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Who are Generation Identity?
In October 2017, a banner was hung from Westminster Bridge stating “Defend London. Stop Islamisation”. Unbeknownst to many, this was a signal of intent made by Generation Identity (GI) -who claim to be a ‘pan-European identitarian movement’ – that they have arrived in the UK, and are here to stay.
Fast forward 11 months, the newly formed UK and Ireland branch are now being dubbed as ‘hipster fascists… breathing new life into the far-right’. Indeed, the roots of GI show room for concern.
Originating in France, ‘Génération Identitaire’ hold that we must “call on the youth to raise their heads: face to the scum [sic], to those who want to flick [sic] our lives and our thoughts”. They proudly declare that they are the “first line of resistance” and “we do not refuse any battle”. This war-like tone continues in their official “declaration of war”; to cure Europe’s economic, cultural and religious problems, and stop what they believe is the ‘forced mixing of races’ for the current generation, against the “racaille” – ‘scum’. Throughout this, they constantly emphasize that it is ‘us vs them’ – that we need to act, that they are coming, they are causing problems, and something must be done. This is embodied in Aurelien Verhassel – the leader of GI in Lille – stating that “a terrorist is just an impatient Muslim”, and that once the Muslims have left, mosques will no longer be needed.
The UK branch have sought to propagate a less antagonistic and prejudicial view of their French counterparts, yet the cracks are starting to appear.
Who are GI and what do they want?
Like many other Identitarian movements, GI’s beliefs are grounded in the mythical great replacement theory. Coined by Renaud Camus, he infamously held that native white Europeans are being colonised by Africans, emphasizing a desire for foreigners to “stay foreign”, and GI have embraced this theory. They want to ‘re-migrate’, not only those who have entered the country illegally, but also legal migrants, stating “concerning legal immigration, The Great Replacement in Europe requires us to work towards reversing migration flows”. This, for GI, will lead to the preservation of European ‘ethno-cultural identity’, stop globalisation and impede the supposed ’islamisation of Europe’.
On the same page, GI also advocates support for ‘aid on the ground’ for countries affected by war and poverty. However, there has seemingly been no attempt to discuss or implement any such initiatives. In fact, their previous stunts show a disregard for this policy, such as GI’s attempt to block the entrance of Muslim refugees in their botched ‘Defence Europe’ project, where they obstructed rescue boats in the Mediterranean from reaching safe land, with their French equivalents staging protests at the Calais refugee camp.
Moreover, of late, their far-right sympathies have become more overt, prompting Facebook to ban GI from their platform – citing policies against extremist content and organised hate groups. A key figure in the UK movement, Jordon Diamond (AKA James Windsor), has also highlighted his support for the white-supremacist march in Charlottesville (consisting of far-right extremists and neo-Nazis), retweeting “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with us Whites loving, supporting, & helping our own race. #UniteTheRight #Charlottesville”. Perhaps a testament to their far-right views is typified with the support of David Duke, the former ‘Grand Wizard’ of the KKK, urging people on twitter to support GI and their ‘defend Europe’ mission.
The support of someone of such notoriety, is telling of the ideas that they promulgate.
It was in 2013 that the founder of the English Defence League (EDL), Tommy Robinson, left the EDL, citing fears of ‘far-right extremism’. Yet many see GI as the solution to these woes. Moving away from the provocative and aggressive ’skinhead revolution’ of the ‘70s, GI present a much more tactful and peaceful approach. Gone are the marches of balaclava-covered men hurling abuse at those who stood in their path. Instead, young, well-dressed men and women circulate their views in a way inconsistent with how the ‘traditional’ far-right behave.
Yet, the concerns are still there, and rightly so. They are arguably a bigger concern than the other aforementioned groups that have graced British society in the past. Despite the slick and cool approach GI possesses, the individuals that they are in contact with, and activities that they have taken part in, raise questions as to whether in reality, they are different from other far-right nationalist groups, defending their views under the guise of ‘patriotism’.
