Hundreds of football hooligans from across the country are making plans to descend on London next Saturday to confront anti-racist demonstrators attending the next Black Lives Matter protest. Organised by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance, a football hooligan network which emerged after the 2017 terrorist attacks, hooligans from as far afield as Sunderland, Yorkshire, the West Midlands and East Anglia are intending to surround war memorials and other statues in central London.
The event has also now received the support of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson) who released an irate video last night about protestors defacing the statue of Winston Churchill in Westminster. “If you’re a lad or you call yourself a lad, and you’re a football lad and you go to football and you give a shit at all about our country, our history, our culture, our identity. I expect you are going to be in London next Saturday.” Having advertised the event to his supporters and promised to attend himself it now seems certain that the event will take place.
The majority of hooligans making plans to attend are from London firms, including those from Chelsea, Spurs, Millwall, West Ham, Charlton, Arsenal and QPR. Other gangs are making plans to join them, including hooligans from Portsmouth, Everton, Stoke, Colchester, Southend, Bristol, Coventry, Plymouth, Exeter, Swindon, Newcastle and Sunderland.
Smaller groups of hooligans from other parts of the country are making plans to attend. Sunderland hooligans are boasting that they have already booked a coach to come down, while a minibus will be bringing hooligans from Newcastle.
While online boasts of numbers often do not materialise on the day, it should not be forgotten that Football Lads Alliance demos in 2017 attracted 10,000 and 35,000 people respectively – the overwhelming majority current and former football hooligans. Since then internal power struggles, football rivalry and having no clear objectives fractured the group to the point it has hardly existed for the past twelve months.
However, the BLM demonstrations in the US and more recently in the UK seems to have reinvigorated the hooligan networks. What has riled them most has been the image of the Cenotaph being daubed and other buildings and memorials attacked.
While the hooligans claim that they are coming to London to “protect the war memorials” is also clear from the racist comments of many that they also hope to confront BLM and anti-fascists. BLM activists are regularly referred to in the most abusive, derogatory and racist way, while Antifa – which has become a catch-all phrase to describe most anti-racists and anti-fascists – are seen as a physical rival that needs confronting.
The hooligans will be joined by the ex-serviceman group, Veterans Against Terrorism, who have attended many DFLA (and before that Football Lads Alliance) demos in the past. There are even rumours that some bikers and Hells Angels will also attend.
The DFLA is not a traditional far right group and, certainly at its outset, publicly distanced itself from far right groups and Nazism. The original London mobs who attended the group’s first demonstration in June 2017 contained a small, but not insignificant, number of black hooligans.
However, since then the DFLA leadership has drifted to the right, both because many of its supporters – especially those in the Midlands and North – were more openly racist, but also as the group began to adopt the anti-Muslim narrative of UKIP under Gerald Batten and For Britain’s Anne Marie Waters.
While the group’s stated intention of protecting the war memorials might attract the sympathy of some, let us be in no doubt about their real objective – which is violence.
Many of the hooligans planning to attend the DFLA protest next week are spoiling for a fight, with some hoping to directly confront BLM activists and others hoping their presence simply increases tensions and provokes clashes between anti-racist campaigners and the police.
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