We can all see when a community has successfully seen off the far right. But what steps does it take to make that possible?
We brought together Rich and Liv from Llantwit 24 – Together in Kindness in a webinar to tell us about the process of planning and delivering the 24 hours of events in Llantwit Major, the town in South Wales which saw off local agitation from the fascist group Patriotic Alternative. We’ve talked before about why the Llantwit Major plans were so successful before, but this time we’re talking about how that success was created: Rich and Liv started from the very beginning, letting us know how their group got together and how they managed to design such a successful collective action. The following is a eight–step summary of what they told us:
Bringing the group together The group first met at a meeting in February hosted at the local football club, after hearing about Patriotic Alternative’s plan to protest in Llantwit Major on the 25th March. This had followed the announcement that an unused local school building would be used to house Ukrainian asylum seekers. Some of the people at the meeting had some experience of anti-fascist organising, but the majority were feeling confused about what was happening, and wanted to help. The group didn’t start off with clear aims, but through discussion they identified that the threat was serious and action needed to be taken, so they collected everyone’s names and added people to a WhatsApp group. Some people joined the group by proxy because they were nervous about being involved.
Deciding on the message The first decision was how they were going to present themselves to the town. Because the town has a mixture of political perspectives, and they wanted to work with as much of the community as possible, they quickly decided that they wanted to be non-partisan. Conversations on social media about immigration and asylum had already become polarising, with labels like “racist”, “fascist” and “anti-fascist” being thrown around. They decided to root their message in a simple term: kindness, and chose the name Together in Kindness as it signalled their desire to be inclusive, positive and warm. Together, they designed an informational leaflet for the town which got their message across, explaining the situation and the purpose of the group.
Building a platform for communication In order to communicate their message of kindness, platforms of communication needed to be built. The group fundraised to print the leaflets and distributed them through the community, which gave them a chance to have conversations with people on the doorstep and understand their fears. They also managed to recruit many people to get involved. They designed a website which presented information clearly about the situation. The message was that whilst it is acceptable – and important – for people to hold a range of political views, it is not acceptable to be exploited by the far right. The principle of kindness means that everyone should be listened to kindly, regardless of their political beliefs. To bolster this, they also gather a cross-party political statement from local politicians.
Planning what to do When it came to planning the events of the 25th March, people put forward ideas that would include as much of the community as possible and encourage people to speak up and share together. They wanted to do something memorable and amusing, and settled on a “Welsh cake welcome” event where people baked and distributed the local treat. Baking gave those who wanted to be involved but were nervous about protesting or confrontation something practical to do. Other events included a football match, an academic talk and an all-night vigil. The idea of the vigil was that even those who couldn’t be there in person could participate in spirit by thinking of victims of oppression, injustice and violence and the event was really well attended.
Getting people talking The website was shared a lot locally and got people talking to each other in person. The group deliberately avoided making social media accounts (although people discussed the website on social media) because it generates debate and argument that can be unhelpful. There was a desire to make sure that the story of Llantwit Major was framed as one of local resistance, with less focus on Patriotic Alternative. A press release was sent round to local and national journalists, and the uniqueness of the sharing of Welsh cakes and daffodils brought journalists down to the town.
Managing the action Alongside the planned 24 hours of action was a counter-protest organised by Stand Up to Racism. The aim of the Welsh cake welcome event was to give people a peaceful and joyful alternative to the counter-protest. However, following the travel of the Welsh cake event from the town centre to the remembrance memorial, where wreaths were laid, people decided to go to the field where the protest and counter-protest were being held. The carnival atmosphere of celebration spilled over from the Welsh cake welcome onto the field; those who had originally been nervous were getting stuck in to the event, leaving Patriotic Alternative to be escorted away by police in embarrassment. The locals and their supporters ended the day in the place where it all began: at the football club to watch the local team play in a football match organised with Show Racism the Red Card.
Following up After the initial 24 hours of action, the media coverage was really positive and managed to shift the narrative away from Patriotic Alternative and onto the town and its act of affirming kindness. Patriotic Alternative did attempt to organise a second protest, but did not show up in the end. The Llantwit 24 – Together in Kindness group hosted a plant share in the field which again brought in people from across the town and wider local area, which became a positive meeting of like minded people.
Reflection time Rich and Liv reflected on the fact that fundraising for the cost of the leaflets, website and other events required group members to chip in from their own pocket at first, but during the 24 hour event so many people offered to pay for teas, coffees and cakes that they made the money back. Paying for these items was optional to align with the aim of the event being accessible for all during a cost of living crisis. They also added that it’s possible that they had a relatively more straightforward ride persuading people of the importance of welcoming the asylum seekers because the arrivals were Ukrainian. They acknowledged that the same approach wouldn’t necessarily work everywhere, but what was important was that they used their local knowledge to plan something that worked well for the context and circumstances they were in.
The Llantwit 24 – Together in Kindness group managed to pull off two events that successfully demonstrated their defiance in the face of the far right, and it was the local knowledge, planning and consideration behind these events that made them such a success. The group continues to be in touch and meets regularly.
If you are interested in planning your own act of solidarity, have a look at our resource here, which can help you with things like managing social media, press releases, finding your message and choosing what type of event to host.
If you are concerned about far-right activity in your community, email [email protected] for more information.