An Act of Pure Compassion, on a Day of Pure Hatred.
Amongst the far-right counter-protests over the weekend, one act of human kindness broke through all the violence.
Words by William Cooper.
As Patrick Hutchinson, a black man, carried an unknown white man over his shoulder away from the battleground in Central London, protected on all sides by his friends Pierre Noah, Jamaine Facey, Lee Russell and Chris Otokito, the reality of the world around them seemed to fade away.
Indeed, as I saw the photo that was quickly whipped up into the media frenzy it became, the reality of COVID; the horror of George Floyd’s murder; the subsequent protests and riots throughout the western world, all seemed to become white noise.
What remained was blessed human compassion, blind to race, gender, ethnicity, and sex. Just a group of friends risking their own lives, even though they did not know the man they were saving.
The events in London over the weekend fully exposed the counter-protests for what they truly were. The people who attended were not there to protect the statues of Churchill and others. The statues did not need protecting; they had been encased in metal boxes days earlier.
They were not there to counter-demonstrate and oppose the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, because the BLM movement was not there; they had cancelled all London protests over the weekend on Friday, although one anti-racism protest did eventually occur on the day (which is where Patrick and his friends saved the unknown white man).
They were not there to support the Police in handling the small minority of violent protestors that had erupted out of the BLM demonstrations in the past; because the footage of the subsequent demonstrations were mostly scenes of far-right activists physically attacking the police and instigating violence.
They were not even there to promote an overarching far-right message. The entirety of the demonstrations mostly consisted of small subsets of activists. They were not allied with one another; there was no common goal.
So, they weren’t there to protect; they weren’t there to oppose; they weren’t there to support, and they weren’t there to promote. So why were they there?
The answer is clear: they were there for violence; to demonstrate a show of strength. The protestors over the weekend, what the Guardian have called “self-styled “statue defenders””, were largely organised by the far-right group, Britain First. They were never there to peacefully protest through democratic means, expressing an articulate and valid counterpoint. They were there to fight. And fight they did.
Among this however, something more sinister also accompanied some of them. In the air, alongside the reek of alcohol that came from the protestors, the stench of Fascism was thick. Indeed, video footage can be seen of protestors demonstrating the ‘Sieg Heil’ salute, before attacking police officers. If someone was struggling to condemn these far-right protests, then that would be the tipping point. If you struggle to condemn Nazism, then you really are in trouble.
People demonstrating ‘Sieg Heil’ in London of all places, is the very thing that thousands of people sacrificed their lives for in order to prevent from happening. Many of the protestors would claim to be ‘truly British’ or a ‘patriot’. If they are the real people of this country, then quite frankly, I don’t want to be British.
Moreover, a photo of a man urinating on the memorial of PC Keith Palmer, a police officer who was killed in the Westminster terrorist attack in 2017, merely adds to the thoughtlessness of the protestors. The man urinating eventually turned himself in to be arrested, only adding to the over 100 arrests that were made on the day by the Metropolitan Police.
There is a method to all this madness, however. Through all this violence, from both movements, the true meaning of all these protests are slowly washed away. The BLM movement that has engulfed the USA and UK was a direct consequence of the horrific police violence in Minneapolis. But, to commit acts of violence in response to an act of violence, doesn’t cancel out the problem. This isn’t theoretical mathematics. This is real life, and two wrongs do not make a right.
Meeting violence with violence creates more violence, not peace. Concerning the violence on behalf of the BLM movement, this violence is personally so frustrating to see. It de-rails the cause completely as soon as one bottle is thrown, or as soon as one person falls to the floor in fear and anguish. The protestors need to be militant in their restraint. All the media need is one act of violence to splash on the 6 O’clock news, and the movement loses its mandate. Each act of violence is simultaneous with:
A) a decrease in popular support.
B) the undermining of the initial cause.
C) condemnation of the movement by the Establishment.
Concerning the violence of the far-right counter-protests, it is easier to understand this violence, but it is as equally vile as any BLM violence. The difference is that this violence is so terribly transparent in its intention. The far-right have no cause to fight for; indeed, it is this vacuum of responsibility and causation that gives them so much aggression.
They are not only furious with who they direct the violence at, they are also frustrated with themselves because no matter how hard they look, they cannot find a legitimate reason for the violence. Yet they commit it anyway. This is where groups such as the EDL, BNP, and Britain First come in. They give these people, who under all the hatred are the same as you and me, a cause that fills their void of reason. Of course, it is based on malice, xenophobia, racism, and hatred. But it works nonetheless, because a person without responsibility is a person without meaning.
That is what these counter-protests are searching for. They are searching for some kind of meaning. A reason for being ‘truly British’ or being a ‘patriot’. However, through this search for meaning:
1) people get seriously hurt.
2) the perfectly valid patriotism of Britishness that many believe in becomes tarred by the extreme actions of the few.
3) The protestors divide further an island that is already fiercely segregated.
But then we return to Patrick Hutchinson, as he carries a man over his shoulder out of the heart of the protest, surrounded by his friends, to a place of safety. I can only wonder what the injured man said to Patrick as he placed him on the floor to be seen to by the emergency services.
Patrick, in his numerous interviews with Channel 4, ITV and other networks, never said if there was any conversation between the victim and himself. But I quite like the fact that I don’t know. It portrays a sense of privacy and dignity to the incredibly selfless act that Patrick and his friends committed.
Because that one moment of pure kindness is where the antidote to all that is wrong in the world lies. One man, putting aside his group identity to save another man’s life, whose identity would likely not be the same as his.