A British white nationalist group is attempting to hijack a day officially recognising the struggles of the world’s indigenous people in order to push racist “great replacement” myths.
Created by the United Nations in 1994, the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples is observed on the 9th of August every year in an effort to acknowledge and defend the rights of indigenous communities worldwide. But in recent years, the British far-right group Patriotic Alternative has tried to co-opt the occasion to push their bogus narrative that white Britons are being threatened by “demographic replacement,” and stir up racial grievance.
Its campaign includes a contest in which their supporters across the UK compete to carry out the most audacious, attention-grabbing stunt, with the winner awarded a cup called the “White Lives Matter trophy.” Last year’s prize went to the group’s Scottish chapter, whose members climbed Scotland’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, to unfurl a huge “White Lives Matter” banner at the summit.
Entries so far this year have included a large “White Lives Matter” banner being displayed in front of a bust of Nelson Mandela in central London’s Southbank Centre. The protests also feature slogans like “We will not be replaced” – an overt reference to the racist “great replacement” conspiracy theory which underpins Patriotic Alternative’s politics, and falsely asserts that white Western populations are being deliberately “replaced” through mass immigration.
Tim Squirrell, head of communications at the counter-extremism think tank the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told VICE World News that the group had first held the “abhorrent” campaign three years ago amid Black Lives Matter protests worldwide, seeking to stir up attention for their racist conspiracy theories.
“Their claim is that ‘indigenous British’ people are under threat, primarily from immigration but also other things that are supposed to bring down the birthrate,” he said.
“It’s really grim, given that the British in particular but Western Europeans in general colonised and expanded empires across much of the world and caused a massive amount of damage to indigenous peoples worldwide.”
“It’s pretty grim of them to try to appropriate the concept of being indigenous to push a conspiracy theory grounded in ethnonationalism.”
When contacted for a comment, Patriotic Alternative responded with an otherwise blank email that began with the words, “Dear anti-White media.”
But posts on Patriotic Alternative’s Telegram group describe the event as an opportunity “to raise awareness of the demographic replacement of the indigenous British peoples,” and to encourage people to become more strident in asserting white nationalist beliefs.
“Demonstrations like this give people hope and can encourage them to be more confident in their own lives,” read one post. “Once our people build up the confidence to stand up for their own communities, political change becomes inevitable.”
Founded in 2019, Patriotic Alternative – which has recently been involved in organising protests against a “drag queen story hour” tour of children’s libraries – has attempted to unite the disparate factions of the UK’s far-right behind its consistent “white lives matter” messaging.
“They’re really trying to be the one-stop shop for far-right activism,” said Squirrell.
The group was launched by veteran far-right activist and neo-Nazi Mark Collett, who was previously director of publicity for the British National Party.
Despite the group’s efforts to whitewash its virulently racist politics, its leading figures have been repeatedly exposed for their hardcore extremism. Last year, Collett – who has repeatedly recommended supporters read Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and was previously in a relationship with a woman with a large swastika tattoo – was revealed to have had links to the now-banned neo-Nazi terror organisation National Action, including having attended a combat training course with the group.
On Tuesday, anti-racist group Hope Not Hate – which has exposed numerous links between Patriotic Alternative and National Action – reported that Sam Melia, Patriotic Alternative’s Yorkshire regional organiser, had claimed on the Nazi website Daily Stormer that he had joined a local branch of National Action, as well as a successor organisation which would also be banned by the UK government.