and headed to Brighton to hold a so-called “March for England“. Whilst it may be easy to understand why they would want to dress up in patriotic sentiment, the reason for coming to Brighton was less clear. Virtually none of them were from Brighton. The reason appears to lie in their identification of my home town as being very different from their mistaken perception of Englishness.
We have a long tradition of successfully opposing fascism and racism. In my youth some old Labour Party members described to me in detail what happened when Oswald Moseley attempted to create a regional base for his fascist movement in Brighton. His British Union of Fascists were physically run out of their meeting in the Corn Exchange. There was the so-called Battle of Lewes Road too. After that, he called off the idea. Ever since then Brighton has steadily fed progressive politics into the country at large. That’s why the EDL hate Brightonians and everything we stand for.
We have a very vibrant culture which positively welcomes all, normally. A special exception is made for bigots. Our City Council insisted that the EDL would be allowed to exercise their democratic right to protest, in keeping with the Green Party’s policy of encouraging people to express their political views. Sussex Police turned out in force to protect the racists from the inevitable welcoming committee. The people of Brighton ruined the racists’ day trip to the seaside.
Here’s my video of the day’s events. It isn’t a documentary. I was too busy joining in the counter demonstration to film everything. However, it does show the happy calm on the streets before the racists commenced their march, the mounting tensions inside their group whilst they mustered at the station, the fiasco of their march itself, our local MP Caroline Lucas turning out to oppose them and their aborted rally in Victoria Gardens. The film ends before they are escorted at speed back to the station to go home.
As you can see, there was no shortage of free speech in Brighton that day. It was the biggest shouting competition I have ever been to. The marchers did not enjoy their day out because they could not make themselves heard over our cries. My favourite banner of the day said, “Suck on my diversity!“