Some Notes on the London “Yellow Vests” and Protests at Parliament Square

The opportunistic rebranding of the “Justice for Our Boys” campaign into a copycat “Yellow Vest” movement focusing on pro-Brexit stunts in central London has proven a huge success: when I wrote about the group in September, it was just one fringe-right presence at “Free Tommy” events; now, its strategies of traffic disruption and aggressive confrontations with Members of Parliament in and near Parliament Square has been rewarded with national headlines and comments in the House of Commons, and provoked debates around policing and freedom of protest. The group’s figurehead (he insists he is not the leader) James Goddard has currently eclipsed Robinson as the street face of the populist right. Here are a few observations.

1. Right-populist protests movements often complain that they are mischaracterised as “far right” and “racist”. However, Goddard allegedly has a history of using the ethnic slur “Paki”, and he has suggested that black people of whom he disapproves should go back to “Bongo Land” or “the jungle”. This is racism, although it may be casual rather than ideological: when the group’s protest on Saturday chanced upon some Cameroonians demonstrating about the situation in southern Cameroon they happily joined in, explicitly commenting that this would confound allegations of racism. Goddard also wants mass deportations of Muslims.

2. The group is heavily invested in conspiracy theories. Goddard’s Yellow Vest incorporates the WWG1WGA slogan popularised in the US by Qanon believers, and at one event in July he suggested that the country is run by “Satanic paedophiles” (for some reason now reported in the Daily Mail as “hostile paedophiles”. Tracey Blackwell (var. Tracy Blackwell), who is also a figurehead for the group, used the “Where We Go One We Go All” phrase in a pep-talk ahead of Saturday’s protest, amplifying its use by a member of the crowd, and last month she described Melanie Shaw and Sabine McNeill as political prisoners – since then, McNeill has been sentenced to nine years in prison for stalking offences relating to the Hampstead Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax.

3. There were four arrests during Saturday’s protest, in relation to scuffles with the police. One of these, of a 13-year-old girl, was first reported as an “attack on policeman”, which then escalated into the plural “assaulting officers”. Having seen a video of the incident (no link as there are laws about identifying minors in relation to arrests), though, this seems to me to be overblown. The girl appears to have been overwrought at officers corralling her mother: she shouts “don’t push her, don’t fucking push her”, and the arrest came when she shouted “get off of me” as an officer appeared (the view is obscured) to restrain her arm. I would be surprised if charges follow.

4. Why hasn’t Goddard been arrested on public order offences? I once saw a homeless man being arrested on Euston Road after he decided for some reason to sit in the middle of traffic; yet the police now look on while Westminster Bridge and other vital links across the river are deliberately blocked, and while Members of Parliament have been aggressively accosted in the street. Goddard was also filmed shouting at police that “You want a war I’ll give you a war”, which sounds very much like incitement to disorder (or perhaps even incitement to riot). Dai Davies, the former head of the Met’s territorial support unit, has said that he would have arrested them.

5. There has been particular focus on the group’s targeting of Anna Soubry, the high-profile Remain MP. Soubry was re-elected in 2017 on an openly Remainer platform, but the protesters take the view that her opposition to the referendum result means that she is a “Nazi”. The word was chanted at her during an open-air television interview, and she was recently approached in the street by Goddard and his associates and denounced as a “traitor”. As David Aaronovitch notes:

The issue is not being called a Nazi. Everybody gets called a Nazi some time. Doesn’t matter who you are. However, what was happening to the Tory MP Anna Soubry this week within spitting distance of parliament was physical intimidation. When a group of loud and angry men surround you, shout at you and seem to want to kill you, it’s intimidating. It feels like one small step away from serious violence.

It seems to me that this particular incident went beyond what an MP might reasonably expect to have to put up with, and officers should have intervened to at least warn the men to back off to a reasonable distance. This would not be inconsistent with the “right to let politicians know what you think of them”, which the predictable contrarian Brendan O’Neill believes is at risk from “privately educated political and media classes” who regard the protesters with distaste due to their working-class accents (1).

O’Neill’s view is that Soubry’s “quite minor travails” have been exaggerated, although it looks to me that such an assessment more properly applies to complaints about Remainer protests. Here’s David Davies, the Monmouth MP (and former boxer), unconvincingly claiming in February to being “intimidated” by SODEM, the Stand of Defiance European Movement; and the pro-Brexit Nadine Dorries – who despises Soubry and spread a lie about her on social media after the Brexit Referendum – has now produced an article for Conservative Home in which she alleges “I have barely been able to use my own office for over a year, thanks to the ‘Stop Brexit’ campaigners outside of my window”. This is difficult to credit for a couple reasons: first, that Dorries does not normally require a news bandwagon if she has a grievance about something; and second, that a photo posted by Dorries several months ago shows that the protesters are in fact in Old Palace Yard, across the main road from Parliament and several stories below her. (2)

Despite this, though, O’Neill has a point about the right to protest in Parliament Square, and we should be wary about how the law may be deployed to curtail protest activity: a month ago, the SODEM activist Steve Bray reported that a police officer had told him that his attempts to position himself in the background of news reports amounted to criminal damage of a cameraman’s footage – a completely bogus suggestion that might have led to a wrongful arrest. No sign of O’Neill then, though.

