Britain First had a day of action this past weekend in Hexthorpe, a village just south of Doncaster town centre in South Yorkshire. They uploaded a video to their website and Facebook.
Residents of Hexthorpe, an area made infamous by the Daily Mail and Daily Express for having an out-of-control Roma population has seen a high-level of anti-social crime as well as other offences such as fly-tipping and litter, in addition to some violent crimes and drug offences. Local Britain First officers and activists arrived on (Saturday) to distribute leaflets in the village.
The video of their day action shows Britain First members slipping leaflets through mail-slots and talking to residents. While residents complain about gangs and intimidating anti-social behaviour, Britain First was clearly in town to provoke and agitate minority residents in the area. They mention a number of ‘Muslims’ (though they are never shown on camera), that have shouted abuse at them and ‘threatened’ them. Further, the Britain First activists are seen in front of a group of youths and eventually began to provoke them on camera.
The location of this ‘day of action’ and the approach that Britain First has taken is quite important. As they did with the management of Star City Vue Cinema in Birmingham, Britain First confronted locals based on reports that they were given from the media. In the video, they used screenshots from the Daily Mail and Daily Express about ‘Roma’ gangs terrorising Hexthorpe. This means that reporting about ‘immigrants,’ ‘asylum-seekers,’ and ‘benefits scroungers,’ in papers like the Daily Mail and the Daily Express have, it seems, a direct influence on far-right activism, giving them legitimacy to make accusations and inflame community tensions.
While it is absolutely true that Hexthorpe has had a problem with anti-social crime in the last year, which the Daily Mail reports is based on lax immigration policies allowing Roma communities into the UK. This ‘day of action’ was directed against the Roma population in Hexthorpe and the Britain First video opens with random shots of ‘brown bodies’ going about their day as if it were some sort of crime. Britain First actually offers no proof of anti-social behaviour by any Roma people in the area, but paints them as such based on their different skin colour. In addition, the Britain First activists handed out anti-Muslim leaflets featuring Drummer Lee Rigby.
Instead of encouraging a dialogue between community groups, or even simply speaking with Hexthorpe residents about what they would like done differently, Britain First activists have stormed in, handed out misleading literature, and called for “immigrants out!” This kind of action serves only to deepen community tensions and the racist undertones that motivate Britain First are clear in the video and through their language which constantly draws on divisions between ‘English’ people and all the other ‘immigrants’.