An account of opposing fascist attacks on the regular anti-apartheid picket outside South Africa House in Trafalgar Square, London, in the 1980s and 1990s.
For most of the 1980s an anti-apartheid group held a 24-hour, 7-day protest outside the South African Embassy in Trafalgar Square. It was ostensibly a protest at the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela, but it was really a protest against the South African government’s racist policies in general. Consequently fascist gangs liked to attack the humble group of protesters whenever possible especially after marches. AFA, therefore, frequently found ourselves in Trafalgar Square looking to attack any fascists.
November was always a focus because for years the NF organised their own march on Remembrance Sunday to the Cenotaph. I don’t know how they justified their march to the British War Memorial in Whitehall because fascists supported the German side in World War Two. Needless to say we taunted them with the not very p.c. chants of “Two World Wars and One World Cup” and the theme from “Dads Army”. The day would always end, or start with skirmishes in Trafalgar Square or nearby. One year about 60 of us occupied their assembly point at Bressenden Place. About 40 NF came round the corner but they retreated, so we had the moral victory if not a physical one.
On one occasion one of my DAM comrades got separated from us and ended up in the midst of about 200 rampaging fascists. A couple of them were eyeing him up suspiciously, so, embarrassingly he had to join in the chanting “kill the commie scum!”, “rights for whites!” etc in an effort to blend in until he could slip away and rejoin us later!
Once a hapless wandering fascist was cornered near Victoria Station, battered a bit, then pinned against a wall while people wrote on his face and clothes ‘Nazi’, ‘fascist’, did swastikas etc. using one of those thick black permanent marker pens. Then he was released.
Another year at Trafalgar Square a DAM comrade battered a member of Red Action because he didn’t recognise him. He had to apologise afterwards! I believe the Americans call that ‘friendly fire’.
One year we spotted a couple of fascists walking across the top end of the Square. A few comrades and myself went after them. I wanted to wait until the fascists were out of the Square then do them in a quiet street away from CCTV and the police. However the comrades I was with were all fired up and jumped on the skinheads just in front of Canada House. I obviously joined in putting the boot in.
After a good bit of that we left the skinheads in a heap and ran off. We went round the back then rejoined the main group of anti-fascists who were gathered on the steps of St.Martin-in-the-Fields church. This was a mistake, I should have gone home, because a cop who had seen the skinheads getting a beating recognised me and managed to corner me later. My predicament was made much worse because the cop pulled out an 18" iron bar that I had hidden in my jacket, even though I hadn’t actually used it.
The cop talked to me in the back of the police van in a very sympathetic way, saying things like he thought Nelson Mandela should be released, and the NF were a load of wankers, etc. Naively I agreed with him on these matters instead of staying silent, because as it turned out he used all my replies in court as evidence that I was a dangerous lefty!
I got Community Service every Sunday for about six months, which to be honest was not unpleasant at all. However after I had been there a few months who should arrive in our Community Service team but Martin Cross – famous nazi thug, lead singer of Skrewdriver, and the person who had head-butted me at Brick Lane a few years before. (He is currently serving life for stabbing to death a fellow fascist in one of their internal disputes, tee hee). So I said to our supervisor that I was here first so Martin Cross would have to go elsewhere or there would be some argy-bargy. Fortunately, they moved him before the next Sunday, as I did not relish the prospect of some aggravation when I was already walking on thin ice.
Incidentally, a member of Red Action told me that on his first day doing Community Service in North London one of the lads burnt down the shed which contained all the tools! Consequently they had a nice relaxing time for several weeks afterwards.