Last month VICE exposed the fact that neo-Nazis were conducting white-only homeless outreach sessions for propaganda purposes. National Action, a group that thinks Hitler is great and wants to "ethnically cleanse" Britain, was giving food out to the homeless in order to spread their message of race hate.
We reported that one of the sessions was in Glasgow. Sandra White, the SNP MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, raised the story with the community safety minister in the Scottish Parliament. The minister, Annabelle Ewing, responded that the Nazi outreach was "of course, completely unacceptable, and we as a government are committed to doing all that we can to stamp it out".
She added: "Police Scotland is closely monitoring the situation and will not hesitate to take action against hate crime," although police had been present at the original outreach and found no reason to shut it down.
Another response came from Red Front Republic, a Glasgow-based group that combines anti-fascism with support from Scottish independence and Irish nationalism. The group took to the streets to hold its own homeless outreach, only thankfully this one wasn't explicitly racist. Before the event, fears were raised by one newspaper of a "turf war" between rival food banks.
A slick video promoting their activities after the fact asks, "Are you prepared to sit back and let a bunch of Nazi scumbags determine who can and can't eat based on the colour of their skin or religion? We certainly aren't." It then shows them handing out food to the homeless and sticking up anti-fascist stickers.
I couldn't help but wonder if I was watching an uncomfortable mirror image of what I had seen in National Action's work – the exploitation of homeless people to push a message. But maybe that concern is kind of specious when the message is about equality in the face of racism. Are Glasgow's homeless getting caught up in a propaganda war, or is this simply a legitimate reaction to some white-supremacists stomping around?
Here's a conversation with a member of Red Front Republic, who goes by the name "Montana S".
VICE: Can you start by telling me a bit about the group?
Montana S: Well, basically, the reason why we formed the group was that last year there were a few different demos up in Scotland, the Scottish Defence League and stuff like that. And the type of groups that were on the anti-fascist side were Unite Against Fascism and things like this. Those type of groups weren't ever in the face of fascists. On the contrary to that, we did want to get in the faces of the fascists, and fight back at them in Scotland.
So how does homeless outreach fit into that tactic?
Well, to be fair, on Saturday what we done was a bit back from that. We didn't want to go up to homeless people on the streets waving face masks and stuff at them, because obviously that would put them off. What we were planning on doing was just generally going around Glasgow and giving out food back to these people. What we didn't know at the time of organising it was that Glasgow Anonymous and Glasgow Anarchist Collective were also planning something similar in George Square. So we went down there to give them some assistance setting up, and they helped us out as well.
What were they up to?
I think every so often they were setting up tents for homeless people to sleep in. And they had a soup kitchen. So yeah, anyone who is homeless had somewhere safe to sleep for the night and get something to eat while they were there.
RFR's homeless outreach video
Was this all in reaction to Nazis doing homeless outreach?
Erm, their side of it wasn't, as far as I'm aware. They've been doing this for quite a while, 'cos I've actually seen them even before I was a part of this group – I've seen them down there quite a few times doing that. So I don't think theirs was in response, but ours definitely was in response to the Nazis.
How did you feel when you found out about National Action doing racist homeless outreach?
Someone has already compared it to the exact same tactics as the Nazis during the war – feeding the homeless. If you went up to each person in National Action and asked each and every one of them if they cared about the homeless people they would tell you they do, but in general they don't. All of this was just to push their own agenda.
National Action's propaganda looks quite up to date, and I guess that is what differentiates them from some other far-right groups. Do you think it's important to win that kind of propaganda war?
Definitely, yeah. What we will be doing soon is pushing our own campaign against National Action. Your average reader of a paper will probably see the type of things that they've been putting around Glasgow – the stickers and stuff… I mean, you're going to be shocked.
The article we wrote previously criticised NA for using homeless people for propaganda. Do you think you're doing the same thing?
That is one of the things that, even when we were out and about on Saturday, we blurred everyone's faces out – even the homeless people. We're not trying to exploit the homeless people. And we've actually done this sort of thing, or similar, in the past on a personal level, but never publicised it.
The reason we've publicised it [this time] is to give people the impression, and acknowledge that Glasgow just isn't like this. We aren't full of fucking Nazis who just want to go about, cause trouble and feed white only people. It's just not acceptable. That's why I felt that this had to be publicised. We'll be doing this again, and it won't be publicised.
There was a headline in The National newspaper about "turf war fears" between you and National Action. Do you think that's a real risk?
No, I don't think there's a risk of that. That's not what we're after. That's just counterproductive.
If you were to meet them when you were out and about, what would happen?
I'll let you guess what would happen. If we came across National Action, I could guarantee something would happen. As I've said before, we don't advocate for violence. I don't think anybody wants to have violence, but if it comes to that we are more than prepared to have that.
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