On the 10th February, we descended on Manchester University to fight for our right to free speech. Other than the usual SAT members we get at these events, we were supported by concerned parents and people from groups such as British Lions for Freedom, Patriots of Britain, The North Unites, and The Peoples Resistance.
The event was covered by numerous livestreamers including, the National Housing Party, Harv, TKE Media, The Grey Area, and Brexit Brian, further being covered by photographer (as well as author) Martin Geddes and independent filmmaker Steve30.
As mentioned by the “Anti”fascists online, two out of our eight hitherto planned speakers had not turned up; Ben Walker and Jasmine. Regarding Ben, we received a message from him early that same morning telling us he had fallen ill, and though he originally planned on powering through it, it’d become increasingly worse by the day the protest arrived.
We all wish Ben a speedy recovery.
Regarding his “sex pest” behaviour that was pointed out by the Manchester Antifascist Collective, an investigation was conducted by James which found that Rebecca Jane had formerly done this to other colleagues and some of the pictures were doctored. We’ve decided to take no further action, and that Ben is, and always will be, welcome to attend SAT events.
In terms of Jasmine, she was with us on the 9th evening, and early morning of the 10th. Many issues occurred that had to be dealt with, and thus her dad ended up throwing a hissy fit, because of decisions made by him, that led him to drive home on the 10th rather than attend our protest. They went for breakfast in the morning, and then didn’t message me until I asked where they were at 2pm. We refuse to comment further on this situation, at least for the time being.
We also reserve the right to neglect to comment on the Nick Buckley situation, as we hope to resolve that in private.
Other than the little known fact that nothing goes smoothly no matter how much effort you put into organising it, the demo went really well. We were supported by roughly 25 individuals, which was less than our last protest, however, our message was delivered to far more people considering our position meant that many bystanders were able to watch from afar.
Though Antifa, who maintained 50 in numbers, attempted to drown us out, the truth prevailed, and our sound system was ultimately louder.
The Antifa counterprotest was composed of members from the Manchester Antifascist Assembly, Gays Against Nazis, and the Socialist Workers Party, along with Stand Up to Racism who were supported by the local student unions. Antifa was led by Sky Harrison, aka Sky Golding from Wythenshawe, Cheshire, with the aim of disrupting our protest. I’m pleased to say, their attempt was futile, completely failing in their agenda.
James, Syd, and British Lions for Freedom turned up to Manchester University at around 12.15, setting everything up by around 1. The speeches began at half 1, and included testimonies from James Harvey, Wes, Jack Thomson, Brian Lomas, Damon Sharp, and Nick Buckley.
Though most speeches went without a hiccup, midway through Nick Buckleys speech at roughly 14.30, thousands of pro-Palestinians led by Muslims in masks ran towards our protest to join the counter demonstration. Despite GMP facilitating the protest extremely well, we did note that not only were they aware of them heading in our direction, but they orchestrated it in order to intimidate James into shutting down the protest.
MAFC0161 (Manchester Antifascist Collective) is claiming responsibility for their short-lived appearance, saying it was pre-planned.
Once we were completely surrounded by Palestine supporters chanting “fascist scum of our streets”, James was approached by a sergeant who said “It’s getting dangerous now James, It’s time to call it a day I reckon”. Frozen, unsure of how to respond, he looked around to see female supporters of which he was incredibly worried for the safety of.
James reluctantly agreed. Midway through packing up, however, the Palestinians turned around and left, along with Antifa. He immediately turned to Helen and said “right, the protest is back on”, which subsequently led to the sergeant reapproaching him and saying “I thought you were packing up”.
We spent £600 minimum on the protest, we weren’t going to give up that easily. The risk to our supporters was gone, and so the protest continued, despite objections from GMP. Though, we will take a moment to recognise that our personal liaison officer understood our decision to keep going, and did a really good job on the day. The entire team wants to personally thank her for all the hard work she’s put in.
Once finishing with the final three speeches, we packed up, and headed to a Brewdog pub, right next to where the protest occurred. We were finished by around 1630.
As a team we apologise for how long the protest was, and want to thank everyone for turning up and sending the message that we will not be intimidated by far left thugs.
Objects were hurled at members of SAT, Wes was followed and called a fascist, and one of our supporters punched a member of Antifa for physical intimidation tactics aimed at Sydney Jones.
Members of Antifa accused James of being domestically abusive towards his girlfriend Sydney for a t-shirt she was wearing that read “Property of James Harvey”. This t-shirt was clearly a joke, and it did its proper job which was winding up the far left.
We have heard from Antifa Public Watch that arrests were made – on Antifas side – and they have begun naming and shaming all far left thugs involved in attacking, or throwing objects at members of our team.
Personally, we never spotted any arrests made, though we most likely missed them with everything else going on.
Leaflets were also handed out, of which claims that James is an “anti-semitic Zionist”, further stipulating the old outdated allegations of “holocaust denial”.
These leaflets also claimed that John had renounced SAT in a news article claiming he’s never heard of us. Ourselves and John were in talks before we organised the first demonstration, which is backed up by an interview he did with James, during the time he was working at Voice of Wales.
Behind the scenes footage was filmed – due to the amount of content filmed, editing will not be a speedy process. Despite BTS footage taking a while, the speeches should be out this week, we are just awaiting files from our cameraman.
Antifa seems to be under the misguided opinion that they won that day. Videos online show that Antifa, who are predominantly student led, were shouting down a protest about the issues of free speech within university campuses. If anything, them being there proved our point. They made us the most talked about student group in Manchester.
Next, we hope to protest outside the University of East Anglia for allowing men to change in women’s changing rooms, before heading to Liverpool for another free speech protest.
We can officially confirm, this was our last protest in Manchester… or is it?
-Students Against Tyranny