#FuckParade - An Eyewitness Account and TWO Open Letters

September 27, 2015

Last night I found myself in the thick of the mindless thuggery by the hanger-ons of so-called anarchist group Class War who vandalised the Cereal Killer café on Brick Lane in an anti-gentrification rally dubbed #FuckParade.

You may have already read about this on Twitter, Buzzfeed UK, and the Evening Standard (plus on any news outlets that may have reported this by now. Right now it's 3am as I type this, mere hours after the incident happened) but I'm blogging about it anyway because I was there and what I witnessed firsthand infuriated me so much that I simply must speak my piece. 

It was nine in the evening, past closing time, so Henry and I put up the shutters on our shop - Regimental Vintage - when we heard the mighty din of fireworks going off in Allen Gardens (the public park behind our shop) followed by the sound of a rowdy group marching down from Brick Lane to our end of Cheshire Street. Henry, his friend S, and I popped outside to see what the ruckus was about only to be confronted by a mob. Hundreds of people close to my age (male and female) stomping down the street in a cacophony of blaring music, drunken sing-song, vicious and vulgar taunts - basically baying for blood. It was loud and annoying, even for Shoreditch on a Saturday night. 

The #FuckParade rally congregating at their meeting point - Shoreditch High Street Overground Station.
At first I dismissed it as an obnoxious pub-crawl. But as the group grew ever larger and their tone became ever clearer, it was obvious that they were rabble-rousers trying to intimidate  - their swagger inebriated by booze and the sort of misplaced socialism so often appropriated by the bored who try to assuage their middle-class guilt with demonstrations designed to stroke their own vanity. Then a little dog (I think it was a French bulldog) pelted down the street, absolutely terrified and trying desperately to escape the mob who were kicking at it, throwing cans of beer at it, and trying to rip the poor creature apart with their bare hands. For a moment I was only worried about two things; one, that the dog would run into incoming traffic and be crushed; two, what happened to the dog's owner - had he/she been attacked by these thugs?

Police helicopters and riot police vans arrived at the scene. At this point, neither Henry, S, nor I knew what the devil was going on - only that some of the mob who were chanting "F*ck the police! F*ck the pigs!" were suddenly less cocky as they slipped sheepishly past the police (who were very calmly surveying the situation, not at all displaying any so-called 'police brutality'before muttering obscenities the moment they were out of earshot. What happened to that bravado, then? 

The rally eventually spread from Shoreditch High Street, down Brick Lane, past us on Cheshire Street, up Vallance Road and Bethnal Green Road, before travelling up Old Street and Kingsland Road. Source
We had absolutely no idea what all the kerfuffle was about until I, great internet sleuth that I am, discovered on Twitter that this rally was an anti-gentrification street party dubbed #FuckParade by "anarchist group" Class War. To quote the tripe from their Facebook event page: "Our communities are being ripped apart - by Russian oligarchs, Saudi Sheiks, Israeli scumbag property developers, Texan oil-money twats and our own home-grown Eton toffs. Local authorities are coining it in, in a short sighted race for cash by "regenerating" social housing.  We don't want luxury flats that no one can afford, we want genuinely affordable housing. We don't want pop-up gin bars or brioche buns - we want community...London is our home and worth defending against this onslaught of dog-eat-dog economics. Working class people are being forced out of our homes but we won't go out without a fight." More Tweets I dug up from supporters of Class War and those aligning themselves with Class War and #FuckParade revealed a deluge of hatred for 'hipster scum', capitalism, and 'poshos'My initial reactions were:

Excuse me, what is this thinly veiled xenophobia?! How does race - Russian, Saudi, or Israeli - come into this?  
You're crowdfunding your anti-hipster street party on IndieGogo? That's like the EDL collecting at a mosque. Also, you're protesting against 'hipster scum' how...? By hosting a 'street party' with poi dancers, fire eaters, elaborate costumes, rock concerts? Sorry to break this to you, but you sound like middle-class people b*tching about other middle-class people being middle-class. The irony. 

