White supremacist sentiments in the United Kingdom came to a head on the 13th of June, as London’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement cancelled its protest due to fears of violent reprisal from various far-right groups.
These fears were confirmed when crowds, largely compromised of white men, descended on London. Paul Golding, leader of far-right group Britain First, was among the first arrivals at Parliament Square. The crowd consisted of various football hooligan elements, as well as other British nationalist and white supremacist groups. Other prominent British racists, including former leader of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson, used their platform to galvanize support for the gathering.
The crowds gathered under the guise of protecting monuments from vandalism by the BLM protestors. However, with these protests cancelled, the crowd quickly turned on the police – who, ironically, were also there to protect the monuments. Violence was also directed at members of the media and general public, as groups roamed London in search of fights. Widespread public drinking and drug use were reported from early in the morning, as chants of ‘Rule Britannia’ mixed freely with Nazi salutes directed at the cenotaph.
Similar anti-BLM ‘counter-demonstrations’ took place in Belfast, Bristol, Glasgow, and Newcastle.
The response by British media has been predictably apologist. With the occasional exception, such as this Guardian article, the racist mobs have been treated to various appeasing labels. There seems a reluctance to explicitly identify this behaviour as the racism and white supremacy which it clearly is.
The BBC, supposedly a bastion of non-bias reporting, chose to represent those gathered as “demonstrators” in their headline – only admitting the inclusion of “some far-right activists” in the main body of their article. Furthermore, nowhere in the BBC’s article is the word ‘racist’ used explicitly by the author, unless safely distanced in someone else’s quoted speech. Also unmentioned is the prevalence of Nazi salutes, tattoos, and iconography among those that the BBC blandly labels “right wing” “counter-protestors.” Many people, especially older people, live without access to the echo-chambers of social media where the videos of these overt racist and Nazi sentiments are circulating. For those who rely on the mainstream media for all their news, a dangerously disingenuous picture is being painted.
An even more absurd and elaborate sidestepping took place in a now-edited Metro article. A video of violence against the police was captioned describing the perpetrators as “anti-antifascists.” This bizarre double-negative demonstrates the lengths the British media will go to avoid identifying the far-right as what they are, fascists.
These media twists are a symptom of a larger problem, the same problem which makes BLM protests necessary all over the U.K.: Britain’s continuous refusal to acknowledge its own racism. It is the same attitude which caused Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to dismiss British BLM protests as “all based in response to events in America rather than here.” Hancock fails to address that racism was a historical import from colonial England to America, not vice-versa.
To say that Britain is not racist is to ignore the overt racism of its continuing scandals: Grenfell Tower, the Windrush generation, and the government’s suppression of reports concerning the higher COVID-19 death rate for black and minority ethnic (BAME) people. It also ignores the historic racism, such as the white elite continuing to enjoy financial and political power accumulated off the back of the British slave trade. It also certainly ignores the systemic racism, proven time after time through inquests such as those into the corrupt police investigation of Stephen Lawrence’s racially motivated murder.