As advertised, the assembled forces of the far-right, their hangers-on, and other sundry opportunists converged on London’s Whitehall to enjoy their right to speak freely, present any and every speaker they wished, and then moan the house down that they were being denied that same free speech, as well as the freedom to assemble, which they just did.
If that sounds confusing, it is because those participating in today’s gathering appear to be just that. They have freedom of speech. They have freedom of assembly. They have the freedom to move around their country, and indeed many other countries. It is not about freedom of speech. It is about a combination of Islamophobia and paranoia. We can see this from the observations of those watching this singularly unappealing spectacle.
Stand Up To Racism summed up the tolerance on show: “Video of the far right thugs of ‘Democratic Football Lads Alliance’ and Tommy Robinson followers trying to attack anti racists in Downing Street”. The news that Raheem “Call me Ray” Kassam had arrived prompted one Tweeter to note “A brown person is there so they're not racists”.
Mike Stuchbery was there on the ground, as it were, and his summaries of the action, plus the speeches, gives a good idea of what it was all about. “This isn't about freedom of speech. This is anti-Islam … Speaker: 'Theyre boxing us in, they're keeping us quiet, telling us it's wrong to say things about religion... Especially the barbaric one.’”
There was more from Mr S: “'Is Sadiq turning London into a shithole? YES!' - Raheem Kassam”. Predictable attempt by a talentless nonentity to score points by slagging off someone who is well-known and more popular than he is. Then there was the brains trust currently leading UKIP, and you’ll love this one. “‘What we're seeing is an unholy alliance between the Far Left and big business…' - Gerard Batten, just now”. He gets invited on Peston on Sunday and he’s full of stuff like that? Ri-i-i-i-ight.
Jo Phillips also had the measure of the far right: “The other thing about these #DayForFreedom eejits is ... they are very paranoid. So far we've had - the people in that van are scrambling all our phone signals - twitter are stopping it trending - the police are staring at me”. And what kind of subjects were they into discussing?
This you’ll love: “These speakers are doing a pretty shoddy job of trying to pretend they aren't bigots so far I'll recap ‘Islam … Islam … Diane Abbott … Islam … Snowflakes … Islam”. And then it all went a bit OTT: “Shazia H just made a ‘Muslims rape animals’ joke Sorry but there's a point at which the police need to speak to these organisers”.
That was all it was about - slagging off and goading Muslims. As for real freedom of speech, we already knew “Tommy Robinson has banned @AliDawow from speaking at the #DayForFreedom event”. It wasn’t about that - as Hope Not Hate had to point out, “Speakers are complaining about not being allowed to attack Islam by attacking Islam from a big stage in the centre of London in front of a big crowd, within shouting distance of No10”. The free speech angle is a fraud. It’s all about pushing hate speech.
And when it all kicks off, it will all be someone else’s fault. I’ll just leave that one there.