On Saturday, I caught a train to the seaside with a group of apallingly-dressed white people. They were a gang of right-wing street bigots called Casuals United, and they'd decided to express their vague rage at a changing Britain by heading to Brighton for a Jubilee punch-up with local antifa.
Casuals United maintain that they don't have ties with the English Defence League, but they've shared piss-walls with EDL members at many marches and formed in response to the same incident (when Islamists turned up in Luton a few years ago to shout at British soldiers who'd just arrived home from Afghanistan).
Both groups also share a distate for "communists" and "PC bullshit", while harbouring justified but confusingly preoccupying fears of paedophiles and Sharia Law. The only thing that seems to separate them is that Casuals United describe themselves as "peaceful hooligans", though what happened in Brighton last weekend shows that up as bullshit.
Though it was the smell of horseshit that greeted VICE photographer Henry Langston and I when we got off the train. When the EDL came to Brighton just over a month ago, their "March for England" was heckled to death by local anti-fascists who didn't buy the line that it was a respectable and totally-not-racist family day out. So it was unsuprising when we found the town crawling with cops, many of them mounted.
The first place we headed to was a local BHS. Not because I needed to stock up on douchey deep Vs or Union Jack flip flops, but because UK Uncut were there, midly irritating staff by attempting to hold a street party outside the store. Apparently Casuals United had gotten wind of this, and might try to gatecrash, so anti-fascists gathered there, while men who looked like they get tanked up in pubs a lot got tanked up in pubs across the street. Were they fascists? It's so difficult to tell sometimes.
By about 3PM nothing had happened, so the anti-fascists marched off, their nostrils flared, scouring the air for Nazi blood.
But the police held up the march. I must say, I wasn’t very impressed with this guy’s attempt to put a Hitler moustache on Prince Philip. It’s far too long. I wonder if this guy can still bear to look at the mask since things "got real" and Phil picked up that bladder infection? The police horses were in a far more patriotic mood. Having been held up, the anti-fascist unwelcoming party simply walked off in different directions before converging at a crossroads near the Royal Pavilion. Some Casuals hoved into view. It looked like things were about to get tasty. But they safely crossed the road, only having to put up with some light heckling, which was enough to make this soft-hearted Islamophobe wonder what he had done to deserve it.
Then there was some nervous hanging about. A few EDL turned up, sat down on the grass and started filming their archenemies on camera-phones.
At this stage, the person with the most chutzpah was this lady, who didn’t let the fact that she had a small child with her stop her from walking over to a fascist and twatting him on the head with that flag-pole she's holding onto. I hung around trying to get an interview with this heroine.
But while she was still in the clutches of the cops, I heard shouting further up the road and rushed off to investigate. Antifa had spotted some more EDL on the other side of the road.
The usual jeers followed, but a thick line of police separated the two sides from each other.
As this was happening, Henry was having a tête-à-tête with this gentleman about his dissertation on media representations of the far-right. Then he tried to grab Henry’s camera and was escorted away by the police after a scuffle.
What followed felt like a zombie arcade game. Every five minutes or so another wave of Nazi fuckheads would emerge from a different hidey-hole. The anti-fascists would move towards them and the police would rush into the middle to get some bodies – be they equine or human – in the way.
It seemed like no matter how many times they were driven off, they would re-spawn and rear their heads again, forever chanting “E-E-EDL!”
A couple of the EDL got arrested and the antifa mob gathered around the police’s Yellow Maria to bid them a sarcastic farewell. The police were about to put this guy, whom they had just arrested for shouting “Cunts!” at the fascists, into the very same van. But after he pleaded with them they agreed that this probably wouldn’t have been the best idea. A couple of Casuals managed to either sneak or accidentally blunder their way through police lines into enemy territory. The woman on the left lashed out at a photographer before the police shepherded the pair back to the dark side.
Since some anti-fascists had been arrested for mere potty-mouth, this led them to complain that the pigs were in cahoots with the fash. The EDL thought the police were being unfair, too. One bystander told me that she had seen an EDL member arrested, and his mates shouted that it was “because he’s English”. But there were plenty more English people about who didn’t get arrested. Guys, are you sure he wasn’t arrested for being a racist dickhead?
The assorted crusties, punks and hippies, having just had EDL in their midst, became suspicious of anybody with a bald head who wasn't wearing DMs. That wasn't great for this bemused bystander, who had to be rushed to safety. In the background you can see his angry Asian wife swearing blind that her husband is not a racist. Come off it love, he looks the type.
Then someone shouted “Incoming!” and a bunch of EDLers blitzkrieged on to the scene from a side street. Like something straight out of a football hooligan film, one shouted “Come on then!” with the appropriate chest-out, arms-wide stance and they all charged.
This is it, lads. LET'S FUCKING 'AVE ‘EM!!! I could barely watch. Surely this pint-sized police liaison officer couldn’t stop the march of a proud patriot on his way to pulp some unwashed Commie bumders? Oh wait, she could. Batons were drawn and the EDL were pushed back into the side street where they were kettled. The EDL-haterz surrounded the kettle to have a bit of a shout and one of them was arrested, seemingly for nothing, leading this guy to berate the police. The kettle moved slowly through the town and the EDL gave a rendition of "God Save the Queen" that brought tears to my eyes. Brightonians variously booed, screamed, chanted and Lulzed the Casuals on their way, as the police escorted them out of town. It was weird, but it seemed like somehow the fascists already knew Henry from somewhere. Everyone wanted to be his friend. These guys tried to lead the crowd in a chant of "There's only one Henry Langston"…
This man was desperate for his phone number…
And said that he'd “find” Henry if we published any photos of him. When Henry asked him how, his buddy claimed to “know” that he lives in a place called Springbourne, which is in Bournemouth. Shit, how did they find out? How’s the five-hour daily commute going, Henry? Every so often, the kettle would be directed through some back streets away from the counter-demonstrators. It felt a little bit like they were going to be marched to a quiet field on the outskirts of Hove where the police would murder them all with their batons leaving only bloodied Stone Island shirts and shards of their perfect Aryan skulls as evidence. But instead they marched them to the station and made some of them get on a train to London. The rest were released back into polite society. They mostly headed to the nearest pub. In what was essentially an exercise in dick-swinging, the Casuals’ baby carrot had been well and truly out-swung. You would think they would be embarrassed, but most people would be embarrassed to be seen with the EDL in the first place, so it’s hard to gauge how they think it went. Luckily, in the age of the internet, we were able to check their blog, which said: “We proved our point… Job done.” And what was that point, exactly? That Brighton hates you enough to laugh you out of there twice within the space of a month and a half? Good job lads, hope seeing stuff like this on TV all weekend didn't bring on an existential crisis or anything.