ALERTA! ALERTA! Report - The fash come to Wath Upon Dearne

This is an excerpt of Sheffield Action Group (SHAG)'s Troublemakers zine - this is an action report on an antifascist mobilisation, with commentary around what we learnt. The full zine is available to read online at or

Submitted by sheffaction on March 12, 2024

The fascist organisation Yorkshire Rose called a demo for February 18th 2023 at 14:00 outside a hotel housing refugees, so antifascists mobilised to confront them. A contingent in grey and black bloc arrived early to secure the front of the hotel and prevent the fascists from gaining access, fearing a repeat of the recent scenes in Liverpool where fash had attempted to fight their way into the hotel. The police had already seen to this however, as they were out in force with a number of vans over two hours before the fascist demonstration was due to start, and had tall fencing in front of the hotel arranged into two semi-enclosed pens. The bloc, who attempted to stand on the pavement in front of the hotel with banners reading “no-one is illegal/abolish borders”, “¡No Pasarán!” and “Yorkshire against hate/no borders/no nations” were informed of Section 14 (police imposed conditions on an assembly) in place, requiring them to move to the designated area for counter-protesters inside the fenced pen, or be arrested. Of course, none of them knew what a Section 14 was, and struggled immensely to hear the police’s repeated explanations. After pushing it for a bit, the bloc was eventually moved into the pen and engaged in some delightful verbal abuse of the several fascists filtering into the neighboring pen that had been designated for them.

Stand Up to Racism (SUTR), and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) counterparts, were the next to arrive, turning up around 12:00 in several cars to unload the inevitable stall and astroturfing placards. At around 12:30, three coaches organised by the Sheffield Trade Union Council (TUC) arrived, carrying several hundred counter-protesters straight into the police-organised pen. As they set up the sound system and began some chanting and speeches, the coppers had formed a loose line on the two sides of the designated area not fenced in, while the bloc continued to exchange obscenities with the nazi scum opposite, resourcefully employing a nearby flagpole to raise an antifascist flag while playing techno versions of Bella Ciao. There were around 300 counter-protesters and less than ten fascists in the opposite pen, with the exact number fluctuating as they regularly got demoralized and left due to the constant shouts of “nazi scum”, “Patriotic Alternative is run by nonces”, “dirty fucking bastards” et cetera.

This felt like a success, however, the news gradually filtered through that the fascist demo wasn’t in the nearly-empty police designated pen but instead had moved to next to a nearby roundabout, where 50-100 nazis had banners preaching their hateful ideology to the traffic, completely unopposed. Upon hearing this, the bloc did its best to organise itself through word of mouth, and about forty antifascists ran past the rather thin police line on one of the sides of the protest area which was unfenced. They then legged it to the fence separating the hotel parking lot from the main road, and jumped over that too, after a moment of hesitation due to the police shouting at them to remain in place, while comrades who had already jumped the fence urged them to follow. There was an impromptu march towards the roundabout with several banners; upon reaching the opposite side of the roundabout from the fash, there were several attempts to take the road and reach the bad guys, but each time lacked sufficient commitment and the half a dozen coppers who had caught up pushed them back onto the pavement each time.

After several minutes of this, police reinforcements arrived and, forming into a large clump, began violently shoving the bloc back towards the hotel. The pushing was unpleasant and forceful, with people constantly being forced to tread on each other's toes and bump into each other to prevent falling over & being trampled. The antifascists chanted “Who do you serve? Who do you protect?” at the cops assaulting them, as they prevented the counter-protesters confronting the fascists who had been allowed to move their protest, while the counter-demonstration had not been allowed to move. After several minutes of violence from the police, the breakout group was pushed back into the main crowd, who roundly ignored their plight and the conduct of the police, despite repeated requests for the person on the SUTR microphone to call out the police’s behaviour. This left a very bitter taste in many mouths and was felt to be a betrayal of solidarity within the counter-demo.

In response to this first breakout, the cops strengthened both their lines on the two unfenced sides of the counter-demo using police who had riot helmets slung at their waists. A second attempt was made to organise the bloc into a coordinated breakout to confront the fascists. Around 30 people rushed into a police line in an attempt to get past, however they were violently pushed back into the crowd after a couple minutes of shoving. The police were refusing to let people who looked ‘suspicious’ leave their containment, only allowing small groups of mostly unmasked people to leave to go to the toilet in the nearby KFC if they politely insisted on their innocence.

Looking for other ways out, a brief attempt was made by some individuals to pull down a section of fencing. They managed to lower it most of the way to the ground, however a self-policing member of the crowd started shouting at them and grabbing them, and police quickly rushed around to put the fence back up. Around this point there wasn’t much for the bloc to do except chant at the people in the Aldi car park opposite the protest area, several of whom were fascist protesters, and others who were sympathetic to them and looking at the counter-demo in disgust. Of course, these reactionaries were policed significantly more lightly, being allowed to remain on the pavement and car park opposite without being forced with the threat of arrest into a designated protest area, like us counter-protesters had been. Eventually, both demonstrations winded down and plans were made to disperse. Upon hearing that the police intended to pull ‘troublemakers’ aside and not let them leave, one comrade in the TUC who actually understood the meaning of solidarity responded by saying that if everyone couldn’t leave, then no one would leave. The police let everyone go and there were no arrests as people were leaving, which was surprising but welcome.

Sheffield Action Group has some tactical reflections on the counter-demo, as improving our organisation in the coming months will be vital as fascist street movements are clearly on the rise, with this protest being just one of five happening across the country that day. It was good that the TUC put effort into organising a mass mobilisation and booked some coaches, as this helped boost the numbers who attended to the impressive total of at least 300. However, there is a difference between a rally and a counter-demonstration. The protest resembled a classic uninspired city centre protest, with a pre-arranged speaker list, lots of stalls and lots of SWP-aligned placards. When it became clear that the fascists had not in fact been scared home, but were holding a protest with 50-100 people unopposed by the roundabout, in the full view of an A-road’s worth of traffic, we should have marched to confront them in larger numbers. We need to scare white supremacist nazis off our streets and keep going until their hateful ideology has no reach at all. We can’t achieve this if they don’t even see our superior numbers, and don’t hear us chanting scum at them. While it’s true they failed in their main objective of protesting outside the front of the hotel, they still managed to hold a large protest in full public view, virtually unopposed directly by anti-fascists.

As always, it is partly the fault of the police for enforcing Section 14 on the counter-demonstrators and forcing us into the pen, but not enforcing it on the fascists, allowing them to protest freely where they wanted. But that doesn’t mean we should passively allow our mobilisation to be blunted and not have the full, scary, demobilising effect on the fascists it should have had. While we might have run into a situation where a mass attempt was made to move the demo and it failed due to the threat or deployment of police violence, the fact no mass attempt was even made by the so-called ‘organisers’ is disappointing.

Furthermore, at times there were worrying levels of self-policing by both individuals in the counter-protest, and also organisers. People in bloc chanting insults at the fascists were repeatedly berated under the guise of optics and sensibility politics, while the person on the SUTR microphone addressed the bloc and asked them to “not kick off”. Why are we there if not to kick off? You don’t defeat fascism by having a well-polished speaker list, you defeat it by confronting fascists and scaring them off. Nonetheless, this was the first major antifasicst mobilisation in the area for some time, and the turnout was undeniably admirable. We will be organising to keep this momentum going into the inevitable future fascist mobilisations which will be coming up soon, while continuing to discuss the tactics and strategy of how to defeat them.