Hundreds of far-right hooligans, calling themselves “Football Lads”, are planning to descend on London on Saturday to confront the next Black Lives Matter protest.
They say that they want to “defend” the Winston Churchill statue in Parliament Square and the Cenotaph on Whitehall, but the prospect of widespread disorder has prompted one London Assembly Member to call on professional football clubs to denounce the group’s action.
Inside Croydon has seen social media messages circulating among members of the so-called “Democratic Football Lads Alliance”, which state, “Charlton, Millwall, Palace, West Ham, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal, Portsmouth, Newcastle, Plymouth, Exeter, Stoke, Birmingham, Coventry, Colchester, Southend, Bristol, Swindon all arriving for 11am at Victoria and moving from there.
“Truce been called between all teams so conflict between lads is a no no. Heavy police presence but we will get to memorials early.
“Stand, don’t move and don’t be told where to go. Lefties attack at own risk.”
It is an undisguised call-to-arms for racists.
From its official Twitter account, the Democratic Football Lads Alliance said, “Enough is enough it’s time to defend what our war heroes done [sic] for this country and their honour… This is not a counter protest against BLM this a [sic] protection mission.
“Spread the word far and wide. We need numbers.”
The Democratic Football Lads Alliance was founded in 2017 with a supposed aim of opposing terrorism. It has the backing of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, the former leader of the English Defence League, known by some as Tommy Robinson, who has posted a two-minute-long rant on social media accusing the police of being “soft-handed” at Black Lives Matters marches.
“If you’re a lad or you call yourself a lad, and you’re a football lad and you go to football and you give a shit at all about our country, our history, our culture, our identity. I expect you are going to be in London next Saturday,” Yaxley-Lennon sniffed through his barely coherent video. Yaxley-Lennon is expected to attend on Saturday.
One Football Lads Alliance demo in 2017 attracted 35,000 people, though in the last 12 months, the group has barely operated. Members in Sunderland have reportedly booked a coach for Saturday’s trip, while the Newcastle group intends travelling by mini-bus.
Labour’s policing spokesperson at the London Assembly, Unmesh Desai, has warned the capital’s professional football clubs against allowing racism to sneak back into the culture “through the back door”.
Desai said today, “Professional football clubs must come together and use their widespread influence to publicly denounce the plans of hooligans and far-right football organisations to disrupt the Black Lives Matter protests.
“The presence of these hooligans, aimed at pushing a regressive and hateful agenda, will risk inflaming tensions and pockets of violence when demonstrations have been, for the most part, peaceful and constructive so far.
“Players have been showing their solidarity with campaigners and clubs have already undertaken some hugely important work to stamp out matchday hate crime and institutional racism in the game.
“With the football season suspended and stadiums closed, we must not turn our backs and allow racism to sneak back into the culture of the game through the backdoor.”
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