I can't speak for the working class, but I can't imagine they'd want you to fight for their behalf with displays of violence, obscenity, and such hypocrisy. I'm going to go out on a limb and judge (as you do so well) from your ability to afford expensive cameras, iPhones, costumes and makeup for your 'street party' that you lot are hardly impoverished. Some of you are probably well-off. Perhaps some of you have been to university. I wonder how many of you 'freelance' while living at home with your parents or if you are even born in the very city you're trying to reclaim.

You say you want to ‘reclaim’ London - how can you even claim London? It’s a free city. A city that belongs to the people who call it home. People who have much more respect for its community than you seem to do, judging by how you gleefully smash up shops for no real reason apart for the thrill of it. 

How is your vandalising the Cereal Killer café and making them the "poster boys of gentrification" doing the working class a favour? Eyewitnesses told me that some of your lot threw flaming torches, graffitied the windows, splashed paint all over the shop, and tried to force their way into the café. What are you trying to achieve apart from scaring the women, children, and staff in the cafe, who had to barricade themselves in from your lust for violence? Oh, it's all justified because you think spending £5 on a bowl of cereal deserves an insurrection? Honey, let me break down economics and fair trade for you: if someone wants to spend £5 on a bowl of cereal or £10,000 on a table at The Box, that's their prerogative. Nobody forced you to buy that cereal nor pay for that night out. If you have such a problem with capitalism, why don't you demonstrate outside Westminster or even the Pret and Tesco just up the road? Oh, right, because these large corporations/establishments can afford CCTV cameras that will capture your unlawfulness, security that will apprehend you, and a prosecution team that will see you convicted for criminal damage (and have your iPhones taken from you behind bars - no more Facebook or Twitter!). Unlike an independent business who've worked hard to get to where they are now - which you've tried to cripple with one night of savagery.  

Some of you 'protestors' claim to partake in #FuckParade as a display of solidarity for the socialist cause, to fly the flag of the Left. All you've really done is a) give socialists and Lefties a bad name b) give the Right Wing more ammunition with your poorly-thought out (but well-organised) orgy of boorish behaviour. Do you even understand what socialism is? Do you even remember why you're so angry, or did you just need an excuse to smash things and harass people?

To the 'anarchists' who abused and tried to savagely kill that dog as it ran away from you, do you feel big and brave attacking a defenceless, innocent little animal? Has your "noble cause" benefited from the distress, pain, and possible death of a creature that did you no harm? Do you feel good about hurting animals? You disgust me.

Fair enough, Class War - I agree with you that the property market in London is ridiculous. I also think that the extortionate prices to buy a home in the capital is exploitative. I sympathise with the middle and working-class who can't afford to get on the property ladder until much later in life, if at all - only to be burdened with ridiculous 50-year mortgages that they might be too busy killing themselves to pay off to even enjoy their hard-earned homes. I believe that the city, as a collective, have every right to express their dissatisfaction, to call for change and reform, for a fairer system that allows everyone a fighting chance to own their own homes, to not have to move out of the city the grew up in and love because they've been priced out by investors who buy property they have no intention in living in. I even admit that my understanding of politics is basic at best, and that my privilege protects me from the soul-crushing reality of having to choose between running myself ragged to keep up with a city I cannot afford or moving out of London. BUT I DO NOT condone the actions that some of your followers glorify - vandalising property, harassing people and animals, and the hatred toward fellow Londoners that some of your supporters have openly and publicly displayed (frankly, it reminds me of fascism). Oh, and your use of obscenity, but that's just my problem.

Lest you think my open letter to you, #FuckParade and Class War, is an emotional tirade from the very "hipster-capitalist-foreign-posho" that you seem to despise so much, I present to you another open letter from one who comes from a different background than I - an eloquent address from by boyfriend Henry, a real Londoner, who was with me throughout the incident:

