This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Newcastle has just breathed a sigh of relief following the passing of the weekend's Pegida demonstration, when a few hundred bigots took to the streets to shout about Islamification. But the city will have to gear up for another, more extreme far-right street demo later this month. Neo-Nazis from across Europe are set to descend upon Newcastle for a protest against what organizers describe as the "systematic destruction of the white race."
Until now, nobody has really noticed beyond a small handful of anti-fascists, because the Pegida demo was getting all the hype. The media has also been paying attention to the anti-Semitic "Liberate Stamford Hill" protest in North London against the "Jewification of Britain" which could take place on the same weekend.
The "White Man March," taking place on March 21, could be more significant than both. The Pegida UK protest was trying to latch onto the success of the German Pegida movement, which has seen tens of thousands of people take to the streets against Islam. But it doesn't really have much chance of that success. It's basically a re-heated version of the ideas and tactics of the English Defence League with a different name. The Stamford Hill event, meanwhile, is organized by a lone neo-Nazi crank. The White Man March, on the other hand, sees several members of the far right intent on bringing neo-Nazis together in a more open and better organized way than ever before.
The White Man March is part of a neo-Nazi attempt to copy the way protests spread like memes in the wake of the Arab Spring and Occupy. It was started by American racist Kyle Hunt who spoke to VICE about it last year. The idea is that the kind of people who are terrified at the idea of having mixed race grandchildren should take to the streets to warn other white people about what they think are attempts to systematically exterminate the white race.
Last year's UK White Man March wasn't a big deal. It wasn't really even a march. Five supporters of secretive British neo-Nazi group National Action (NA) unveiled a banner reading "anti-racist is a code word for anti-white" in Birmingham city center's Victoria Square, later hanging it from a motorway bridge.
This year, the event looks like it might be worth paying attention to. The protest is being organized by individuals linked NA and their friends in the British Movement—a tiny, old-school British Nazi group—who are expected to attend the event. A secret Facebook group being used to encourage people to attend the White Man March includes over 300 far-right activists, including members of the extreme right National Front (NF) and the Blood and Honour Nazi-Punk network. The event page shows an Italian fascist saying that a group of them will be flying in to Newcastle for the protest. Young Russian and Belgian neo-Nazis also discuss traveling to the event.
Key organizers NA are a pretty sinister bunch. Their members have been attending ISIS inspired "Sigurd" training camps, where young neo-Nazis from across the country gather to practice fighting in groups, using knives as weapons, and learn about Nazi ideology. NA recently held a weekend event where around a dozen members practiced mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting.
The group were set up in 2013 by Alex Davies—who was then a Warwick University student and Benjamin Raymond, the current leader. They hit the headlines last year after a young member, Garron Helm, 21, from Liverpool, was jailed for tweeting anti-Semitic abuse at Labour MP Luciana Berger.
They are trying to build a group capable of "ethnically cleansing Britain." But you won't see them goose-stepping around in black military uniform like the Nazis of old—they are part of the European autonomous nationalist scene: neo-Nazis who copy the look and tactics of far-left subculture. They dress in black-bloc type gear and listen to music that sounds like West Coast crusty hardcore but with racist lyrics—like if From Ashes Rise were a bit less musically competent and screamed about how much they love being white. Some of them also dress like hipsters, showing that the "Nipster" subculture—Nazis who dress like pop-up coffee shop baristas—is heading to the UK.
This protest shows the UK neo-Nazi movement is starting to look outward, having spent years expressing their White Pride anonymously on the internet while maintaining a relatively respectable façade for their political activity. Many of NA's members were involved with youth wing of the British National Party (BNP), including one of the group's founders. With the collapse of Britain's most successful fascist project, these young Nazis have abandoned BNP-style electoral politics and are looking to build a violent street presence, drawing on inspiration from European fascists like Golden Dawn.
Organizers claim they have picked Newcastle because they believe it is one of the cities in the UK with a high proportion of white residents, but there may be other reasons for their choice. Far-right protests in the UK are frequently opposed by anti-fascists, but in recent years several have taken place in Newcastle where there has been little to no anti-fascist opposition. One example is protests by the NF against grooming gangs last year, attended by the White Man March's main organizer, a guy who goes by the name Wayne Jarvie.
Jarvie, which is probably not his real name, is being assisted by Chris Livingstone, 44, originally from Rainham, Kent. Livingstone is a former BNP organizer who recently organized a protest outside the US embassy in solidarity with Gary Yarborough, a former member of a US neo-Nazi terror crew called "The Order." Yarborough has served 30 years in prison and is not being granted parole. The protest was backed by a wide range of neo-Nazi and far-right groups, but only around 30 people turned up, including Jarvie.
Jarvie first got involved in far-right politics in 2009 through the EDL, with his involvement lasting until 2012 when he started hanging around with the NF. During this time he attended meetings and protests, including one opposing Irish Republicans in Liverpool. In 2014 he joined the British Movement, who have close links with NA. He was one of the ten NA activists who were arrested in Liverpool, who had their homes raided by the police and were given strict bail conditions. No further action was taken against those arrested.
Taking to the airwaves of a far-right internet radio show, Jarvie was asked to name historical figures who inspire him. He named Adolf Hitler. But he was keen to stress the whole Nazi movement deserves credit for what happened in Germany—not just the Führer. He goes on to describe how NA are "openly national socialist and anti-Jewish." When asked about electoral politics, Jarvie describes how he thinks UKIP need to come to power to restore "sanity" back to British politics. But he doesn't see neo-Nazis standing in elections as a great idea, describing that route as "dead"—"we're going to have to go to war," he said.
North East anti-fascists are set to oppose the White Man March, but may get little support from elsewhere in the country. On the day Unite Against Fascism, a group that frequently organizes protests against the far right, will be holding a demonstration against racism and fascism about 250 miles away in London while actual white-supremacist neo-Nazis take to the streets of Newcastle. Other anti-fascists might focus on opposing the "Liberate Stamford Hill" demonstration the following day in North London. This could mean one of the potentially larger explicitly neo-Nazi events in recent years goes mostly unopposed.
It would be easy to write off NA as a joke. There's a story about them that does the rounds on the anti-fascist scene. Supposedly when the group was in its infancy, they turned up at a demo in support of the Golden Dawn at the Greek embassy in London and were found amongst other Nazis by anti-fascists in a pub. NA often talk about "smashing the reds," so the anti-fascists went up to them and said, "We're the reds" asked them if they "want some." NA members declined, as anti-fascists drunk their pints and stole their flags. The anti-fascists then offered to escort them to a train station so that they would go away, and the NA members accepted the offer unlike other attendees of the demo.
But since that happened, they've been attending MMA training camps. Perhaps more significantly, while they have some of the most openly unhinged ideas around, they seem to be better-organized and more confident than many of their peers. Other neo-Nazis are happy simply to go through some political motions before heading to a Nazi-punk gig, with little real prospect or ambition of achieving anything.
That's not the case with NA. General Secretary of the British Movement Steve Frost recently told an audience including NA members that he applauded the flash demos and street activity they have been carrying out, describing it as "the sharp end of building a grassroots movement." But those flash demos all they have really managed—until now. It shows how much the group has grown that in the space of a year they have gone from a small group dropping a banner unannounced, to publicly advertising an explicitly racist neo-Nazi protest in advance. It looks like the "sharp end" of British fascism is coming to Newcastle.
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Tony Hardt is the pseudonym of an anti-fascist activist who co-authored this article.