Anti-TERF Counter Demo Report 15/01/2023
The ‘Let Women Speak’ demo on the 15th of January was announced by ‘Standing for Women’, a group founded by anti-trans activist Posie Parker (aka Kellie-Jay Keen) and took place outside The Civic Centre, Newcastle. ‘Let Women Speak’ is an internationally touring hate campaign which aims to oversee the spread of transphobic ideology as ‘women’s free speech’. In response, NEAG and other North East activist groups (such as North East Against Racism and LGBT Northern Social Group) helped organise an autonomous counter-protest. Originally planned to be held by Greys Monument, Posie Parker relocated the event after becoming aware she would be met by resistance as well as police pressure.
Around 300 of us assembled outside the Civic Centre, with a heavy police presence already surrounding the area. We listened to our speakers who shared personal accounts of misogyny experiences and expressed their support for their trans comrades. Many of us raised placards with pride, some of which read: “There’s no equality without the T”, “Protect Trans Kids”, “It’s a public health issue – Nurses for Trans rights”, “Trans people are a gift” and “My feminism is inclusive”.
Later, an estimated 100 TERF supporters gathered and began their static rally; we moved closer to their line and began to make noise – using our voices, speakers, phones, kazoos, whistles, drums and playing music to drown out their hate speech. We chanted: “Sisters united will never be divided.”, “Trans rights matter. Trans lives matter.”, “Fascists and Transphobes off our streets. Who’s streets? Our streets!.”, “You have nazis in your ranks”, and we were successfully heard in all of their livestream recordings.
Among their speakers was Lisa Morgan, who was videoed approvingly quoting from Adolf Hitlers’s Mein Kampf, using the Big Lie (used by Nazis as a propaganda technique against Jewish people) as a justification for her transphobia. Concerningly yet unsurprisingly, nobody at their event challenged this and afterwards tried to justify it.
TERF stewards stood in high-vis vests forming a parallel line behind the line of Police facing us. Among their most dominant presences were individuals involved in making the TERF propaganda film, ‘Adult Human Female’ (Preceding the demo, ‘Adult Human Female’ screened at Tyneside Irish Centre, Newcastle, in November 2022. The Centre was made aware that the film contained transphobic ideology yet proceeded with the screening anyway. Anti-fascists were greeted by the police upon countering the event.)
There were little to no banners or placards held by TERF attendees, excluding one flag carried by a speaker at their event who associates with the organisation ‘Male Allies Challenging Sexism’.
They explained their rainbow PACE flag (appearing to be an ironic provocation upon the PRIDE flag) as something they flew (to paraphrase) ‘to prove we aren’t nazis’. Despite this statement, they seemed more than happy to stand around with known north-east nazis and fascists on the day – Seeming to reflect a further statement of theirs:’this doesn’t need to be a left-wing movement; I’m happy to work with anyone that thinks sex exists’.
Counter-protesters stood their ground until every TERF had left. Police blocked our exit from where the ‘Standing For Women’ group left. During our dispersal and departure from the demo, Police arrested a pro-trans activist in bloc. They were released from the station hours later with no charges.
To this end, our physical presence and voices made the counter demo a big success. Not only did we outnumber the TERFs and make our message clear, but a sense of community, joy and solidarity prevailed on our side. The groups involved showed great organisation. Anti-fascists should aim to grow demographics and forms of counter-mobilisation. Pro-trans culture is increasing in Newcastle through club nights, a festival, self-defence classes, and film screenings.