By Becca Thompson, MSc Development Economics
A group of pro-Trump protestors attempted to make a citizen’s arrest of London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, as he stood to make the keynote speech at the Fabian Society’s New Year Conference on Saturday 13 January. One man from the group proudly told Mr Khan that he did not speak for all of London, adding “some of us agree with Trump.” The group, sporting t-shirts saying “take back control” and raising an American flag and a sign saying “No 2 EU”, were looking to have the Mayor arrested for treason following his recent ‘disagreement’ with President Trump. They were met with jeering from the audience, with shouts including “scum” and “go back to Millwall”, which the chair of the event tried to suppress. Two Fabians scurried off and returned with an EU ag and a “Labour against Brexit” flag in response to the anti-EU sentiment of the protestors. The group were eventually escorted out by police, allowing Sadiq Khan to take to the stage. Before proceeding with his speech on gender equality, he gave mention to the “very stable geniuses” who had disrupted the event. He expressed that such comments were laughable except that these ideas have come from men in positions of power, referring of course to Trump, and also recent comments made by Boris Johnson.
Thee protestors were part of a relatively new far-right group called the White PenDragons whose members have openly expressed anti-Islamic sentiment, subsequently gaining Facebook bans as badges of honour. The vile group are professing to be non-violent, and are looking to ‘take back control’ by democratic means; but with an aim to remove the constraints political correctness puts on free speech, or rather hate speech. It is clear their message is dangerous. They are attempting to appeal to working class people who have been struggling due to government putting business and banking first, professing to be anti-corporation, anti-banker, and anti-fascist, but the scapegoating of the Islamic faith is clearly central to their identity.
Although they profess to be apolitical, they are currently in the process of setting up their own political party, called ‘Take Back Control’. Their populist agenda has dark nationalist and racist qualities. The party website ironically claims inclusivity, ‘an allegiance to England no matter what a person’s colour, religion, atheism or sexuality’, but the targeted attack on the Islamic faith is not difficult to unveil. The group is looking to outlaw any groups affiliated to Muslim communities, again on claims of treason, and they state ‘war and violence must not be encouraged by “any” religion’. It does not take much deciphering to understand the “any” that the ignorant group are referring to. is criticism of anti-religious current runs throughout the party ‘manifesto’ as they stipulate religion should have no part in politics they litter the page with amens and comments about the God given rights of the English. They attempt to use women’s rights as a further attack on the Islamic faith: ‘No religion may subvert or attempt to subvert human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights and animal rights.’ This issue is being manipulated by many right-wing groups who have shown no previous interest in the feminist agenda and the White PenDragons are no different. A quick glance at the Facebook pages of the principal ‘dragons’ reveal their true regressive attitude towards women, and make it obvious that this is just Islamophobia in the name of women’s rights. The inconsistencies in their messaging are rife and currently the White PenDragon “movement” can hardly be described as a movement. The optimist in me would say that people like this have no chance of gaining support, but in the era of Trump and Brexit it is extremely important to call out racist groups for what they are, and ‘very stable geniuses’ they are not.