My friend Jade said “I want to go and give Tommy Robinson my support”.
Jade is a gutsy person so I said “Why don’t you go then”? after all, I thought, even if I am freaked out by the whole ‘EDL’ thing at least this is someone you know who is wanting to get involved in something.
“I will go” said Jade then added “why don’t you come too”?
The very thought of going to something where the Tommy Robinson’s of this world were going to gather, where there would be ranks of police battle suited and ready, with Tommy supporters with bottles and knives… who knows what else would be there… my limited, socially entrenched thought patterns went wild and I was genuinely afraid.
I mentioned the possibility to a number of my friends and family.
“God! Are you a Nazi? I thought you didn’t believe in that shit!”
“Oh Mark! don’t go! You might get killed!”
“What the f*ck do you want to go to anything to do with that bunch of racist shitheads”?
Apparently sensible advice according to most of the output of the media I usually follow.
Except for the gutsy nature of one person I follow, RESPECT and admire, I almost certainly would have said go “on your own” to Jade.
Deeyah Khan recently filmed White Right: Meeting the Enemy of which wikipedia’s synopsis says
Meeting The Enemy sees Deeyah sitting down face-to-face with Neo-Nazis and white nationalists after receiving death threats from the Far Right movement as a result of giving a BBC TV interview advocating diversity and multiculturalism. In the film Deeyah tries to get behind the hatred and the violent ideology, to try to understand why people embrace far right extremism.
Now, I am a nothing on this planet compared to either of these people, Deeyah Khan or Tommy Robinson. I mostly sit in one room with four monitors, a relatively isolated nerd in the land of others living far fuller lives than mine.
The thought of going to London, to The Old Bailey, scared the shit out of me to put it bluntly. I had so many possible options planned for that day, the 23rd of October 2018, last week.
drive down with Jade then join in on the other side while she does her thing.
See family in London.
Go to a museum.
Be by Jade’s side just in case she needs a wonky sixty two year old to save her from the abusive violent hoards… (NO NO NO NO NO NO!)
…. anything other than go anywhere near The Old Bailey that morning!
BUT Deeyah Khan kept getting into my head… and I found I had a rising panic filled enthusiasm building up at the prospect. It looked like I was going to go and see something real at first hand.
AND it was because of Deeyah Khan (and Jade) that I was ready and waiting when Jade came and picked me up at three o’clock on that Tuesday morning… Gulp again.
09:00 The Old Bailey, London.
We parked in an NCP car park (stupid, stupid people! it cost £42 for about three hours parking!) and walked towards where Jade’s phone said the Old Bailey was.
“We’re getting near” she said.
“how do you know”? I said.
“Der” she said. “Look!”
I looked and suddenly had my vision filled with police vans. I thought at first that it was just one or two vans escorting a prisoner… or two. Then we went round the corner. The street, on both sides was lined with vans. Full vans. six or more policemen in each van plus dog vans besides.
“Oh fuck” I said.
“Not far now” said Jade. “Can you hear that?”
Suddenly, over the din of traffic, I heard the swell of voices as we rounded another corner and came upon Tommy Robinson and his supporters.
There, in front of The Old Bailey, was a dais with Tommy and some of his close support. In front of him was a crowd of… many people, kettled in by the surrounding police.
Down one side of the kettling barriers there was a pathway for those not involved to walk past. We walked down to the bottom of the barriers and then started getting Jade to the front so she could see more – Jade is not tall 🙂
Once we got into a good position for Jade I then went rambling about to see what was going on and how people were.
I went and had a look at the Anti Tommy Robinson showing, not that you could really call it that. Within an hour of us being there the ‘opposition’ had gone home, there weren’t many of them to begin with. I thought if Tommy Robinson is the evil devil you say he is then surely not only should there be more of you but you would stay around and protest far more vehemently… but no. Home after an hour or so.
The police were seriously not what I expected. Kind. Gentle. Sensible. Helpful. Want to go in and out of the kettle multiple times? no problem. Always a policeman to open it up for me, and others (So strange knowing that the dogs of war were barking in vans just round the corner). For policing it was the right way of coping with this group of diverse peoples. Tommy thanked the police a number of times for their efforts to make that morning as clean and clear as possible.
All the while the ‘howling mob’ was kettled just a few inches from the multiple different races and cultures who fed through the path leading past them.
