Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood—the Islamist political party that ruled the country until last July's coup—is currently headquartered in a cramped apartment above a defunct kebab restaurant in the Cricklewood area of London, England. The group ended up in northwest London after their leader, Mohamed Morsi, was sent to prison and the Egyptian government declared their organization a terrorist group and ran them out of the country.
As if the party didn't already have enough problems, the Muslim Brotherhood also has an enemy in the British far right. The South East Alliance (SEA)—basically some former English Defense League members led by a man best known for harassing anti-racist campaigners—organized a march on Saturday to demand that the Brotherhood should be labeled terrorists by the UK government. As is always the case when the far right do anything, anti-fascists organized to tell them to fuck off. I headed to Cricklewood to watch this weird three-way political battle.
As the SEA and other assorted far-right hangers-on gathered outside the station, I noticed these guys' flags. The guy on the right of the picture is sporting a flag of the Golden Dawn—a Greek political party whose supporters sang the Nazi Horst Wessel song in Athens just this month. So the message is this: Islamist political parties with a questionable history should be banned, but Greek neo-Nazis who stab immigrants, attack women on TV, and murder rappers are great, and their flags should be worn as capes.
That said, maybe it's unfair to call all the people who turned up Nazis—some of those gathered outside the Kilburn tube station looked more like something from the opening credits of a World Cup match than a Leni Riefenstahl film.
Then again, even Paulo Di Canio would probably rein this sort of thing in on Match of the Day.
By the time the march set off at midday, there were about 50 of them. Perhaps this is a sign of a dwindling of the far-right street movement, or maybe targeting a political party that is already being destroyed in its own country was just a bit too niche to attract any halfhearted bigots.
As they set off toward Cricklewood Broadway, a major shopping district, they encountered a few passing anti-fascists, resulting in some pretty awkward glaring.
Up the road was a larger group of anti-fascists, who were blocking the street with their banner.
They pushed against the police lines to get closer to the fascists, but there were too few of them to move forward. They had, however, succeeded in stopping the march from moving any further.
Neither side was big enough to cause much disruption to pedestrians on the street. People in the 300-foot gap between the two groups stared bewilderedly, asked what was going on, and questioned what the Muslim Brotherhood have to do with anything.
Before long, the SEA decided to head to the station and leave Cricklewood, but the far right's big day out was far from over. It turned out that many of them had a secondary target. They took the train to central London, where their arch nemesis, anti-racist campaign Unite Against Fascism (UAF), was holding a conference. I guess attacking Muslims and the left in one day is like killing two birds with one stone for these people.
I waited for them outside the Trades Union Council, with the conference going on inside. Eventually, a few dozen of the Cricklewood marchers turned up and started throwing abuse and threats at the UAF as they came in and out.
Some anti-fascists who had been in Cricklewood were in hot pursuit and arrived to counter the vitriol of the fascists by heckling them. A lot of tit-for-tat shouting and pointing took place.
Sometimes it nearly went further than angry words and jabby fingers. For a second it looked like these guys were going to come to blows when the anti-fascists snuck up on the right-wing demo from behind, interrupting the phone conversation of the man in the white shirt.
But the Met's biggest cop got between them and pushed the anti-fascists away.
The standoff went on for a few hours, with a lot of wide-armed gesturing and the anti-fascists every so often breaking through the police to have a go at the right-wingers, who all eventually sloped off to the pub a few streets away.
I'm not sure what they achieved, other than showing their disapproval to two groups that probably don't care very much about what a bunch of fascists think of them.
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