A piece I wrote for VICE on a fascist attack I witnessed and filmed last month. Link to the full article here.
On Saturday, a group of about 20 Polish far-right nationalists attacked the audience at a family event called Music Day, held in Tottenham’s Markfield Park. It was billed as “an all day celebration of music in tandem with celebrations across the world” and seemed to have passed off peacefully enough, as you’d expect a family music festival to. However, as it was drawing to a close, a group of skinheads rushed the stage, assaulted several members of the crowd and events team, and left one man in hospital with stab wounds. The crowd managed to push the skinheads back into a small corner of the park, before four riot vans turned up to shut down the melee and arrest several people for breaching the peace.
Footage shows festivalgoers and the far right exchanging missiles, including flares. Another video shows a man getting arrested wearing a T-shirt bearing the slogan, “Wielka Polska”, meaning “Great Poland”. The attackers were from a group of far-right Polish immigrants known as Zjednoczeni Emigranci Londyn (Emigrants United London). The police confirmed that a 22-year-old Polish man was charged with racially aggravated common assault, religiously aggravated common assault and common assault. Police said that another man – aged 22 – was arrested for racially aggravated common assault after a man’s kippah was pushed from his head.
I spoke to Rob, one of the organisers of the event, about what happened.
VICE: Hi Rob, can you tell me a bit about what went down on Saturday?
Rob: You know, this was clearly marked as an inclusive family event and it turned into fucking Armageddon. We have held this event for several years and never had any problems before. It had been a great day in the sun and everyone was having a good time.
Did you know about the group beforehand?
Well, while we were setting up two people from the local council came and warned us that “the BNP” were having a rally [in the area] today. So the council knew this was a possibility but I have no idea why it was presented to us as “the BNP” when these were clearly Polish nationalists. The council told us that they were aware of the situation and that there would be a police presence in the park all day. We sent out a text to alert people but we thought everything would be fine. But – at the moment when these guys came – there were no police around and that’s when it kicked off.
How aware of Zjednoczeni Emigranci Londyn were you before the event?
We know they’ve been in the park and in the community for a while. We have seen their stickers and racist graffiti popping up over the last few months and there have been some standoffs between us and them, a few words here and there, but nothing violent. They have been waving nationalist flags and displaying aggressive behaviour, but nothing like this. This is the first physical confrontation; we did this event last year in the same place and it went off without a hiccup.
How did the fight start?
We were just coming to the last DJ set and the group came, I’d say there was about 50 of them, but only ten to 20 were the ones instigating the trouble. I was stood there with a friend immediately as they came and we stood against them. Before anything, one guy stole a beer from our bar, cracked it open and walked away. We tried to stop him from doing that and the beer was taken from his hand by one of us asking him to pay for it. Then another guy got on the stage for some reason. He was obviously inebriated, the way he was moving. By this point, more of them had started to congregate at the back of the stage. We instructed them to get off, but not a hand was laid on them. He asked us to move out of the way so he could get down and we let him do that, walking past a line of us peacefully to get back to his crew.
Okay. So how did that escalate?
There was then a standoff as they drew up to us, there were more of us and we were standing face to face. There was a conversation between the two groups in Polish – one of our guys was confronting the group in Polish as to why they were here making trouble and asking them to leave. The guy who stole the beer then started shouting in Polish, “Are we going to fucking do this, guys?”
Immediately after this, the skinhead who had been arguing with our friend in Polish punched him in the face. He fell to the ground and crumpled into the wheel of one of the vans. Once that happened, they charged at us. One of our group was stabbed once and he fell to the ground. Punches, bottles and flares were thrown and the fascists retreated into the rose garden.
Sounds pretty horrible.
There were babies there, you know? There were broken bottles being thrown, and there were children in prams. Could you imagine what would have happened if a baby had got hit in the face with a bottle?
Is the guy who got stabbed OK?
The stab was shallow and didn’t get to the kidney, it was superficial and he is going to be OK. Several people were injured though; two of our guys were left with large open wounds on their foreheads. We were lucky we had two paramedics in attendance.
Where were the police when this was happening?
We were let down by the police. They knew [the far-right nationalists] were going to be there and when we needed them the most, they weren’t there. There couldn’t have been more warning, so we feel disappointed there weren’t active police stationed for the duration of the day. They had been seen in the park all day; I had been told there had been an arrest made prior to the [main attack].
In a statement, North London Anti-Fascists referred to Zjednoczeni Emigranci as a “a relatively small but hardcore group”. Made up of ultra-nationalist Polish immigrants, they have about 350 members on Facebook. Their Facebook page seems to have been pulled for now, but when it was up was littered with ultra-nationalist iconography, racism and links to videos and stories about Polish football hooliganism.
The group are known to the local community, and according to several locals they have been a presence in Markfield Park for some time. A local skater said that he’d seen a rally take place in the park three months ago and that a group of about “200 of them were assembling and displaying nationalist flags, lighting flares and talking through megaphones”.
A local business owner and retired police officer who wishes to remain anonymous, said his business had been broken into three times by the same group over the past couple of years. “It’s been a while, a good few years. They had nearly 500 people in the park yesterday,” he said, “They’ve been congregating here, slowly building, over the last three and a half years now. This group has been causing a lot of issues here by drinking, damaging property and robbing people.
“We have been working with the council and the authorities but they are getting worse and worse and now we have a fascist Polish party here trying to rule the country. All of them are youths and full of energy and this is really worrying for us.
“We need help and protection from the authorities,” he continued, “we have our children that use this park and these guys are out of control. I have seen one of them getting arrested about six times in this park but he still comes back like nothing has happened to him, every single time.”
Unite Against Fascism have organised a rally outside Tottenham Town Hall today at 6PM, under the slogan, “Nazis Out of Haringey”. Meanwhile, North London Anti-Fascists have warned that, “We will not stop until every piece of ZE graffiti and stickers are removed or covered up, and their events so opposed by antifascists that they are forced to abandon them… if they dare to try to intimidate the communities of North London again we will be there to oppose and stop them.”