To all whom this addresses,
I am not a blogger, or any writer for that matter, nor am I particularly eloquent. My girlfriend and partner Jasiminne Yip offered me a chance to write this short open letter to anyone this might interest.  
I address the the drama of last night - the so called #FuckParade "protest” against the gentrification of East London and capitalism. 
Firstly may I please state that; although I am sure some may know my political views and some may agree with the "views" of those participating in the nights activities, this sentiment of mine has nothing to do with politics, belief, or of any form of philosophy. 
I am from London. I was born in the East End. While I feel a strong sense of patriotism, I am not naive to what may be called a class struggle. I know first hand the woe of being on the negative end of the City’s uglier money grabbing side, and as much as I have tried fathom to, I cannot in all good faith condone the actions of any so called fellow "socialist". 
I have a small shop - Regimental Vintage - which I built from scratch years ago and eventually got an investor's help with. Last night, I was with one close friend and my girlfriend, about to leave with our meagre takings to return home when we were essentially held under siege by (and I only recount what I saw with my own eyes) a bunch of boozed up early 20-something year olds. All brandishing amongst other things, iPhones and DSLRs in a scene reminiscent of any post-apocalyptic movie. I witnessed these people laying waste to anything they didn’t approve of including someone’s pet dog running in terror from the mob who shrieked in delight as they kicked the defenceless animal.  
I may not be intelligent nor am I a learned man. I have not had the privilege of a university education. Nevertheless I cannot condone this sort of behaviour. A cafe might sell an over-the-counter product at a silly markup. I don’t feel anyone was ever forced to buy their breakfast there. But as I stated I am not a particularly clever man (I could not write this without autocorrect). I do not think that my own disapproval of any establishment warrants my right to attack it and those patronising it.  
If any of the activists are reading this open letter - I may be from London, I am the son of a Sargent Major in the British Army, I have been homeless and I have at times felt like I am a victim of a greedy world but (AND I REPEAT I am NOT an educated man) I do not ask anyone nor can I condone anyone attacking a cafe filled with innocent women and children.  
It is of my (perhaps warped) opinion of London and Londoners that any form of aggressive behaviour on anyone’s behalf will go unnoticed. This city has not only survived, but in fact flourished, after Plagues, Great Fires, Blitzes, riots, and terrorist attacks. Whatever the point might have been all I know is one thing -the people of this wonderful city will never be shocked or frightened into any form of submission by anyone’s vain attempt to frighten us with loud bangs and smashing glass. Last night’s incident only proves on thing - that is that you massively underestimate the bravery and spirit of the Capital city. This is just another Saturday night to me, and I am sure all of London will awake to another day. This little attempt to scare us was as futile and as pointless as going trick or treating a few weeks before Halloween.  
I have seen enough crap happen to my home to ever care or give heed to anyone trying to scare MY people. I might not eat cereal in a trendy bar in Brick Lane but I am going to have a bowl of something there tomorrow because I truly believe all those affected by tonight have more than shown the right strength to call themselves Londoners.
God bless my beautiful hometown London and all those who believe in you…not rich property developers and confused extremists. Those who leave every morning knowing that in this city - with all her faults -  anyone can be whatever they want to be. This is what makes us different to the rest.  
London will always survive. Who am I to tell you what is really the greatest threat to this city? All I know… all I have is an unquestionable, undoubtable faith in this city to shake off the toxic hatred forced on us by violence and bitterness of anyone who wishes to scare us. Hitler’s bombs did nothing to stop this city growing and it’ll be a cold day in Hell when we let a bunch of angry kids who try (and will always fail) to destroy anything they don’t agree with. 
I love this city.  
Love will conquer hate and acceptance will destroy intolerance. Compassion will overcome greed and solidarity will humiliate those who want to tear us apart.  
I might be talking total sh*t but this is just my opinion. Anyone who disagrees with me is absolutely welcome to question anything I say. 
- Henry

I think Henry and I have said all that we have to say about what we witnessed at last night's #FuckParade. It's now six in the morning and I have to be up in a few hours to open our shop and to resume business as usual - as I no doubt believe that Cereal Killer Cafe (and the rest of Brick Lane will do) because no amount of vandalism nor mindless thuggery can or will dampen the spirit of London's East End, or for that matter, the spirit of London. We're here, we have a  dream, and we intend to make it work come rain or shine - and that, I believe, is what makes our city so special - capitalists or not. 

Where were you last night? 
Did you witness #FuckParade - whether in Camden, Southbank, or Shoreditch? 
What do you think about this Class War? 

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