Wednesday, 29 June 2011
I'd expected only a small band of committed anti-racist activists to turn up to leaflet on Saturday, but they were considerably outnumbered by non-aligned people wanting to join the protest. There was even a contingent from the Unitarian Church - hardly the 'antifa thugs' the band's supporters had promised the fans would be there to intimidate them. Throughout the course of the evening a total of about 70-80 people took part in leafleting outside the club, with a maximum of around 50 people present at its peak.
The original plan had been to leaflet only earlier in the evening (to make the point that the event was aimed at convincing users of the club generally and not at confronting those going to the gig specifically), and only at the nearby tube station (Angel). But as people turned up in such large numbers it was considered safe enough to move immediately outside the club. Contrary to the accusations made online that the point was to physically confront the fans, that was never the intention, as had been made plain throughout the campaign. The idea was only to put it to club-goers that Slimelight was prepared to host events by people with known connections to (various exotic flavours of) racism and fascism, and that they should put pressure on the management by expressing their opposition. In that, the leafleting was certainly successful.
A huge number of leaflets were handed out to members of the public and to people attending Slimelight, and a number of club-goers took extra leaflets to distribute inside the club. The response from most fans was overwhelmingly positive - as might be expected, given that most users of Slimelight are anti-racist and anti-fascist.
There were a definite - though small - group of people who were there because they actively welcomed the presence of Sol Invictus at the club, and were hostile to the protesters (not too vocally hostile, though, as they were so obviously outnumbered). There was another definite minority who were really glad to see something being done at last to address the issues of racism and fascism in the culture generally. Some attendees spoke to the protesters at length, proudly describing themselves as anti-fascists, and a small number even refused to go in to the concert as a result of the protest. Then there were people who could not understand the protest, and argued with the protesters about Sol and the bands, or just wanted to be loyal to the venue, etc. Some of these people couldn't be persuaded, but many could, and a lot of useful discussions and arguments were had without even a hint of intimidation on either side. I hope that those fans who were convinced about the need to take responsibility for what happens in their own clubs find a way to extend the discussions that were had on the night and take them to even more people. In any case, to all of those who were willing to debate and discuss the problem - thanks. It was good to meet you.
To me, simply starting a debate around the issue among the fans is success enough. But you can add to that the fact that at almost the exact point at which this blog published an article about Andrew King's racist and pro-fascist comments in an interview with Michael Moynihan's journal Tyr, King, who was supposed to be performing with Sol that night, was 'mysteriously' dropped from the band. I think it's clear that King was dropped (or resigned - accounts differ) because his presence embarrassed those who had been claiming that the musicians and groups involved had no ongoing relationship to the far right.
About the Online Debate
One aspect of the online discussion of the protest that struck me was how many people seemed interested only in provoking and heightening confrontation. At it's worst this included people posting details of individuals online on various blogs. This seemed to be some kind of deliberate strategy (several of the relevant comments were simultaneously posted to different sites), and not necessarily initiated by partisans in the debate. A number of people submitted comments to this blog naming individuals they thought were 'behind' the blog or the LMHR campaign (actually two entirely separate things, since this blog's contributors took different positions regarding the protest) in order to exacerbate hostility to them. At least one comment submitted provided what was claimed to be the address of one of the musicians involved in the concert. All of these comments were blocked by the blog's administrators. As it is vital to prevent - let's call them - 'certain interested parties' from stoking up confrontation (in order to justify their own intervention?), we're going to be more active in future in blocking anything inflammatory, or any directly personal attacks, on the blog.