LD50 gallery: Anti-fascist protesters march through Dalston
PUBLISHED: 09:08 27 February 2017 | UPDATED: 13:50 27 February 2017
Two hundred anti-fascist protesters flocked to Kingsland Road on Saturday morning to march against the controversial LD50 art gallery.
The gallery has been accused of supporting neo-Nazis after it emerged it had hosted an “alt-right” exhibition and anti-democratic conference featuring extreme far-right speakers.
The protest, which turned into a march down Kingsland Road, was organised by the Shutdown LD50 campaign.
“We had a successful day,” organiser Andrew Osborne told the Gazette. “Local people seemed to know all about it and we handed out 2,005 flyers.”
Speeches were made as people, many wearing masks and holding home-made signs, protested outside the gallery in Tottenham Road, which remained closed for the day. The police officers who were on the scene had little to do.
Far-right supporters had threatened to stage a counter-protest but no one turned up.
At one stage the crowd turned its anger towards a man holding a sign saying he was there to defend “the right to openly discuss ideas”. “You believe in a platform for hate – for oppression,” protesters shouted.
“I believe it’s my duty to stand here and stand up for free discussion of ideas,” said the man, who gave his name as DC Miller.
“For fascism,” they responded.
One woman told him: “Look at you. You’re not even from here,” before another protester criticised her for using what sounded like anti-immigration rhetoric.
Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville said after the protest Hackney “support[s] artistic freedom of expression and free speech” but added: “There are clear limits. Racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism and xenophobia have no place in Hackney.
“We condemn businesses such as LD50 which promote and give a platform to racism, xenophobia and hate speech. We should not allow hate to become normalised or acceptable.”
He added he had asked police borough commander Det Ch Supt Simon Laurence to “look into the actions of LD50 and to explore whether the law has been broken and how we can work together to reassure the wider community”.
LD50 held talks from extreme far-right speakers last summer. One of them, Brett Stevens, said on his blog amerika.org that they had been held behind a “veil of secrecy” to prevent attacks from the left.
Gallery director Lucia Diego has denied this, telling the Gazette last week that invitations had been sent to gallery members and a Facebook page was created but then made “private” after abusive messages.
Stevens has spoken of the “bravery” of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian white supremacist who killed 77 people in 2011.
Another speaker, Peter Brimelow, has been described by US anti-fascist organisation Southern Poverty Law Center as a “leading anti-immigrant activist”.
Gallery director Lucia Diego last week defended her business, saying: “Our position has always been that the role of art is to provide a vehicle for the free exploration of ideas, even and perhaps especially where these are challenging, controversial or indeed distasteful for some individuals to contemplate.”
But Mr Osborne, who works at the Royal College of Art, called its work “one of the most extensive neo-Nazi cultural programmes to appear in London in the last decade”.
In a statement, he said: “Campaigners wish to make clear that their hate speech cannot be ‘free speech’ when it advocates violence in the pursuit of authoritarianism and racial supremacy.
“It is imperative that this is not allowed to continue, that the gallery is shut down, and those responsible for it understand that their views are not welcome in our diverse city.
“The materials produced by the gallery, and the culture they promote, are a real threat to many of the communities living in Dalston.”