Following the toppling of a number of statues of slave owners this week, and with further Black Lives Matter protests announced for the weekend, far-right activists and racist football hooligans are planning to head to the capital to defend London's statues and monuments. Police have warned that this could lead to confrontations.
Britain's far-right are furious that monuments of dead racists have been defaced and knocked down. The week started with a video of far-right agitator Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) blowing a gasket in a video rant against the BLM movement. Robinson signed off by encouraging his supporters to head to London on Saturday to defend monuments from protesters.
Other far-right groups have also vowed to show up to defend statues and monuments. A particular source of anger is the defacement of the Cenotaph, which happened twice last week. Ditto the defacement of the Winston Churchill statue in Parliament Square, which was graffitied with the words, "[Churchill] was a racist."
The Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA) is playing a key role in organising the protests. The DFLA is a group that split from the Football Lads Alliance (FLA), an anti-extremism organisation that emerged in the wake of terrorist attacks in 2017, and quickly shifted politically to the far-right. The FLA's early demonstrations and anti-terrorism message attracted tens of thousands of demonstrators to central London.
According to anti-extremism research group Hope Not Hate, football fans attending will mostly come from London firms, "including those from Chelsea, Spurs, Millwall, West Ham, Charlton, Arsenal and QPR. Other gangs are making plans to join them, including hooligans from Portsmouth, Everton, Stoke, Colchester, Southend, Bristol, Coventry, Plymouth, Exeter, Swindon, Newcastle and Sunderland."
The far-right's defence of statues of racists has already spilled over into racist provocations against BLM protesters. In Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, Black Lives Matter protesters faced disgusting racist abuse from a group of counter-protesters who turned up to defend the town's war memorial. BLM protesters were asked, "Why don't you go back to Africa then?" by one counter-protester. Similarly, in Plymouth, Devon, BLM protesters were faced with racist abuse from counter-protesters who were defending the statue. There was an angry stand-off in London on Sunday between BLM protesters and a group of men defending the Churchill statue in Parliament Square, before it was later defaced.
On Tuesday, a Black Lives Matter protest was announced for Saturday at Hyde Park in London. The head of the Metropolitan Police Federation, Ken Marsh, told the Times, "We have got the perfect storm ahead of us this weekend, we have got planned protests and now Tommy Robinson and his agitators."
Police were accused by campaigners of using unlawful containment and data gathering tactics in their policing of BLM protests last weekend.