‘Progressive extremism’ – casting doubt on the racial justice cause

11 February 2021 — Institute of Race Relations

If a Telegraph interview with the government’s ‘independent adviser on political violence and disruption’ is anything to go by (see our calendar on racism and resistance), a review of the activities of the ‘extreme fringes at both ends of the political spectrum’ will focus extensively on the threat posed by so-called ‘progressive extremism’ – ie, environmental and racial justice causes, despite the admission that the far Right presents a greater danger. Bristol following the fall of Colston, which we publish this week on IRR News, reveals just how BLM and decolonisation activists (presumably those progressive extremists) are already treated as a threat to the state. Rosie Wild reports on recent protests in Bristol in support of the ‘Colston Four’, who have been charged with criminal damage for the toppling of the statue, and how their online protests have been hijacked by racists.

The uneven and partial hand of policing protest is now quite overt in the US in the wake of the Capitol siege. US experts on the history of policing, Jarrod Shanahan and Tyler Wall, have written a Race & Class blog on the 6 January violent protest in the Capitol and the police’s Blue Lives Matter movement, which emerged as an explicit rebuke to the BLM movement. They describe that disorienting moment when it became clear that far-right protesters included off-duty police, who held the Thin Blue Line flag aloft even as they clashed with on-duty police.

Could we see similar rank and file grassroots police activism develop across Europe, including here in the UK, either in support of far-right causes or as part of the pushback against independent scrutiny of police (mis)behaviour? The trend has already started in Belgium and France, where rank and file officers have demonstrated, throwing handcuffs to the ground and sounding sirens in opposition to accusations of systemic racism and the French government’s attempt, following the asphyxiation death of delivery driver Cédric Chouviat, to ban the lethal chokehold. While nothing quite on this scale has happened in the UK as yet, we have begun to see the Blue Lives Matter slogan (and the thin blue line twitter avatar) appear on social media posts as a riposte to BLM and in defence of police weaponry such as Tasers.

IRR News team


The world watched as the statue of Edward Colston was rolled, pushed and dragged into Bristol Harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest in June 2020. But what have been the further ramifications of the event in Bristol? Rosie Wild reports on recent protests that have taken place in Bristol to support the ‘Colston 4’, who have been charged with criminal damage.

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Two Race & Class authors, Jarrod Shanahan and Tyler Wall, explain the disorienting image of far-right protesters, including off-duty cops, holding the pro-police Thin Blue Line flag aloft as they clashed with on-duty Washington D.C. and Capitol police on 6 January. Their full analysis in Fight the Red, Support the Blue: The John Birch Society, Blue Lives Matter, and the US Counter-Subversive Tradition is forthcoming in Race & Class.

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This week’s calendar continues to document the conditions at Napier barracks asylum seeker acccommodation, after a fire broke out on the 29th January.

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We’ve had record orders come in for our special edition with lots of great feedback on social media. Order your copy today from our website.

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Posted in: UK

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