The state of the far-right in Medway and Kent

All photos © Phil Dillon All Rights Peserved

In which Andrew Day takes a look at the far-right groups operating in our part of the country..

With anti-racist organisation Hope Not Hate’s ‘State of Hate 2019’ report stating that ‘divisions within Britain are likely to increase…and boost the far right’s populist anti-politics message’, we decided to take a look at the far-right, fascist and fascist-adjacent groups operating in Medway and Kent.

English defence League – Kent Division

Active in Medway, the Kent branch of street fascists the English Defence League most recently met in Rochester, most probably related to their opposition to their building of a new Gillingham mosque. The English Defence League was founded in 2009 around anti-Islamic values, but drew members from older hate groups such as the National Front and the BNP. Although largely defunct and discredited until recently, the surge in right-wing racism after the Brexit vote in 2016 seems to have re-invigorated the EDL’s Kent chapter. 

Although nominally ‘anti-extremist’, like their brethren in the Democratic Football Lads Alliance, the English Defence League practices a racialized opposition to Islam, which focuses on almost anyone Arab looking or vaguely brown (‘it is disingenuous to claim that Islam has no colour. There is actually quite a strong racial dimension to Islamophobia. Muslims in the UK are predominantly brown, Asian or Arab, and there have been instances where non-Muslims from Asian communities have been lumped together with Muslims and discriminated against.’). 

Although it’s difficult to parse their support from their Facebook followers, the EDL Kent Division do have central coordination and an ability to organise which at the moment marks them out as the most active far-right group in Medway.

Britain First

Far-right hate group have previous in Medway, having brought their own brand of Islamophobic street fascism to Chatham and Rochester in 2014. Although Britain First has been haemorrhaging members in recent years, it still managed to scrape together a massive eight people hand out leaflets opposing the extension of Maidstone’s mosque

Football Lads Alliance – East Kent

The Democratic Football Lads Alliance, like the EDL, is a fascist organisation rooted in football hooliganism that preaches an ‘anti-extremist’ agenda, focusing on the classic racist trope of protecting ‘our’ white women and children from Arab-appearing men (look at any racist ideology from 19th century anti-black prejudice to 20th century anti-Semitism and the idea that ‘these people’ can’t be trusted around ‘our’ women and children comes up again and again).

Like anti-Semites with Judaism, the DFLA posits Islam in the UK as a ‘foreign’ and destructive influence, casting British Muslims (i.e. anyone south Asian looking with a beard or a headscarf) as terrorists and paedophiles. Funnily enough, the DFLA don’t seem to apply these prejudices to Muslim footballers N’Golo Kanté, Mohamed Salah, or Paul Pogba.

The East Kent DFLA attended last years’ ‘March Against Extremism’ in London, where several DFLA members were witnessed assaulting police officers and screaming death threats. The Kent DFLA chapter is mostly based around the Kent Coast and most recently organised to harass Kent Anti-Racism Network activists who were staging a ‘refugees welcome’ vigil in Folkestone

South East Coastal Defence

A group of far-right ‘patriots’ who claim to patrol the Kent coast between Deal and Dungeness. Given that refugees are generally transported in small, unseaworthy boast by people smugglers, vigilante groups stopping them landing puts them at serious risk of death.

Generation Identity

Generation Identity are the middle class hipster end of fascism who trade in ‘identarianism’, an ideology founded in white supremacy that believes in ‘re-patriating’ non-white Europeans. Readers will be amazed to note that Generation Identity’s characterisation of ‘ethnic’ white Europeans skirts dangerously close to Aryan ideals. Generation Identity were active in Sevenoaks last year, but have since been hit by proven links to neo-nazism and high profile resignations from their leadership.

The National Front

The National Front are largely defunct, along with the fascist South East Alliance. That didn’t stop ex-South East Alliance member and National Front member Mac McElhinney from going on a one-man NF stickering campaign in Canterbury this month.

The University of Kent in Canterbury was also vandalised with swastikas and ‘KKK’ slogans last year, although that may be more likely to have been done by the kind of ‘middle class white boy who watches too much Youtube’ demographic that makes up Generation Identity.

UKIP Gillingham and Rainham

As mentioned previously on this site, there has been significant overlap between the far-right and UKIP in recent months. Up until recently, UKIP Gillingham and Rainham’s Facebook page was enthusiastically supporting fascist poster boy Tommy Robinson, although since Robinson was booted from Twitter and Facebook and demonetised on Youtube for practising hate speech, this support has tailed off. Luckily, the Facebook page has managed to stay on-brand, with its followers posting comments comparing Labour’s Diane Abbot to a chimpanzee. Local matters aside, uit’s worth noting that both UKIP leader Gerrard Batten and Tommy Robinson used Polish neo-Nazis from the DFLA as security at a march in Salford this year, an ambitious crossover to make even the Marvel Universe jealous.

