Anti-fascists and members of Tower Hamlets’ diverse communities were angered by the appearance, locally, last Saturday, of a fascist gang, who have connections to the Football Lads Alliance, Unite Against Fascism wrote on Tuesday 24 October.
Around 50 members of the notorious football hooligan gang the Chelsea Headhunters and a few other thugs were facilitated by police to walk close to the East London Mosque. They claim to be part of the Chelsea FLA.
Indeed, the FLA’s founder, John Meighan, wished the march “good luck” on Friday night. When questioned about this, he said, “I will support anyone protesting against Islamic terrorism”. Such a statement and his awareness of the fascist politics of those behind the hate event in East London, undercut his claims to be anti-racist.
Some of the fascists on Saturday have previously had online rows with Meighan, claiming the FLA is “not hard enough on Muslims”. Meighan’s message to them indicates he thinks they may have a point. It is also evidence of the pressure he is under from Nazi thugs who want the FLA to be a vicious, fascist organisation.
Moreover, FLA member and convicted Loyalist paramilitary gun runner Frank Portinari joined the event as it ended at City Hall, another example of the far-right nature of those involved. He was joined by Terry Blackham, another convicted gun runner. In 1994, Blackham, then a supporter of the Nazi Combat 18 terror group, was arrested trying to deliver sub-machine guns and a rocket launcher to the paramilitary Ulster Defence Association.
Portinari was behind the forerunner to the fascist English Defence League, the British Ulster Alliance (BUA). This brought together far-right football hooligans and some serving soldiers in and around the late 1990s. Marches were held on Finsbury Park Mosque and the formation fostered relations with Loyalist paramilitaries. Many were also supporters of fascist groups such as the BNP.
On Saturday, the fascists had first congregated in two pubs in the area. The march was billed as being ‘against Islamic terror’, racist code for Islamophobia. Anti-fascists were aware that fascists had been making noises about marching in East London, but some of those involved have a history of calling events which don’t, in reality, happen. (These are fascist thugs from the Pie n Mash, a splinter group from the EDL.)
Those who promoted and led the march are unashamedly fascists. Two of the admins on the closed group who organised Saturday have posted vile, antisemitic imagery online. Ex-members of the EDL and Combat 18 were among those who led the thugs. Croydon National Front supplied a few figures and some from Saturday had been at the Nazi riot, in Dover, in 2016. Others are linked to the often convicted, hooligan, Andy Frain. Frain is another fascist who has long run with various far-right and hooligan groups, especially at Chelsea and Reading FC.
Activists from UAF and Stand Up To Racism went down to the Mosque to show solidarity with those targeted. As news spread, Muslims and those of other faiths or no faith stated that such an outrage will not be allowed to happen again.
Anti-fascists are to launch a statement on the matter and a public meeting is planned for later in the month. Local activists think the fascists’ actions are aimed at initiating further provocations in Tower Hamlets. The borough of course has a rich history of anti-racism and anti-fascism, from Cable Street in 1936 to the defeats the English Defence League suffered. Such a tradition will be crucial in thwarting any attempts at fascist incursions.
Searchlight adds: our photos below show a breakaway group from the FLA who described the FLA as a bunch of ‘pussies’. Among the faction’s older supporters are some violent Chelsea Headhunters and other convicted criminals. Photos by KSW.