By Norwich Radical Editorial Team
While writing our stories about the far-right presence and pro-LGBTQIA+ counter-protest at Storytime with Auntie Titania in Norwich last Wednesday, we received a number of testimonials from people who attended the counter-protest. We have not been able to reproduce all of these accounts in our original article, but we believe they offer valuable insight into the events in question, the strength of LGBTQIA+ solidarity in Norwich and the lessons that can be learned from them. this action. This article reproduces more of the content of these accounts, with small edits in places for clarity and to maintain anonymity.
Why did you join the counter-protest?
“Far-right organizations manipulate vulnerable women by spreading transphobic and homophobic vitriol, and organizations like the AP [Patriotic Alternative] have become emboldened by high profile fascists like Donald Trump, Liz Truss, Boris Johnson or Andrew Tate. Upon hearing that real fascists had attacked children’s library events, I couldn’t help but join the counter-protest.
“I joined today because I wanted to fight fashion in the streets. But seriously, I really don’t like how far right fanatics and extremists and a sad collection of lost boys and girls try to portray something harmless as something depraved. Kids love to dress up and listen to stories, and Titania is fabulous.
“It’s all well and good to go to Pride, but we also have to fight every other day of the year to even maintain our current level of ‘rights’.”
“I took part because I think it was important to show that Norwich is a gay-friendly city and that the actions of this alt-right group do not represent our beautiful city. I felt their ambush organized against the North Walsham event was cowardly and I didn’t want to let them get away with the same bullying tactics again.
“I had to go because strong opposition is key to protecting everyone’s safety, and I don’t know if I could live with myself if I did nothing.”
How did you feel being part of the counter-protest?
“It was honestly overwhelming, both of rage that these people dare to attack our libraries and our community, and of pure love at the number of people who joined and supported us. Norwich really stood up and said, “Not here, ever.”
“I liked to show solidarity […] and be part of something that made the event happen, helping parents with children attending the event enter the library safely, despite protester abuse. I felt sad that they had to go through this though.
“It’s good to see the turnout in support of the event. I was only expecting a handful of people, but seeing so many people there to support story time was really uplifting. I didn’t feel threatened by the fascists, despite my pride flag and makeup, thanks to everyone who was there.
“Being part of the massive crowd of counter-protesters was great because it showed that the LGBTQ+ community can come together with the support of direct allies. It showed that Norwich is not just a rainbow for Pride. We live and work here and are part of a larger community that will not accept fanatics slandering and demonizing gay people as an abstract idea to be hated. Organizing together showed that we are real and that we are here and you can’t make us your bogeymen.
“It was amazing to see children walking in and out with their families, and the support and love they can clearly receive from parents who love their children unconditionally – whether or not they turn out the way their parents did. were waiting.”
“I went through a lot of feelings that day – anxiety, pride, appreciation, closeness to those around me. It really felt like we were at a massive tipping point, but maybe that was just another day for the fascists.
What was your impression of the far-right protesters?
“They were reactionary, rude, abusive and violent. They shouted insults at us, put themselves in people’s faces, blocked the entrance to the library, insulted the families who were welcoming their children. There weren’t many of them compared to us, but any number is sickening.
“The protesters were quite varied, including very aggressive men who attacked people verbally and, in at least one case, physically. The abuse appeared to come mostly from angry older white men and targeted parents with children, LGBTQ+ people, women, and people with disabilities. There were a LOT of very young people, including a young man who came to Trump protests and Kill the Bill protests last year and was also on Channel 4 Dispatches [Barclay Walsh]. I tried to talk to one or two people, but they didn’t make it clear why they were there. The PAs mostly came from elsewhere, from Birmingham for example; they were more organized and numerous than the other protesters, and more dangerous due to their racist, far-right and fascist views.
“I spent most of my time talking to some people, one with bad opinions, another with nasty tracts. I tried to engage with them a bit – it was a kinda like a lost cause but i thought i might change someone’s mind they said they belonged to the “light band” or something, looked like a smaller band – antivax guys , anti-state, “dark influences”.
“They mostly seemed to have no idea of the real issues, just repeating pathetic and refuted bigoted talking points online. They just seem to want to get angry about certain things, which makes me feel a little sorry for them.
“The alt-right protesters appeared to be a small group of bigots who had been sent in to create an artificial image of what ‘the real Norwich’ thinks. Many of them quickly dispersed after they finished yelling at parents and children entering the building. I don’t know if it was because they were overwhelmed by our numbers, embarrassed by the group they realized they were part of, or just because they needed to take the bus home wherever they live!” By the end of the protest, there were barely enough of them to hold up their massive placard.
“I wonder how many of them actually believed what they were saying; in my experience, people are able to believe what suits them. They also tried to “infiltrate” the counter-protesters to film them, claiming to belong to “the news”.
“Ironically some of their signs said ‘let the kids be kids’; I believe this message represents more of what the LGBT+ contingent was there to represent.
“They weren’t very lively – their arguments and insults were terrible, they were just belligerent, aggressive and loud. They also seemed caught off guard – I don’t think they expected such turnout [of counter-protestors] nor so much passion!
What was the police response?
“Unfortunately the police were completely unhelpful, although we asked for help. We were told the police had escorted them out of town, but found out the fascists were in fact at the pub.
“The cops were, well, cops, I guess. They found a few black bloc members carrying an antifa flag apparently more disturbing than the mob of AP goons on the steps.
What lessons can we learn from queer solidarity and anti-fascist actions in Norwich in the future?
“More people, be more daring! And I really think people should mask up. Many were not, and protesters were live streaming, photographing, etc. permanently.
“It was a good performance, but to the viewers it probably only came across as two radicalized sides. We could engage more. Even more extreme people may be brought in to question things.
“I think the counter-protest could have been better advertised […] I didn’t even know what time to show up.
“We could all use some self-defense training if we want to protect ourselves and each other!”
“Whoever comes into the prime minister next, the fascists will have another person to cheer them on, and as the cost of living crisis worsens, those people will target the LGBT+ community, refugees, migrants, people with disabilities and people of color for a scapegoat. It will be really important to build our communities, to stay connected and to defend each other.
All images credited to: James Burton Photography
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