Anti-racist rally

Firefighters unite against the far-right

Firefighters are proud to stand with anti-racist organisations and oppose the toxic rhetoric of far-right leaders, writes Ben Selby.

Firefighters are committed to a culturally diverse, tolerant society and are troubled by the challenge we face from the racist and fascist right in the UK. On Sunday 9 December, the Fire Brigades Union stood shoulder to shoulder with organisations such as ‘Stand up to Racism’, the ‘Jewish Socialist Group’, and the ‘Muslim Association of Britain’ at a demonstration in London against racist, far-right leaders.

The event was a counter-demonstration against a so-called ‘Brexit betrayal’ march featuring controversial far-right activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (Tommy Robinson), which saw members of the English Defence League and UKIP take to the streets to protest against Theresa May’s Brexit deal. This protest, alongside other large mobilisations on the streets of London, Leeds and Manchester earlier this year, highlights the rise of divisive rhetoric and the far right in Britain.

Firefighters respect different cultures and religions, and will fight to ensure the troublesome language of far-right leaders is rebutted. The current UKIP leader, Gerard Batten, has previously described Islam as a “death cult”, a religion of which many firefighters share. Stephen Yaxley-Lennon released a video attempting to scapegoat the victims of Grenfell; blaming immigrants for the fire and claiming that the survivors, working people who have lost everything, have no right to be re-homed. This is the derisive, detestable attitude that these far-right leaders have towards minorities.

Although police have not provided an estimate of crowd sizes, attendees at the counter-demonstration claimed that they “vastly” outnumbered the ‘Brexit betrayal’ march by “nearly five to one”. This demonstrates that although far-right leaders may have increased their following, they are outnumbered by those who stand for equality and a tolerant society. Firefighters will continue to stand with anti-racist organisations to show that we will not stand for the hate speech of the far-right and their attempts to divide our society.

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