‘UK Freedom March’ rally in Belfast sparks anti-fascist protests

About 100 far-right demonstrators urge UK government to get a move on with Brexit

The 100 or so people who took part in the “UK Freedom March” rally in Belfast were met with a counter-demonstration by anti-fascint groups. Photograph: Amanda Ferguson

The 100 or so people who took part in the “UK Freedom March” rally in Belfast were met with a counter-demonstration by anti-fascint groups. Photograph: Amanda Ferguson

 

Several hundred anti-fascist activists have gathered outside Belfast City Hall to counter-protest a “UK Freedom March” rally marking the second anniversary of the EU membership referendum vote.

On Saturday, people chanting “Nazi scum off our streets”, “the people united will never be defeated”, and “refugees are welcome here” waved anti-racism banners and placards emblazoned with messages such as “No to hate” and “Respect existence or expect resistance”.

Many of the 100 or so people on the UK Freedom March side, chanted “Oh Tommy Robinson”, a reference to the pseudonym of the former English Defence League leader Stephen Yaxley Lennon, a high profile British far-right figure who was jailed for 13 months in England recently for contempt of court.

Others declined to speak to the “biased media” on their arrival outside City Hall following a parade from the Sandy Row area of south Belfast.

Several attempts by the The Irish Times to speak to protesters carrying union, Irish, Israeli, football and far-right Generation Identity flags were thwarted by stewards wearing high visibility vests at the event.

Scores of riot police and PSNI armoured vehicles were positioned between the opposing sides, who were behind metal crowd barriers.

Speakers on the UK Freedom March side called for the British government to get a move on with Brexit and criticised the anti-fascists for attacking them with smoke bombs.

One man, who did not want to be identified, said he was at the march to protest against immigration.

A woman, who declined to give her name said, she was at the rally to “support Brexit and the democratic vote” and because she wanted “our streets free of paedos and immigrants”.

On June 23rd, 2016, the UK voted by 52 to 48 per cent to leave the EU.

Northern Ireland voted 56 to 44 per cent to remain.

‘EU scum’

Independent unionist Cllr Jolene Bunting, formerly a TUV councillor, gave a number of speeches at the rally where she referenced “EU scum” and told her supporters to “ignore the filth” protesting against them.

Cllr Bunting said the march was organised “to make sure Brexit happens”.

People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll, a steward at the “Unite Against Racism” protest said he and others were “taking a stand against people intent on whipping up racism and division in our city”.

“There are those with a track record in fascists organisations involved, core people around Britain First and Generation Identity, who are fundamentally fascist organisations,” he said.

Mr Carroll also criticised Cllr Bunting. “She claims to represent everyone in the city yet she is talking part in rallies and supporting groups sticking the boot into minorities,” he said.

Salwa al-Sharabi, an asylum seeker from Yemen living in Belfast for the last 14 months, said there was a growing problem with racism in society. He said the media and others were anti-Muslim and against immigrants.

There were no arrests.

Chief Inspector Kelly Moore said: “Today’s parade and protest passed off with a few incidents of minor disorder.

“A proportionate policing operation was put in place by police to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

“An Evidence Gathering Team was on duty and police will now review all evidence gathered by them and if any offences or breaches of the Parades Commission determinations are detected, a police investigation will be carried out.”