Fact. I watched with eyes open as none of these passers by were turned on and abused in any way. The passers by might have been fearful but none of them got what you might expect from a crowd built as it was supposed to be, of drunk vicious haters of those different from the ordinary white person.
In fact the crowd was game changer for me. Not once did anyone growl as Jade and I moved our way to the front. No one grumbled as I ducked under flags and entered and exited the kettle. Both of us got chatting with different people and neither of us had bad experiences. The singing was as good as a Welsh choir. I saw no one drinking booze. I saw no one in the kettle hating on those around.
It was an eye opener. These were everyday people who were angry that thousands of children (1,400+ in Rotherham alone) in this country have been abused by gangs for years and relatively little is being done because… because? Because we, as a country, support countries like Saudi Arabia? Because we, as a country, have a paedophile ring running in the upper echelons of government, and have had for years? Maybe because too many people in this country have been abused in one way or other without recourse to help. These aren’t people who just came along for a bit of a fight and to damage some ‘coloured people’. There were people from other races in the kettle. No. These are every day folk who are trying to have their voices heard. People who want resolution to some sick shit that keeps happening with ‘our’ children, and us.
I listened to Tommy and, when he is talking about the people who are being left damaged by this society then he is awesome. He’s a ‘hansome ol’ bugger’ as we would say in Norfolk; sparkling eyes and a winning smile with an eloquence worth listening to. Tommy Robinson is no fool. He held the crowd with substantial talk about what was happening, where his life, and trial were going. It was interesting to hear his point of view. Tommy is not a hater of other races ‘just because’. He has a deep anger for those who not only perpetrate such appalling crimes but those that constantly thwart those who battle against such crimes. Yes, he can say some wind up stuff and that morning the crowd, and Tommy, kept linking themselves to Trump which just made me want to walk away (I have a problem with Trump… maybe the same problem I had with Tommy Robinson…).
It is a scary thought that countries who’s religions allow beheading in the streets, lopping off of hands, sex with very under age children, suppression of the rights of those they see as wrong, such as LGBT and the like, let alone death penalty for saying what you believe on Facebook… well, it’s a scary thought that the religion that sees such treatment as ok should ever come over to this country when, after centuries of the same sort of shit treatment from our ruling classes, we had finally got some semblance of understanding of others lives and the, sometimes, real justice that can metered out by way of actual help and understanding… let alone changing society to the benefit of all.
So, Tuesday was an eye opener but the press follow up was even more of an eye opener. The Metro had a picture of what seemed like a nazi salute and a head line mentioning Stella drinking mob, or some such. The salute was taken by a clever photographer who realised that if you capture the hand of someone waving from side to side whilst they are singing then at some time it will be upright. you can find the bit of film if you look for it. The distortion was as real as you have been told about and not believed. Well, believe it. The games played with the truth of the moment are only visible if you were there at that moment. If you weren’t there chances are you won’t know the truth for a long time. If ever.
I was there. I saw what I saw. I heard what I heard.
So thank you Jade and Deeyah Khan for getting me out of my hermit’s cave and out into the world of things I know little of.
I still don’t know enough but I understand more than I did.
Today, I received a routine email from the Guardian regarding my ongoing subscription to the paper. I have been a regular reader of the Guardian for 40 years including as a subscriber in recent years. But no longer.
My email explaining why is listed below.
Thank you for your recent email.
It has prompted me to contact you regarding my Guardian subscription.
I have bought the Guardian since the age of 12; I am now 52. I have always considered the paper to be fair and on the side of people who are trying to make a difference. The paper’s campaigning work is well known and rightly so. Even though I have not always agreed with the paper’s leaders and editorial line, mostly I have and one of the main reasons I have supported the paper for 40 years has been its left of centre position on the…
This is where they’re holding U Gambira in Mandalay. A cop finally let me inside and told me in very limited English that Gambira is going to be ‘investigated’ (his words) for one week, on some dodgy Immigration charges. I told UNHCR Canberra and UNHCR Bangkok repeatedly that he had a warrant out for his arrest in Myanmar but my correspondence was completely ignored. We had no choice but to risk going back in after failing twice to get him a passport. A passport agent in Bangkok took his money and ran 1 year ago. (her phone number: +66 0874951367). Gambira has had severe schizophrenia since 2009 after being tortured extensively in prison in Myanmar when he was a Buddhist Monk. He is on 4 different types of anti psychotic medication. We have been followed, harrassed and photographed by police constantly since arriving in Myanmar 4 or 5 days ago.