A revealing source disclosing some of these concerns was ITV’s documentary ‘Undercover: Inside Britain’s New Far Right’, where various damning revelations exposed strong links between GI and controversial activist, Anne Marie Waters. Most astonishingly, it revealed that GI had orchestrated a summer camp of activists that consisted of military style training, including hand-to-hand combat and mock demonstrations, with one activist stating “do we want to play for the patriots or the degenerates?” Whilst Sellner used racist slurs such as “pakis”, to label those who they didn’t define as “indigenous Brits”.
GI claim to be a peaceful organisation, promoting no forms of violence, so one must wonder why they host summer long camps consisting of hand-to-hand combat training sessions. More concerning are other groups who share this idea of ‘military style training camps’, such as proscribed Neo-Nazi terrorist organisation, National Action, who were believed to be preparing for a ‘race war’.
Many have also noted the interesting term ‘Reconquista’, used by GI. This stems from the Spanish Reconquista in the 15th century, where King Ferdinand expelled Muslims and Jews from the Iberian Peninsula. Perhaps GI are insinuating that a similar event ought to occur today to deal with the overflowing of immigrants, specifically Muslims, to “save the people we love”. An example of this can be show with GI’s twitter account, @GID_England, tweeting last year “Islam rears its ugly head in Barcelona, many innocents injured or dead. Reconquista now more important than ever”. Now however, their focus has shifted to also include provocative stunts, aimed at scaremongering the public against Muslims, in turn promoting the importance of ‘Reconquista’. A recent example of this was their attempt to cover the statues of celebrated women all around England with Burqas, holding signs stating “is this the future you want?”
With other similar stunts taking place, one including the vilification of Mayor Sadiq Khan, claiming that he will ban Christmas, it seems that there is an attempt by GI to promote this intolerant stance towards Muslims, sparking support of ‘Reconquista’. Indeed, the revelation of GI’s seemingly positive excursion of offering dinners to the homeless, is just another example, as it was revealed that the dinners were pork, done specifically so homeless Muslims couldn’t eat the food.
Hope not Hate reported that Martin Sellner met with former head of extremist group the British National Party (BNP), Nick Griffin, to discuss funding, despite Griffin calling the holocaust a “holohoax”.Griffin also compared the “orthodox opinion” that six million Jews were killed in the holocaust, to believing the earth was flat.
Furthemore, ITV’s documentary revealed that James Windsor, a well-known, high-profile figure in the UK GI movement, is a key supporter of the aforementioned controversial activist, Anne Marie Waters. In 2017, Waters was labelled an extremist by several high-profile UKIP members when she announced her leadership bid. Windsor himself, and other GI members, joined the party to cast his vote for her. Waters is recorded to have advocated for the halting of all Muslim immigration, and reducing their birth-rates. In fact, following the releasing of the documentary, it was Waters herself who attempted to disassociate herself from Windsor and GI, holding that “I do not “closely associate” with Jordon Diamond… he is – or was – a supporter who came to my events… often socialised afterwards… I have become aware of some of his comments, he will not be welcome in the future”. Going on to hold that “I know of Generation Identity, and that one of the things I had heard about them was that some neo-Nazis were associated”. Indeed, it was recently exposed that individuals with strong neo-Nazi links have been attracted to GI, which even lead to one of the senior figures of the group, Tom Dupre, to infamously quit last year when informed of a fellow activist’s extreme links.
Should we therefore be wary of GI?
There are undoubtedly reasons to be cautious. The palatable and subtle circulation of their views has the potential to have a greater outreach than any organisation Britain has seen today on the far-right. Exploiting grievances of the British public, such as free speech, and economic instability, these genuine concerns are used to vilify those who GI don’t ‘ethno-culturally’ identify with.
One cannot ignore the supporters that they have attracted and engaged with. Well-known white nationalists, right wing extremists, and those who have expressed strong anti-Muslim sentiments. GI seem to be working seamlessly with individuals who present an intolerance to different faiths and beliefs, something the British government have declared as acting contrary to ‘British values’.
They are shrewd, slick, young, and tech-savvy. Such a group cannot be ignored when their far-right sympathies shine through. They have the potential to amass wide support from a broader base than Britain has seen before of such a group, and for that reason, they must not be dismissed as simply ‘another group on the far-right’. There is in fact, room for concern.