I was privileged to attend my first protest demonstration for many years in Llangefni on the Isle of Anglesey last Saturday, 21 November 2015. The event, entitled A Day To Celebrate Diversity, was a rally intended to counter a rally by a neo-Nazi group calling themselves The North Wales Infidels.
It was a cold day, with a little bit of sleety rain, but not too inclement. I had no idea how many people might turn up, only having heard of the event myself the day before, via Facebook. However, in light of recent events, not just in Paris, but wherever in the world they take place, I considered it a kind of duty to get out and show my opposition to the sort of hate-rhetoric that fascists like to spout in response.
As it turned out, the event was very well-attended, at least on our side. On the fascists side, not so much. There were only about 40 of them, and we outnumbered them, even by conservative estimates, by about ten to one. I think they were even outnumbered by the uniformed police that were on duty.
They conformed to their stereotypical image perfectly, right down to the significant number of overweight, shaven-headed, scarf-masked, knuckle-dragging specimens, radiating malhomie. One or two obliged with Nazi salutes, and even one swastika tattoo on the back of a thick neck. Lovely.
But in the interview that one gave to ITV News, he was careful to point out that he wasn’t racist. No, of course you aren’t.
By contrast, the counter-protesters were an amiable, well-behaved and diverse bunch, representing all ages groups and social backgrounds. There were lots of speeches by politicians, organisers and even a secular speech by a church leader. Tea and coffee were drunk, and cake eaten (kindly provided, free of charge by a local catering van operator), drums were banged (loudly) and love and tolerance was espoused by all. No hint of hatred or trouble.
This was all fine and good, and when the crowd dispersed, everyone went away with, no doubt, a rosy glow of having done something worthwhile. And so we had. But I don’t doubt for one minute that we made not the slightest dent on the tiny minds of those that we were protesting against.
I wonder what sort of society the fascists want to see. Judging by the symbols that they adopt, the language they use, and the politics that they promote, I guess it’s a return to something like the Germany of the 1930s, where minorities and specific groups of people are scapegoated for the perceived ills of the wider society, and are openly persecuted for it. They, of course, would be its stormtroopers.
Perish the thought.