We went to the UKIP protest and it was weirdly peaceful
In all honesty, if anything, it was kinda boring
As reported by The Tab, UKIP’s latest outing to Edinburgh was met by a band of enthusiastically angry protesters. Arriving on the scene, The Tab’s investigative team were hoping to find controversy, chaos, and a seismic clash of “fascists versus mindless rabble”. We were sorely disappointed.
Nigel Farage’s visit to Edinburgh last May saw verbal and physical aggression, resulting in the UKIP leader having to hide in a pub on the Royal Mile. This time, UKIP rallied at The Corn Exchange, a less central location which helped avoid last year’s clumsy intimidation and belligerence.
A big problem with last year’s affair was that when protesters turn ugly, it can make their opponents seem sympathetic. Last year, UKIP’s critics gave the impression that they were incapable of engaging in debate and could only hope to silence the opposition and shout at them. This time round, an absence of controversy, a more positive message, and better organisation helped to avoid a repeat of last year’s farce.
The majority of the protests were witty, peaceful and harmless with more emphasis on a positive message of solidarity and tolerance. Slogans included: “we’re here, we’re queer, we won’t disappear” and “immigrants are welcome here”. One group played gay anthems, changing the lyrics to mock UKIP. There was a music festival vibe and the protest was more colourful street party than aggressive posturing.
Speaking to The Tab, protester Andrew Ashe, a spokesperson for the Radical Independence Campaign, said: ” There was not much controversy, Farage was taken in and out the back door, and our lively protest made our views clear. No one was arrested, and everyone I have spoken to was happy with the demonstration.”
However, there were some snippets of silliness. Following Farage’s no-show, a few protesters started bombarding anyone leaving the premises with mindless chants of “nazi scum”. It was unclear how many of these people were actually from UKIP. In fairness, no one was physically violent, and some of the victims may have deserved it.
Although no one was egged, The Tab did witness a random projectile banana. Targeting an old lady for verbal attacks was also questionable. Admittedly, whoever you are, attending a political rally makes you accountable for your views. And bigotry, unlike fine wine, doesn’t get better with age. But, still, shouting “racist” at old women whilst waving placards in their faces doesn’t look too great.
There were also unfortunate random bursts of anti-capitalism. Context-devoid shouts about the evils of profit somehow emerged amidst the anti-homophobic chants. This was annoying, but perhaps inevitable when enough red banners, military boots, unwashed hair, and brown hoodies are in the same vicinity. It suggests a “with us or against us” Manichean mentality based on a holistic but one-dimensional and polarised view of politics.
The same can be said about the “Yay for Scotland” flavour of the event. Is it impossible to oppose racism without embracing socialism and Scottish independence? (Hint: it isn’t)
Andy Ashe responded to these issues, saying: “We were joined by many people who do not support independence however it is appropriate to be clear what you stand for while organising a broad based protest. We think that Independence gives an opportunity to build a different Scotland, a Scotland that priorities social and economic justice, promotes equality and welcomes immigrants. We will continue to argue this, while working with others on campaigns such as opposing UKIP.”
There are other worries. How effective is confronting people with megaphones, chanting, and accusations of bigotry? Ashe responded: “The media coverage and reaction on social media means we are not only preaching to the converted but starting a debate about the nasty nature of UKIP in wider society”.
He also noted that UKIP receives significant attention from the media: “What we did is challenge the narrative that UKIP are a positive alternative to the other parties at Westminster, and provided solidarity to the people who feel alienated by their ideas.”
In all honesty, if anything, the event was kinda boring. Having UKIP and the protestors separated by police and concrete ensured minimal contact, which meant minimal fun altercations. It’s probably a good thing that nothing particularly embarrassing or dangerous happened. But we can’t help but be disappointed.
The nearest we got to drama was when The Tab were identified. When asking around for comments we were asked what paper we were with. Upon finding out, one chap said: “You’re the ones who hate feminism? Go fuck yourselves. We’re not talking to yoousse [sic].”
Positive Slogans: *****
Critical Slogans: **
Drama and Entertainment: *