I arrived at Honor Oak at around 7.30am on the morning of 29th September. Although the demo was to start around 9:30 am, I thought it was best to arrive early.
This was the 8th time the far right group “Turning Point UK”, an offshoot of Turning Point US threatened to disrupt drag queen storytime, along with a group calling themselves “concerned parents”, with no success. The last demo had begun with a particularly awful incident where one protester had been violently attacked by a member of TP, and then by a police officer.
The outside of the pub was fairly quiet to start with, barring only a handful of SWP and Stand Up To Racism members, who had many of their signs and banners up on the walls and pavement. One of them told me that the drag queen was not actually due to give story time to kids that day. This has also been the case for the last 3 months. The police presence at this point was fairly minimal, at around only 5-officers and 2 vans. Over the next hour, several more antifascist and LGBTQ+ protesters arrived, and continued throughout the day, as did police officers.
It was around 9:30 that the first anti-drag protestor appeared. A heavy set man in his 50’s with a dark red top and cap. Everybody ran to the man shouting “alerta” (a warning often used by antifascists to alert others of a fascists presence) while he took his phone out and instantly started calling the antifascist counter protestors “groomers”. Police stood in between the man and us. It wasn’t long after that he had company. This was right outside the Whistles Hair & Laser Clinic across the road, who were open throughout the protest. Many of these protestors were mostly middle aged and only a few of them were women. Only 2 of them looked under the age of 20. The antifascist crowd by comparison was much more diverse.
One middle-aged woman (seen in the picture above) was provoking the antifascist crowd by making statements such as “drag queens shouldn’t be twerking in front of kids” and “an 8 years old mind will get mixed up by storytime”. As I was near the front of the antifascist crowd, I asked her if she had any evidence to prove these claims. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she didn’t provide any. She then went on to say she “didn’t have any problems with trans people” only to then say moments later to me that “most trans people like you have mental illnesses”. This was met with disgust from our crowd.
Many of the anti fascist and LGBTQ+ counter protestors sung various chants such as “Whose streets? Our Streets!” and “South London is anti fascist!” Many came with various signs stating “Drag is Diversity, not Grooming” and “Trans Rights are Human Rights”. Another was “What are you so afraid of? It’s only wigs and Makeup!”
All throughout the day it was believed that Lawrence Fox would turn up. This was just a few days after his dismissal from the right wing news channel “GB News” due to his comments about political journalist Ava Evans. By 11:30 it seemed that he wouldn’t be turning up. However about 11:45 (2 hours after the Turning Point protestors initially arrived) he finally did turn up.
By this point I had moved to the other side of the road from the Whistles Hair & Laser Clinic. As he turned up on the other side of the road the police pressed themselves against us on the curb and there was quite a commotion. Many of us nearly tripped on the curb, whilst they were shouting at us to get back, using aggressive force. I managed to jump on a small brick wall which fortunately gave me a good vantage point for some of my pictures. Meanwhile Fox was showing off to his fellow protestors, and insulting the antifascists by joining in on the chants of “groomers”.
By this point there were still only around 25-30 Turning Point protestors, while our crowd had only increased in size.
A woman wearing a white coat, unaware of the protest, walked down the street mere metres from Fox. She walked towards him and seemed to have something important to say to him. Unfortunately I was too far away to hear any of the conversation, but judging by her body language, it seems that she didn’t have any positive words to say to him.
After shouting at anti fascist and LGBTQ+ protesters and dancing awkwardly for around 45 mins, Fox ultimately decided to leave.
The protest still continued for a while until 12:45, when Turning Point ultimately called it a day and promptly left the street. One fellow counter protester later stated they went to the Wetherspoons near Forest Hill, although it’s quite hard to confirm this.
It was later on social media that I learned of a large sign that was held up by Turning Point that depicted the same protester mentioned at the beginning of this article. It showed this protester shortly after she was attacked from the last Honor Oak demo, where she was bleeding from her mouth and nose. This was a photoshopped image, featuring an Academy Award in her hand, accompanied by the caption: “And the award for best actor goes to…” implying that the blood was produced by a red pen in her pocket, encircled in on the banner.
These are the types of people that Lawrence Fox is allied with, and it’s incredibly important to stand up to this kind of bigotry and call it out when it’s necessary.
In conclusion, it seemed the antifascist counter protest was a success. Turning Point didn’t even get within metres of the pub, despite there being no drag queen storytime at all.