The day kicked off with a ‘Welcome Trump to London Demonstration’ near the US embassy in Vauxhall. Despite being organised by the oddball Make Britain Great Again group, led by the equally bizarre Luke Nash-Jones, the event attracted a number of UKIP speakers including Elizabeth Jones from UKIP NEC and UKIP London chairman Freddy Vachha.
The most high profile speaker was the Australian anti-Muslim activist Debbie Robinson from the anti-Muslim party, the Australian Liberty Alliance. Robinson, who was accompanied by Avi Yemini, is also President of the key Australian ‘counter-jihad’ organisation, the Q Society of Australia.
Martin Costello of Make Britain Great Again addressed the crowd screaming “round up all illegal immigrants and get them out of here” and “we shall never surrender” into the microphone.
The main event happened in central London and kicked off just after 3pm in the wake of the shocking revelation that Sam Brownback, the US ambassador for international religious freedom, lobbied the UK on behalf of Tommy Robinson (AKA Stephen Yaxley-Lennon).
As the stage and screen were erected just in front of the Monument to the Women of World War II on Whitehall, notable figures from across the international far right and the right-wing alternative media began to gather. Members of Lennon’s team such as George Llewelyn-John and co-founder of the English Defence League (EDL) Kevin Carroll helped set things up alongside Siegfried Daebritz from the German anti-Muslim street movement PEGIDA. Also milling around the stage area was American “alt-light” figure Jack Posobiec.
Despite constantly claiming not to be a racist event, the organisers were happy for a balloon in the shape of a poo emoji with a mask of London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan taped to it be flown from the stage scaffolding. Once the event started, a blow-up doll with Mayor Khan’s face having sex with a pig was taped to a truck just to the left of the stage by one of the official stewards.
The event was compèred in a peculiarly panto-style by former Breitbart London editor Raheem Kassam, who continually pleaded with the crowd not to engage in violence as they did at the previous Free Tommy demonstration. As with the last demonstration representatives from a diverse range of far-right groups were in attendance such as For Britain, UKIP, Generation Identity, Make Britain Great Again and numerous others.
The first proper speaker was UKIP leader Gerard Batten, who delivered an extreme speech in which he said “the rapists are predominantly followers of the cult of Muhammad” and that “the founder of their cult was himself a paedophile”. He also stated that “both our houses of parliament are full of traitors […] they must be swept away.” A small scuffle broke out while he was speaking when some demonstrators confronted a fellow attendee who appeared to be waving a communist flag.
Fellow UKIP luminary Lord Malcolm Pearson provided a video message talking about “taqiyya where Muslims are encouraged to deceive their hosts and to take their country over”. Other video messages came from the American singer Joy Villa and Geert Wilders, the Islamophobic founder and leader of the People’s Party for Freedom in the Netherlands. He had been due to speak in person but cancelled on 11 July claiming the UK authorities would not “provide for [his] security in London” for the event. However, during his video message today he specifically blamed UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
Wilder’s was just one of numerous leading European populist radical and far-right politicians to address the crowd. Filip de Winter from Vlaams Belang in Belgium declared that “together we need to organise the resistance to prevent the Islamic hostile takeover of the west”.
Notorious Swedish far-right politician Kent Ekeroth also spoke in person. A member of the Swedish Democrats (SD), Ekeroth has a long history of bigotry, criminality and violence. For example, in 2012 he temporarily resigned from the SD following the “iron bar scandal” in which he was filmed fighting with an iron bar, making racist and sexist comments and throwing a woman onto a car.
This gathering of notable European figures was rounded off by Jerome Riviere from France’s Rassemblement National (formerly the Front National) and introduced by Kassam as a “friend”. The two had previously met in June at the Hotel Raphael in Rome alongside Steve Bannon.
The final major speaker was Congressman Paul Gosar from Arizona who said little of note.
This most recent “Free Tommy” demonstration is only the latest in a succession of events which have seen Lennon go from a leading figure amongst British and European anti-Muslim activists to a veritable rallying point for the global far-right.
As a recent HOPE not hate investigation revealed, only 68% of the signatures on the petition to free Robinson are from the UK. Nearly 10% come from both Australia and the USA, with only 40% of the tweets using the hashtags coming from a domestic audience.
Notably, a huge 35% of these posts on Twitter were from the US. The issue has certainly caught the imagination of the US far right and just last week there were clashes between anti-fascists and pro-Tommy Robinson supporters outside the British consulate in San Fransisco. Previously, the right-wing conspiracy theory channel InfoWars, on which Lennon has appeared numerous times, has broadcasted reports from his team and its figurehead, Alex Jones, has referred to Lennon as a “political prisoner”. Donald Trump Jr., Mike Cernovich and The Gateway Pundit’s Lucian Wintrich have all spoken out in defence of Lennon.
ACT for America, Brigitte Gabriel’s anti-Muslim organisation – which claims to have 1,000 local chapters across the USA – told its email list that Lennon’s case meant that “free speech is under attack”. Major right-wing channel Fox News has also chimed in with Tucker Carlson giving Lennon’s case significant airtime on his show.
It also emerged this week that Robinson has also been receiving significant financial assistance from across the Atlantic, receiving money for legal help from the Philadelphia-based organisation the Middle East Forum (MEF), led by Daniel Pipes. MEF also claims to have played an “organizing and funding” role in both today’s protest and the previous protest in June, which was marred by violence and vandalism and saw nazis and other antisemites among the crowd.
In addition to the US, Robinson’s ’cause’ has caught the imagination of other far-right groups around the world with a string of demonstrations in Austria, Hungary and Denmark as well as Australia and Canada.
Today’s events are just further evidence that the far-right threat we face is now truly international. People, ideas and causes rapidly cross borders with social media allowing for cooperation like never before. Worryingly, the gathering of international far-right figures in London this weekend is just one example of the increasing cooperation we are seeing between populist, radical and far-right leaders across Europe, with the support of US players like Steve Bannon. Just a few days ago Bannon held a private meeting in a Mayfair hotel with Nigel Farage, the French right-wing politician Louis Aliot and Ben Harris-Quinney of the right-wing think tank, The Bow Group.
While the “#FreeTommy” campaign is playing an important role in uniting a split and splintered UK far right landscape, it is also contributing to an increased unity across the international radical right in the run-up to next years crucial European elections.
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