Student anti-racism demonstrators gathered outside the Victoria Rooms on Wednesday to protest recent action by a far-right group in Bristol.
The University of Bristol building was the target of a stunt on Monday, in which the fountain water was dyed red, in reference to Enoch Powell’s infamous Rivers of Blood speech.
Responsibility for Monday’s action was taken by the group Generation Identity, who describe themselves as a “pan-European Identitarian Movement”.
Demonstrator organiser Sophia Beach from Stand Up to Racism said the goal of the demonstration was to “put the pressure on the racists to say they’re not welcome”.
“This kind of action is a step up so we’ve called the demonstration today to say no fascists are welcome on our streets,” she said.
“This is our community and their attempt to create a hostile environment for Muslims and refugees will not go unchallenged.”
Protesters chanted “say it loud say it clear, refugees are welcomed here” and “no borders, no nations, stop deportations”.
University of Bristol student Ellie said she was “very frustrated” after learning about the actions of Generation Identity and said it “shouldn’t be something present in the university or around the university”.
Another protester Jen said she was attending because she was “appalled by the rise of racism across the country and particularly Bristol”.
“It gives confidence to anti-racists and puts a marker out to other people to say they’re not alone in their anti-racism” Jen added.
Who are Generation Identity?
Generation Identity describe themselves as a “non-violent youth movement that highlights the need for open and honest public debate about immigration policies”.
The group grew out of the Identitarian movement in the youth wing of the far-right French Bloc Identitaire.
In their list of demands on their website they call for a “long overdue debate on the question of our identity”.
In the summer of 2017 Generation Identity groups across Europe were involved in the Defend Europe campaign, which aimed to hamper the work of NGO’s (Non-governmental organisers) saving the lives of refugees crossing the Mediterranean.
Rivers of Blood Speech
During Monday’s action a sign was placed next to the fountain that read #riversofblood, drawing strong criticism from left wing groups in Bristol.
The speech was originally made in 1968 by Conservative MP Enoch Powell, and strongly criticised rising immigration numbers and the process of mass immigration.
Despite it’s notoriety, the expression “rivers of blood” doesn’t actually appear in the speech, but is an allusion to a line from Virgil’s Aeneid that Powell quoted, “as I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood.”
Rivers of Blood was brought to national attention again in April 2018, when it was broadcast by the BBC to mark it’s 50th anniversary, a decision that was met with backlash from anti-racism groups and commentators.