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Racial Volunteer Force clashes with student protesters at Royal Holloway

On Saturday the 22nd October, a political group called the Racial Volunteer Force organised a demonstration at the main gate of the Royal Holloway campus.

Prompted by an ongoing case involving two outsourced cleaning staff, hired by the company, CleanTech, contracted by the Students’ Union, they arrived at the entrance just after 2pm, carrying flags, banners, and a megaphone.

The 10 men and 1 woman were met with a throng of at least 50 students, which grew to maybe 80 or even 100 later on, brandishing their own banners and homemade flags. Their anti-fascist agenda was made clear as chants of “Nazi scum, off our streets” arose to welcome the arrival of the RVF.

In both groups, faces could be seen covered by scarves, wary of betraying their identity to the opposition as well as the handful of police and security employed to maintain order in the tense environment.

There had been a certain degree of tension on campus ever since the RVF had announced their plans to demonstrate against the university.

This followed the alleged removal of two outsourced cleaners working for the company, CleanTech, contracted by the Students’ Union. A statement by the university claims they were “removed” for their “associations with a group known for violent and discriminatory views”.

Mark Atkinson was one of those cleaners. A key member of the RVF, he was prosecuted in 2005, with five others, for distributing a magazine called Stormer, with the intention of stirring up race hate.

He said, he felt he’d been “stabbed in the back”, when he was, in his words, fired. “I lost my job for nothing”, he said. He defended his 8-year tack record, and firmly denied he’d ever brought his politics into work, keenly highlighting his work with a multi-ethnic group of staff.

The other cleaner, whose face was covered, echoed a similar sentiment, asserting that he was demonstrating against “political discrimination”.

Both told me they were facing financial strain, with debt and the pressure of university-going children.

Another man, wearing a camouflaged cap, explained that the protest was against “double standards”, and defended the cleaners’ involvement in the Shomrim protest: he called that demonstration “grossly misinterpreted”.

Their fight with the university seemed fairly apolitical. However, as they spoke, a flag with the words “White Pride World Wide” fluttered behind them, and they taunted the student counter-demonstration with “Communists!” and “Lefties!”

Jeremy Turner, leader of the “anti-politically correct” London Forum, even included the phrase “rights for whites” in his speech.

As each speaker gave their views in turn, the students in the counter demonstration continued to sporadically chant and jeer, seemingly bemused by the RVF’s rhetoric.

At one point, water balloons and a solitary egg were thrown across the main gate.

I spoke to the organiser of the student protest. He was proud of the way everyone had behaved, and called the student turnout “amazing”.

“We are really happy with how it went,” he said, “it was exactly as the organisers expected… we knew it wouldn’t turn violent.”

He reiterated the need to stand up against extreme politics.

“We feel that when fascists mobilise, it is important to meet them on the street” or else “it allows a space for fascist viewpoints to be normalised, which enables these groups to recruit.”

He also expressed a will to make students more aware of the right-wing presence in Egham, especially in the context of threats of future “flash demos”, promised by the RVF on their RHULDemo Twitter page.