Unifying factors

There is huge overlap and interplay between different far-right groups and UKIP, with regular collaboration and co-operation, often under unifying figures like tommy Robinson. Factors that unite all of these hate groups and organisations are:

  • Islamophobia (bad news: attaching essentialist, negative stereotypes to people who look Arabic and share a religion is *really, really, racist*[especially when you ignore Muslims who are white, black, or east Asian]).
  • Anti-immigration rhetoric (people fleeing probable death in conflict zones, then risking probable drowning, then probable incarceration in an immigration detention centre, are ‘just in it to claim benefits’)
  • Misogyny (‘they are also virulently misogynistic, queerphobic and transphobic in their focus on the nuclear family and on the position of women in society’).
  • Anti-black racism (in particular over Diane Abbott and a racialised reading of knife crime).
  • A two-tiered approach to free speech (anti-fascists ‘prevent’ free speech, but Tommy Robinson intimidating journalists is ok).
  • Pro-Brexit sentiment, in particular pro-hard Brexit support, along with classifying Theresa May and remain-supporting MPs as ‘traitors’. The ‘traitor’ narrative has led to the violent intimidation of MPS and journalists, in a situation worryingly similar to the circumstances surrounding the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.
  • A crude meme culture that shares material from far-right adjacent sources (Tommy Robinson, Paul Joseph Watson etc.), uses fake, photoshopped images to demonise Muslims, or features clumsily assembled patriotic imagery.
  • Sharing fake or cherry picked news to spread hatred.

To read a full run-down of hate groups and fascism in the UK, check out Hope Not Hate’s ‘The State of Hate 2019’ report.

Andrew Day is a Medway based musician, activist, and librarian.

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3 Replies to “The state of the far-right in Medway and Kent”

  1. Yesterday I was accused of being an enemy of England for being a Lib Dem, which luckily I can laugh off, certainly I have a number of Kipper friends who circulate amusing memes about Diane Abbotts mathematical skills, but to put this demonising of Stephen Yaxley Lennon who is no longer EDL but an adviser to UKIP ,because UKIP has rules to stop EDL from being members into perspective, the far left within the Labour Party have been guilty of anti Semitism and their Jewish MPs have left them to sit as Independents in the house. As for Rebel Media is their any truth in the rumours of the Leeds grooming gang that was convicted when the so called Tommy Robinson was arrested having any links with a local Labour politician in Leeds? When you jail a known whistle-blower for trying to get a response from already convicted pedophiles you encourage speculation and dissent with the legal process. It’s a bit like wasting £28,000 worth of council tax payers money on non disclosure orders to pay off people who could damage Medway Councils reputation? Meanwhile I cannot help but wonder how many Jewish candidates Labour are fielding after all, prior to the Corbyn coupe their Leaders were of Jewish descent?

  2. Politics in Medway….hhmmmm….as a first time reader of this ‘page’ and someone who is middle of the road politically, it seems to me that the Writer, who I presume is one ‘Andrew Day’, stands on the left wing of the political football field… Personally, I would have thought a page that carries the title ‘The Political Medway’, would be, especially with all that is going on in politics, and with local elections looming, about politics in Medway…not wasted on a rant about far-right groups…

    This kind of rant merely paints the writer into a corner, whereby anyone reading this with a little political savvy will assume the writer is a left winger who supports ‘Remain’, and has decided, rather than review Medway Politics, to take the opportunity to express their views against right wing groups through Kent…

    As stated above, my own views are fairly middle of the road, but one can understand how people become biased in their views towards other races and religions in the UK…with the likes of people being arrested for expressing views, whilst known Muslim extremist factions parade on our streets displaying posters portraying death threats to non-Muslims and some areas of our country appear to under radical Muslim control, where anyone appearing non-Muslim may be attacked simply for trying to enter the area… hate breeds hate…on all sides…it’s the problem of integration we need to overcome, but people on all sides seem to shun it…

    Anyway, back to the point… Yes, disappointed to read this, I was hoping for more Medway, and not what appears a leftist sojourn of far-right groups in Kent…so anyway, I’ve got the picture of the blog now, so shall be unsubscribing, I didn’t come here to have political views by the writer thrown at me, I came here for what I thought might be an unbiased review of politics in our Local Towns… bye…I’m gone…

  3. Why the so ‘called Tommy Robinson’? Was this Stephen Yaxley’s own chosen nom de gare? Was it forced upon him?

    But anti semitism is as evil as Islamophobia and racism and I am happy to condemn them all regardless of their source?

    But Tommy Robinson’ hero of justice. Who says political satire is dead.

    Phil

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