August 20, 2009

UAF back Birmingham United campaign

The Stirrer's Birmingham United campaign to show the city's peaceful support for our cultural and racial diversity has won backing from Unite Against Fascism. Mike Wongsam, Chairperson West Midlands UAF explains why.

Twice in recent months, Birmingham has played host to racist protestors. Now there is a threat they will return again. How should the people of Birmingham respond?

Adrian Goldberg has suggested a "Birmingham United" event to give people of different colours and varying faiths a chance to show to the outside world the true face(s) of this great city. It is a great idea, and one that Unite Against Fascism will strongly support.

We think the best, and most effective, response to those who would spread hatred and division is for Birmingham to come together in a spirit of unity. Birmingham is a multi-cultural city and proud of it. We are one society and many cultures. Our diversity is one of the things that make this city special.

We do not want to see a repeat of the violence that broke out on August 8th. If the Birmingham United idea can be turned into reality it would be the best possible demonstration of our rejection of these hate-mongers, and the best possible assertion of the true face of Birmingham. It should be peaceful and united. It deserves the support of all of us.

The story of August 8th, though, should not be distorted. There is an attempt to paint anti-fascist protestors as "outsiders" and "trouble-makers", no different from the racist thugs who came to cause the trouble. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It was obvious to anyone who was there that the anti-fascist protestors were almost exclusively from Birmingham. Large numbers of young people assembled because they feel, rightly, that this is as much their city as anyone else's. And they were not prepared to turn the other cheek when repeatedly provoked by racist gangs hurling abuse.

The days when Black and Asian people felt they had to cross the road rather than risk a confrontation with racists are long gone.

Unite Against Fascism called the protest, responsibly negotiated with the police at all stages, and provided stewards. It is, however, asking a lot for volunteer stewards to achieve what the police were ultimately unable to do in the face of repeated racist provocations.

Those who think this anger can be whipped up by "outsiders" or those with a "political agenda" are deluding themselves. Many people assembled under the banner of UAF, but the truth is that the vast majority were not members of UAF, and most had arrived after hearing from friends that the "BNP" were coming to abuse Muslims in our city centre. In the age of the internet, news travels fast.

Repeated racist demonstrations will inevitably provoke a response. The anger that was felt by these young people cannot be turned on and off by anybody, and certainly not by UAF. But this risks creating a dangerous situation in our city centre. That is a challenge for all of us. And we all have a responsibility to do something positive to respond to it.

In his August 6 column in the Birmingham Mail, Adrian Goldberg said: "In the absence of a ban, it would be nice to see some forthright condemnation of this protest from figureheads in the church and politics, but I guess civic leadership is something we lack in Birmingham right now".

Quite right. It is not enough for us to bury our heads in the sand and hope the problem goes away. All of us who oppose racism and fascism have to stand together and speak out against those would divide our city and inflame tensions.

Let us show that Birmingham really is united.

Join the Birmingham United Facebook group here.

The Stirrer

(Stirrer editor and Birmingham Mail columnist Adrian Goldberg also hosts a nightly phone-in show on TalkSport Radio, between 1 and 5 am.)


Anonymous said...

Another BNP supporter bites the dust.

kick it out said...

Birmingham United Football Club should suppport this campaign.

It is SO important that football disassociates itself from such football-based fascist thuggery.

The soccer community needs to work harder to combat racism.

Anonymous said...

Longbridge B31 is UNITED!

Hope not hate, Norfolk team said...

Congratulations Birmingham United from HOPE not hate, Norfolk!

Anonymous said...

The Reform Group of the British National Party came into being because many members, particularly established members, were concerned by the way the Party was run.
The current leader, Nick Griffin has, and the founder leader, John Tyndall had, enormous talent in some directions but it seems none in others.
This has meant the Party has not been developed in a balanced manner. Reform Group members do not believe the propaganda put out in the Party literature that the Party is doing well.
In particular, we mention the large number of activists who are leaving the Party and being replaced by inexperienced people with little idea of our policies and the enormous pressure that can be put on activists by the State.