Footnotes

1. While O’Neill is scathing about Soubry’s complaints, he took a different view when a Muslim charity in Yorkshire complained about Sarah Champion’s op-ed in the Sun on Sunday which she herself said had been “stripped of nuance” by editors. In that instance, O’Neill took at face value her claims that the criticisms amounted to threats from extremists, and he cited the murder of Jo Cox MP.

2. Dorries also used her article to rehash old stalking allegations that went nowhere after a police investigation in 2013-14. I’ll note in passing that her new version of the story contains further falsehoods that serve to underline why the CPS declined to carry the matter forward, and why Bedfordshire Police are unlikely to take any new allegations from her at face value. Most recently, she has claimed to be “speaking [to] police” about disparaging remarks about her made by the broadcaster James O’Brien.

10 Responses

  1. I would honestly like some Brexiteers to comment on this. You say you are not racists or extremists. Fine. We accept the majority of you are not. Do you disassociate yourselves from the actions of some of your lot in relation to the threats against elected Remainer politicians (particularly the more outspoken ones, like Soubry)?

    • Do you disassociate yourself from Soubry. who claims Leavers are extremists and racists, Jones who thinks everyone who doesn’t agree with him is a FASCIST to be SMASHED, and anyone who treats Farage, Robinson, Goddard, or any Leaver, in a less than civil manner?!

  2. 1. “….Goddard allegedly has a history of using the ethnic slur “Paki”,”

    Don’t South Asians too, and no one goes on, and on, and on….. about it?!

    Do people go on, and on, and on….. about “Brits”, “Poms”, “Limeys, “Whites”, Whiteys”, “Honkeys”, “Stale Pale Males”, not to mention “GAMMONS”?!

    “and he has suggested that black people of whom he disapproves should go back to ‘Bongo Land’ or ‘the jungle'”

    So not all of them?

    Would it be better if, like South Africans, the black ones, not the ones who been there since the War, not WW2, but the Colonial War, no, the one between the invading genocidal Northern tribes and the Aboriginal or Native South African Bushmen, but I thought we were all indigenous Africans now, he just went about raping and slaughtering people whose skin shade he took offence to?

  3. 0. “….now, its strategies of traffic disruption and aggressive confrontations with Members of Parliament in and near Parliament Square”

    You mean the ones the ExtremeFarLeftNaziFascistHitlerScum have FINALLY copied from the ProgressiveLiberalModerateCentre?

    Boy the Scum must be DUMB!

    So how did their actions compare to the way the Left treat MEPS like Farage?

    Did they force Soubry to take shelter in a pub, or take cover in a cab they physically attacked?

    Did they bounce an egg on her bonce or a placard on her pate?

    “has been rewarded with national headlines and comments in the House of Commons, and provoked debates around policing and freedom of protest….”

    Was the treatment of Farage, or, say, Robinson, rewarded with as much revulsion here, in the Press, or Parliament?

    And what we’re these vile and vicious attacks?

    So they called a woman who wants to overthrow democracy and a homosexual whose catchphrase is “Racist FASCIST” fascist?!

    Good job they didn’t dare “attack” them as a Female MP and Gay Guardian columnist or the “Moderate Centre” would have lynched them!

    And what was it one of the FascistScum were videod slipping into the pocket of one of UnifyingModerateCentre Soubry’s team?!

    Crazy Conspiracy Theorists would think it was some kind of staged set-up!

  4. 2. “The group is heavily invested in conspiracy theories……”

    Unlike people heavily invested in the theory that anyone who believes that allying in an isolationist block of 50% (count em!) of (sickeningly white) European States and turning your back on the majority of the world’s (black brown and yellow) countries is insular must be RacistFascistScum?

    Or unlike people heavily invested in the theory that anyone who believes that, as England is the 27th most densely populated country in the world, and when you strip out the microstates (like Hong Kong where even the suburbs are in another country), tax haven islands, and other artificially supported states like Israel, Puerto Rico, etc, it’s second only to Bangladesh for population density, so it’s full, must be RacistFascistScum too!

    Or maybe unlike people heavily invested in the theory that anyone who believes that Freedom and Liberty are preferable to economic Security must clearly be RacistFascistNaziScum?

  5. What is happening to Melanie Shaw is disproportionate to what she is supposed to have done. Prisoners set fire to their cells every day of the week.

    “If it isn’t a conspiracy, why are they making it look like one? Melanie said she gave evidence to the police and it disappeared. I think it’s accepted that the authorities didn’t know how many children were in care and what happened to those who disappeared.

    Melanie Shaw’s Westminster paedophile ring information seems to be the unknown.

    https://www.nottinghampost.com/news/nottingham-news/who-is-melanie-shaw-2381898?fbclid=IwAR2WETQABg23i3CrQ4xPhLOIT_hKAr8lQaAZd_BvM03CZlMdOnapC8vyKQ8

  6. 4. “Why hasn’t Goddard been arrested on public order offences? I once saw a homeless man being arrested on Euston Road after he decided for some reason to sit in the middle of traffic; yet the police now look on while Westminster Bridge and other vital links across the river are deliberately blocked…….”

