Hundreds took to the streets of Alloa as the Scottish Defence League and a counter-protest clashed, following Clackmannanshire Council’s decision to rehouse refugees.
Accompanied by a heavy police presence, less than 50 members of the SDL and various far-right groups conducted a ‘static’ protest on Alloa high street.
The SDL were holding the rally in opposition to Clacks Council’s decision to provide social housing to refugees fleeing warzones such as Syria and Iraq.
The rally was held after a petition created by a member of the SDL, criticising Clacks Council, attracted more than 2000 signatures before it was removed from Change.org.
This was the first SDL march since a small number protested against the government’s decision to accept refugees in George Square last summer.
Handfuls of SDL members made their way from Alloa train station to the top of the high street where they planned to hold their rally.
They were accompanied by a large police presence, who kept the protesters a distance away from both onlookers and counter-protestors, due to the history of violence associated with both the SDL and its sister group the English Defence League.
A speaker for the group made a speech criticising the anti-fascist protestors, claiming that his organisation represented the ‘real’ people of Alloa, and falsely accused Clacks Council of “pushing out” local residents in order to house refugees.
As a second bus of protestors arrived, the tone of the rally took a considerable shift. In solidarity with the SDL, an organisation which referred to itself as ‘Scottish Dawn’ joined the demonstration, brandishing flags with overtly neo-Nazi insignia.
This group mainly consisted of young men clad in balaclavas and sunglasses in order to hide their identities. Leader of the UK National Front David Macdonald, a holocaust denier who sits on Aberdeen Community Council, was also in attendance.
A local activist who follows the far-right informed Brig that some of those in attendance were formerly members of now-banned neo-Nazi group National Action.
A spokesperson for Scottish Dawn referred to the council’s refugee policy as “white genocide”, and urged the crowd which had amassed nearby to join their local white nationalist organisations.
The speaker, who was forced to use a megaphone as they were unable to get their PA system working, condemned Europe’s acceptance of refugees, and said Britain needed to “send them back”.
He also spoke in length about ‘globalists’, alleged links between refugees and terrorism, and accused the anti-fascist counter demonstration of consisting of ‘paid protestors’.
The bellicose rhetoric of the speakers received a mixed reaction from Alloa residents, with some nearby applauding enthusiastically, whilst others looked on in disgust.
At the opposite end of the high street, more than a hundred anti-fascist protesters held their own rally in support of refugees.
Vastly outnumbering the SDL, the counter-protest often drowned out the speeches being given by the far-right group – much to their ire.
Armed with a working PA system, speakers including Labour activist Craig Miller voiced their opposition to fascism and the demonization of refugees and asylum seekers.
In the only moment of drama from a relatively subdued event, the far-right protestors knocked down security barriers and an SDL member was dragged away by police.
Attending the counter-demonstration were both Stirling SU presidential candidates Searlas Mac Thoirdealbhaigh and Astrid Smallenbroek.
VP Communities candidate Alasdair Ibbotson, who also took part in the demonstration, released a statement afterwards:
“Today I and your two candidates for Union President stood against the racist SDL in Alloa. Defending our international members is not a partisan issue.”