Anti-fascist and pro-LGBTQ+ demonstrators greatly outnumbered the “rag-tag handful” of far-right protesters who turned up at the Honor Oak Pub in Lewisham, South East London.
While the pub is taking a break from its family-friendly programme of drag storytelling events over the summer, anti-drag protesters continued to target the venue on Saturday (26 August).
The protest promoted on social media by a group called Concerned Parents UK.
The community was quick to respond, with anti-fascist group Stand up to Racism calling on “activists, trade unionists and everyone who wants to stop the far-right intimidating the LGBT+ community” to show their opposition to anti–LGBTQ+ hate.
Only a handful of Concerned Parents UK supporters showed up, some wearing Donald Trump and red MAGA baseball caps. They were easily drowned out by the much larger presence of LGBTQ-supportive counter-protesters, with a strong trade union presence.
The Honor Oak Pub has been repeatedly targeted by far-right groups for hosting drag queen storytelling events – and the local community has consistently come out in full force to support the venue, and outnumbered anti-drag protestors.
Previously, the protests have been led by Turning Point UK – an offshoot of an American right-wing group closely aligned with indicted former president Donald Trump.
Who are Concerned Parents UK?
Concerned Parents UK appears to be made up of a mix of groups known for Islamaphobic rhetoric, which have now decided to target the LGBTQ+ community and attack trans rights.
According to the Concerned Parents UK website, the group is against trans teenagers accessing gender-affirming care and say they “stand against the explicit nature of sex education in schools, and the disturbing drag queen story times that are taking place in pubs and libraries around the country”.
(Facebook/Concerned Parents UK/Screenshot by PinkNews)
The group is the result of a partnership between the Football Lads Alliance (FLA) and Veterans Against Terrorism – two organisations that have consistently denied any connections with the far-right and claim that they do not tolerate any racist views.
The groups were formed in response to terror attacks, including the 2005 London bombing and 2017 Manchester Arena attack, but their activity seemed to largely fizzle out after holding two marches in 2017.
At the Concerned Parents UK launch event in Birmingham on 15 July, Richard Inman of Veterans Against Terrorism spoke of the need to “breathe life” into the movement and “broaden it”, referring to opposing gender-affirming care, trans rights – and drag queen events at the Honor Oak Pub.
“I don’t want a drag queen reading a story to my granddaughter and none of you do either, that’s got to stop. And you know what, we are going to stop it,” Inman said.
He then segued into talking about knife crime, and the need to come together in racial “unity” before discussing plans to hold pickets outside hotels housing migrants.
In 2017, Stand Up to Racism released screengrabs of a Facebook conversation in which Inman says the “entire Muslim religion is antichrist” and an Instagram post that calls on people to join “the struggle against the Islamisation of the UK”.
A member of Turning Point UK also reportedly spoke at the Concerned Parents UK launch event.
The Football Lads Alliance
The motto of the Football Lads Alliance, meanwhile, is “Against All Extremism” and they claim to oppose racism. They held two demos in 2017, with ex-English Defence League (EDL) leader and convicted criminal Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) attending the second.
Far-right monitoring group Hope Not Hate reportedly said the FLA initially “made a genuine attempt to ensure that it was not a racist group and tried to focus on Islamist extremists, rather than Islam in general.”
Yet since then, it has been described as “giving cover to the far right”, with reports of the FLA using a “secret Facebook page full of violent, racist and misogynistic posts“.
Founder John Meighan stepped down in 2018 after “the Royal British Legion refused a donation from the FLA for their “inappropriate use of the poppy.”
The FLA and Veterans Against Terrorism largely deteriorated since then, but appear to be attempting a sort of renaissance by by targeting family-friendly drag events at the Honor Oak Pub.