    There was a time, perhaps before yours, when ModerateProgressiveLiberalCentre protesters decided it would be fun to gridlock streets by parading back and forth across Zebra Crossings (they’re the old analogue Black – can we still say that? – & White 4 o’ 5 or 6 to 5 line predecessor to the modern digital iPelican eCrossings – though their pedestrian sensors seem to continually malfunction so that they permanently gridlock streets even when there isn’t a single pedestrian for miles – perhaps they’ve been hacked by Greens, or should that be Reds?! – but I digress) and Plod suddenly remembered you could be Obstructing the Queen’s Highway even if you were on a Zebra Crossing without Lawful Authority or Excuse.

    Have the Cycle Mass “protests” which deliberately gridlock town and city centres across the country been stopped yet?

    (Hint to “intelligence led” police “services” – try policing your urban centres on the last Friday of the month during the evening rush hour!)

    Never mind the Remaining Remoaner and “People’s” Vote protests?

    Oh, and talking of being:

    “…..filmed shouting at police that “You want a war I’ll give you a war”, which sounds very much like incitement to disorder (or perhaps even incitement to riot). Dai Davies, the former head of the Met’s territorial support unit, has said that he would have arrested them…..”

    I could have sworn I’ve seen Remainer banners shouting “This *IS* War”.

    Any arrests there then?

    But I bet if a Leaver shouted Dai Davies he’d have had them done for incitement to murder!

    • PS I used to have one of those old wooden TV sets…..

      .

      ………..But the picture was very grainy!

      You’ve gotta laugh or you’d go mad like the rest of the “modern” world!

  7. 5. “There has been particular focus on the group’s targeting of Anna Soubry, the high-profile Remain MP. Soubry was re-elected in 2016 on an openly Remainer platform, but the protesters take the view that her opposition to the referendum result means that she is a “Nazi”. The word was chanted at her during an open-air television interview, and she was recently approached in the street by Goddard and his associates and denounced as a “traitor”….”

    And Hitler was democratically elected.

    Didn’t stop him turning all FascistScum. NaziScum even, did it?

    Just about all of Parliament (excluding only the SNP, I think) voted for a Referendum which both Government and Opposition spokesmen described as a once in a generation people’s DECISION, and where the official Government documents stressed the same.

    The people voted.

    They voted LEAVE.

    Soubry wants to stop the country leaving and ensure it remains under EU control (with even less say than now).

    In what dictionary is that not Fascist if not Nazi?

    And if you want to bring up Concentration Camps, Gas Chambers and Ovens as a necessary part of the definition, please feel free to list all the times anyone from Goddard, through Farage down to all the rest of the Leavers, have even suggested or campaigned for them, never mind implemented or used them!

    As for:

    “As David Aaronovitch notes:

    The issue is not being called a Nazi. Everybody gets called a Nazi…. what was happening to…. Soubry…. was physical intimidation. When a group of loud and angry men surround you, shout at you and seem to want to kill you, it’s intimidating. It feels like one small step away from serious violence…..”

    This has been standard procedure for the “liberal” left and Remainers for years if not decades:

    Suck it up!

    “this particular incident went beyond what an MP might reasonably expect to have to put up with.”

    Look up some of the videos of what a certain MEP, Tommy Robinson, or many
    Leavers are “reasonably” expect to have to put up with!

    “and officers should have intervened to at least warn the men to back off to a reasonable distance.”

    Perhaps they were too busy catching up with all the historic (real) hate crime against leavers?!

    And as for:

    “….O’Neill’s view is that Soubry’s “quite minor travails” have been exaggerated…”

    Would you like to list the evidence for:

    “…a group of loud and angry men surround you, shout at you and seem to want to kill you, it’s intimidating. It feels like one small step away from serious violence.”

  8. Footnotes 1 Links

    “The JUST Yorkshire report states that Champion, through her Sun aticle, “was sending out a message to the entire non-Muslim population of the country, whites especially, that our daughters are all at risk from males of ‘Pakistani heritage’”, although it concedes that its survey “does not provide evidence of any direct correlation between racist and Islamophobic attacks post the Champion article and media interviews and what Sarah Champion wrote and spoke in the media.”

    Alternatively:

    “The Barthsnotes blog, “was sending out a message to the entire non-Asian population of the country, whites especially, that our daughters are all at risk from males of ‘Asian heritage’”, although it concedes that its survey “does not provide evidence of any direct correlation between racist and Asianophobic attacks post the Barthsnotes blog and media articles about Japanese hairdressers and Chinese manicurists providing unsolicited grooming to underage girls.”

    By the way, is there ANY evidence of ACTUAL death threats against ANY Remainer, never mind Remain MP, or, for that matter, #MeTooer, or feminist agitator.

    Or rape threats for that manner.

    And ‘Angin’s too good for ‘er or She needs a good seein’ to don’t count.

    By the way, how many ProgressiveLiberalCentristm$oderates were ever even questioned about their death threats to Thatcher?!

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