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ANTI-RACISTS have sounded the alarm on far-right attempts to exploit the coronavirus crisis through anti-lockdown protests across the country today.
Under the name UK Freedom Movement (UKFM), publicity for the events, which have been linked to conspiracy-theorist “anti-vaxxers” and the far right, encourages people to “be a part of the largest mass gathering since the lockdown” in cities including Sheffield, Liverpool, Bristol, London and Leicester.
Multiple far-right groups currently claim the Freedom Movement tag, including Richard Inman’s UK Freedom Movement and Jayda Fransen’s British Freedom Movement — though the two ex-Britain First activists are strongly at odds.
Both groups deny being involved with the events, with Inman stating that “We will not be attending or promoting these events, and want to make it clear we are not associated” while Fransen claimed on social media that “I have nothing to do with this.”
Far-right and fascist groups have however been active in mobilising what anti-racists call an attempt to “exploit the volatile political context under the coronavirus crisis to gain influence for their toxic ideas.”
Anti-racist campaigners fear that reactionary interests are attempting to mirror dangerous showdowns currently taking place in the US.
Groups like Britain First and Knights Templar International, as well as former BNP leader Nick Griffin, have used the lockdown to promote themselves as supporters of the community by distributing food parcels and posting images on social media.
They have also been spreading misinformation, conspiracy-theory-based denials of the virus’s existence, and scapegoating migrant and refugee communities, campaigners say.
Stand Up to Racism (SUTR) has warned against a premature end to the lockdown, which could cost more lives and further disproportionately affect black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.
SUTR co-convenor Weyman Bennett urged the public to recognise the threat posed in Britain and internationally by the far-right to exploit the crisis.
He said: "We know from history that it is in these circumstances that these forces of reaction can grow, and that it is mass broad-based united anti-racist opposition in every community and at a national and international level, that can effectively stop them."
Greater London Assembly member Unmesh Dasai said he supported SUTR’s campaign against “another attempt by the far-right to hijack the crisis to divide our communities”.
He said: “They must and will be resisted, and their true colours and agenda must be exposed.”
Fransen’s BFM, which she recently registered as Freedom Movement Ltd, calls on “all immigrant communities to embrace British culture and the society” and rants about the “insidious introduction of undemocratic Sharia Law, fascism or Marxism.”
UKFM founder Richard Iman meanwhile calls Islam “evil” and has organised marches in favour of convicted racist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, known as “Tommy Robinson.”
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