Football 'hooligans' uniting to defend statues in cities like Leeds, anti-racism campaigners claim

Football "hooligans" are said to be setting aside club rivalries to defend war memorials and statues, anti-racism campaigners have claimed.

Saturday, 13th June 2020, 11:31 am
Updated Saturday, 13th June 2020, 11:32 am

Black Lives Matter (BLM) and far-right marches are expected this weekend, with a protest planned at Millennium Square, Leeds, on Sunday.

The Democratic Football Lads Alliance has called on supporters to travel to London to protect monuments and far-right figure Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has also expressed his support.

Scaffolding and boards have been erected around the Cenotaph and Winston Churchill statue in Westminster after they were vandalised in previous protests.

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A boarded up Churchill statue on Parliament Square, London before a possible protest by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance against a Black Lives Matter protest (Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

Now there are fears far-right gangs and football hooligans are increasingly turning their attention to cities outside London as they plan their demonstrations, and warnings this could lead to clashes.

Researchers are warning "flashpoints" could erupt in cities like Leeds and Bristol and that football hooligan firms could be putting club rivalries to one side in order to boost their numbers to defend statues.

It comes as calls were made for football clubs to condemn such gatherings.

It is claimed there has been talk online from football firms who support Newport County, Cardiff City, Bristol Rovers and Bristol City about coming together at the weekend to guard the war memorial in Bristol.

There are also warnings of another large gathering of a similar nature anticipated in Leeds.

Concerns have been raised as to how police forces with fewer resources and less experience of large demonstrations will cope in cities and smaller towns outside the capital.

There could even be potential for problems in Shrewsbury - home to the football hooligan firm the English Border Front - after there were calls for the Clive of India statue in the middle of the town to go.

Campaign group Hope Not Hate said it had detected high levels of action, "anger and excitement" among far-right groups within the last week who are largely against the Black Lives Matter movement, regarding it as communist and Marxist.

The organisation monitors the online activity of hundreds of UK-based groups and around the world, looking at material posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and the forum Telegram.

Joe Mulhall, Hope Not Hate's head of research, said: "There's no doubt that right-wing channels we monitor have seen a huge uptick in activity in the last week.

"We are seeing large amounts of content being shared and far-right groups are seeing this as an opportunity."

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