November Bulletin

  • 02 Nov 2017 16:08

UK and Ireland Civil Unrest and Activism Bulletin


Activism Review

In early October, a bulk of protests centred on the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester from 1-4 October. The anti-austerity group, the People’s Assembly Against Austerity along with several anti-Brexit groups, organised the protests in central Manchester, the largest of which was held on 1 October where police estimate some 30,000 people participated. Some 1,000 additional officers were deployed to manage security at the conference, which remained largely peaceful with no arrests being made during the marches, in comparison to 2016 where multiple skirmishes broke out and arrests were made. Elsewhere, there were a series of right-wing demonstrations in October, the largest of which was organised by the Football Lads Alliance (FLA), which took place in central London on 7 October, attracting thousands. Established in 2017 by football supporters in reaction to a series of Islamist terrorist attacks in the UK, the group has attracted criticism over perceptions that it promotes Islamophobia and has failed to condemn incidents of right-wing terrorism. Britain First and the English Defence League (EDL) also organised protests during October, which attracted counterprotests. A failure by organisers to draw similarly large participant numbers has raised concerns that the far-right will seek to remobilise through the FLA. Former EDL leader Tommy Robinson was present at the FLA march, although he is not involved in the organisation, which attempted to downplay its links to far-right groups.  

Activism Analysis

Multiple protests are scheduled to take place during November, but will be spread about across the month rather than multiple consecutive days-long protests as witnessed in Manchester in October and against the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exposition in September. A notable protest will be the annual Million Mask March organised by Anonymous scheduled for 5 November. The main march will take place in central London, but copycat protests will likely take place in major cities in the UK on that day. The marches have no clear leaders or official structure meaning there will likely be multiple crowds of protesters carrying out mini-demonstrations around Westminster, Buckingham Palace and Victoria. Tactics in previous years have included protesters firing fireworks and smoke bombs and vandalism attacks against shop fronts and banks, as well as against street furniture and police vehicles. Localised travel delays are likely, although numbers of planned attendees on events pages are lower than in previous years. A protest against the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedford by the Movement for Justice By Any Means Necessary is set to attract some 1,000 people on 18 November. While disruption to traffic here will be minimal, operational disruption stemming from employees being unable to access the site is more likely. Elsewhere, several right-wing protests are scheduled across the country during November. These will likely attract minimal participants with disruption unlikely; however, counter-demonstrations may increase the likelihood of violence. The FLA, supported by Veterans Against Terrorism (VAT), will hold its second event in Edinburgh city centre on 25 November; however, it is unclear if this will take the form of a rally or a march. The FLA’s last London event in October attracted thousands, with road closures enforced in central areas. Although the protest organisers attempted to ensure the march remained peaceful, with no flags or drinking permitted, protesters showed their hostility to counter-demonstrators, including verbal abuse and some throwing of missiles. 

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