March For England embraces Brighton
Every year on the first Sunday after St George´s Day (23 April), the March for England takes place in Brighton. Some people mark it in the calendar as a celebration for Englishness, others cross it as a racist and fascist event.
It brings to the city nationalists from all across England to march, local anti-racists and anti-fascists groups to counter-protest and security forces from all around the country to keep both groups apart and avoid clashes.
This year, about 200 people have taken part in the main nationalist march and between 400 and 500 counter-protesters have turned out to oppose them and welcome them with the musical rhythm of Black is Black and several banners saying ‘Racists are not welcomed here.’
One of those baners is hold by a young girl in the seafront, who prefers not to be named. She says without taking her eyes out of the march, “everything they say about being not racist or facist, it is a completely lie. You can look at what they write on Internet and forums. This is just a front for very racist and violent groups. They are not welcomed in the city and they come here purely to rail people because they know this is a multicultural and liberal city.”
A few meters from where the girl stands, Mark Able hands in flyers against the march and copies of the Socialist Worker newspaper. He defines the event as “a horrible, racist and facist march that we keep and put up every year in Brighton even though very few Brighton people, if any, want it here. They come down and try to intimidate people but we always get a good turn out of anti-fascists and anti-racists.”
John, who takes part in the march wearing a St George’s Cross flag as a cape, opposes and rejects all what has been said above. He explains, “the March for England is a day to highlight traditional values, cultural heritage and remember the past. It is a celebration day. “
However, it seems no much of joy and celebration. Hundreds of security forces confine the nationalists in a police line, then there are vans, and policemen on horses on another circle and finally barriers are displayed along the seafront to maintain both groups as much apart as possible.
Michael Banks, all dressed up on white and red colours, says “I come down to Brighton from Somerset every year and used to do it with my kids but not anymore as the confrontation has increased.”
Asked why not being somewhere else where they could march without such opposition she responds, “the opposition we found makes me to want to come to Brighton even more. It is a free country and it is our right.”
In the city the rejection to this march is generalised. The main parties in the city held a meeting weeks before the event took place calling to ban or move the march to somewhere else. Their message was clear. ”Please, don´t come here. It is not about politics. Your union does not represen the city and you are causing trouble“, affirms Lianne De Mello, from the Green Party.
Parties and community groups state that the march only causes problems for residents, diversed communities that feel intimidated, disruptions for tourists, business and public transport as the march takes place in the centre. Last year, the police operation costed £500.000.
The stand that the police has taken is to maintain the same route as previous years. “The police keep them in one place to know where they are. So, they cannot cause much trouble. They march and then they head back to the train station and leave the city at the end of the day until the next year”, concludes De Mello.