The Reform Group gives the following points where we differ from the official party doctrine:

1. We believe the Party should have a Constitution and structure that is normal for an association. This would mean that the principal party officials would be elected and that there would be Annual General Meetings when all members could propose resolutions and vote. In particular, the Treasurer would be elected by the members and the Auditor would report to the members. There would be an end to the current ‘dictatorship’ whereby the Party Chairman appoints all officials of the Party.

2. We believe that the Party should not waste resources on fighting Euro-elections. If we won seats in these elections, the MEPs would have no power. We believe that the purpose of the BNP is to gain power. It is MPs at Westminster that have the power to make laws. All our resources should be used to gain MPs.

3. We believe that the Party should be organised as strong, semi-autonomous, local constituency associations responsible for their own funds.

4. We believe that we should make every effort to unite the various nationalist parties and encourage members who have left the BNP to rejoin. (It should be noted that the main reason for the existence of the various parties is the fact that many people could not work with John Tyndall and now with Nick Griffin. There are not great difference in policy between the groups. A new Party Chairman is required that has a rounded personality and the ability to get on with all members.)

Griffin and Darby are fleecing the BNP! Time for Change

Lee said...

Ref Kick it out

Excellent idea!! Here's Birmingham United's website

Maybe someone from UAF should approach them for collaboration.

Ngry ftie fn said...

"Birmingham City" not Birmingham United...

Why doesn't football take more of an interest in combatting racism?

Don't the wealthy millionaire owners of these clubs give a flying fuck about supporting community relations in the local areas where they source their fans from?

You still hear monkey chants at some lower league matches which is sickening.

Anonymous said...

considering the kid widely seen being beaten was only watching, hope everyone gloating at his attack is proud, condemn racism, black or white

cityboy said...

Birmingham City FC must most definately get involved with this campaign, yes. Luton Town are shit both on and off the pitch, and have failed to speak out against their neo-nazi hooligan element, but City need to take a stand.

ihatefootie said...

Ever since the Football Factory film, hooliganism has seen an unwanted resurgence. Without swift action by the government, courts and the clubs themselves, it will never go away, and more and more disilluioned young white people will get involved with football thuggery.

England Fan said...

Hold on here: Some people obviously know nothing about football. Too much time at Rugby or Cricket perhaps?

There is no other 'industry' in conjunction with community groups, schools and local authorities that have done more to tackle racism than football clubs in this country. In fact, football grounds are the places you would be least likely to hear racist taunts etc, etc.

If you also take into consideration our national football team's followers, in the last ten years the transformation has been trmendous. Listen to them sing the national anthem (like it or not) the "No Surrender" has totally vanished. So has the over the top booing of other teams' anthems (we're probably now just no longer worse than anybody else)

When is the last time England fans racially abused anyone too?

Against Spain and against Croatia, English fans reacted magnificently to the racist abuse directed at or players. Emil Heskey spoke about how surprised he was to hear England fans chant his name for the first time ever-in an effort to drown out the racist monkey noises directed at him. England fans even have a new song for Heskey, as with maturity and education about the national sport, some of the subtle nuances of Heskey's game (one of the lowest goal to game ratios in the history of English International football strikers) became apparent.

Two Plymouth fans were almost murdered at Home Park last year by fellow Plymouh fans, over their abuse of an opposition player.

Don't say football has a race problem when it does not. It has a class problem: Too many middle class wankers snearing on forums like here.


Me Again said...

And further to my last point, "Kick it Out" on here hinks that Birmingham United should get behind this idea?

Please god help us. Ketlan, you could at least moderate embarrasing idiots like that off of here for god's sake.

Blondage said...

Fila sportswear has been prominently used in the forthcoming remake of The Firm, the cult 1980s film about hooligan culture. Photograph: Public Domain

The term "casuals" has been synonymous with British football hooliganism since at least the 1980s so it is perhaps surprising to see it used to market trainers inside football grounds.

But that seems precisely the strategy of Fila, official shoe supplier to the Wimbledon tennis championships. Advertising hoardings at England's friendly in Amsterdam on Wednesday night carried the legend: "Fila: Icon Of The Casuals".

This is part of a wider marketing campaign and, with a plug on its official website for a remake of the 1988 football-hooligan movie, The Firm, Fila is clearly aware of the football-violence connotations of the word, and explains how "rival gangs, known as firms, and their members described as 'casuals', wore brightly coloured sportswear".

The FA pointed out that the advertising hoardings at Wednesday's match had been sold by its Dutch counterpart through a third-party agency. But a spokesman added: "We have a very strong stance on hooliganism; we are held as a standard bearer across the world."

The campaign by Fila, which did not return calls, does not seem to sit well with the demure reputation of Wimbledon. But organisers at the All England Club would only comment on its "tennis relationship" with Fila, which it described as "very good".

Cardiff Man said...

"'Army’ made of former football hooligans" by Tim Lewis, Wales On Sunday

FORMER football hooligans from Wales are being recruited by groups who have been involved in violent clashes with anti-fascist protesters.

Members of anti-Islamic fundamentalist groups the Welsh Defence League and Casuals United joined activists from the associated English Defence League in a protest against Muslim extremists in Birmingham last weekend.

Violence erupted at the protest, leading to a total of 34 arrests.

Former Cardiff City Soul Crew hooligan Jeff Marsh is one of the organisers of both groups.

He told Wales on Sunday that football hooligans are a “ready-made army” against Muslim fundamentalists.

Marsh, who has written two books about his exploits with the city’s infamous Soul Crew, said: “Hooligans from rivals clubs are uniting on this and it is like a ready-made army.”

But he denied that the group were intent on violence.

“It is not in our interests to go out and cause riots because we will get arrested and hit with Asbos,” he said.

“We do not look for violence but former football hooligans are able to defend themselves against trouble and are not afraid to protest when being pelted with missiles – like what happened in Birmingham.”

He said the groups have about 3,000 members across the UK and claimed that many come from Wales.

A Welsh Defence League page on the social networking site Facebook has more than 300 members.

Unite Against Fascism have widely condemned the groups as being made up of far-right sympathisers.

But Marsh, 44, from Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan, denied that.

He said: “We are protesting against the preachers of hate who are actively encouraging young Muslims in this country to take part in a jihad against Britain.

“The UAF say we are racist but we have black members in the group and we have spoken with some Sikhs who want to join. Anyone can join our protest.”

Gerry Gable, publisher of the anti-fascism magazine Searchlight, said they had also found links between the EDL and other far-right groups. The August edition of Searchlight carries articles linking the EDL with known football hooligan groups.

Many of the anti-muslim groups were formed after muslim protesters harassed returning soldiers in Luton back in March.

Mr Gable is critical of both the way the police handled that incident and also of the role of Unite Against Fascism in Saturday’s trouble in Birmingham.

He said: “If the police had stepped in and arrested those eight Muslim protesters in Luton – which they had very good reason to for public order offences – it could have taken a lot of heat out of the situation.

“But we don’t think inciting people to burn the Union Jack, like the UAF did, is the right way to go about fighting racism. We want to fight it through a coalition of people from the community, working together to resolve issues.”

In response the news that Welsh hooligans were being recruited for such groups Mohammad Asghar, Plaid Assembly Member for South Wales East, called for greater understanding between people of different religions.

“Wales has a proud record of welcoming people from many different countries over the years,” he said.

“I deplore any attempt to whip up racial hatred and, as a keen sports fan, I deplore any racism connected to football and other sports.

“I attended the Assembly launch of the anti-racism film Islamophobia, which is part of the Show Racism the Red Card campaign. This campaign has top footballers, including Wales’ Ryan Giggs, helping to educate people against racism and I fully support it.”