Hundreds of people are set to rally against a “new breed” of white supremacism in London this weekend as racist group Generation Identity (GI) prepares to hold its first official conference on British soil.
The “Identitarian” movement, which propagates the far-right conspiracy theory that white people are becoming a minority, is hosting what it has branded a “European reunion conference” on Saturday at an unknown location in the capital.
Using slick videos and a high-profile social media presence, GI targets teenagers and young people in what researchers have called the “weaponisation of internet culture”.
Having garnered thousands of followers across Europe since the movement began in 2012, the racist group is now steadily growing its British support base, with experts saying it has now become the most active far-right organisation in the UK.
While its English-speaking faction remains relatively small in numbers – with its first major demonstration in Hyde Park last month attracting 40 people – researchers have warned of a “worrying” possibility that GI could attract thousands of unaligned online far-right activists in Britain.
GI boasts that the day-long event on Saturday will “bring together” members at a time when the European Union is “creating animosity” between its nations.
A counter-protest organised by the Anti Fascist Network has attracted more than 1,000 people, with the group claiming it will be “monitoring venues” in London and “hoping to catch them at it”.
On an event page for the counter-protest, the Anti-Fascist Network wrote: “They are keeping a very close guard on the venue and access to the event for obvious reasons ... they are scared and know that a vast majority of people in the UK wouldn’t stand for the nonsense they stand for.
“We will be monitoring venues and hoping to catch them at it ... We will arrange a meet and action on the day in central London regardless of whether they crawl out from under a rock or not.”
Hope Not Hate, which has been closely monitoring the development of GI, said the group had overtaken other far-right groups in the UK, as its Europe-based leaders target Britain in a bid to reach a bigger international audience.
Dr Joe Mulhall, senior researcher at Hope Not Hate, told The Independent: “As an organisation it remains fairly small here, but it has probably already become the most active far-right organisation in the UK, even with its very limited numbers. It’s the new breed.
“Much of this is not driven by British activists themselves but by the European leaders, which have chosen the UK for obvious reasons. They’ve seen the UK as a way to reach a much bigger international audience, with the English language.
“While small, they are incredibly active, and the worrying thing is they are very professional, very organised and tech savvy, and their imagery is very professional. Their website is streets ahead of other far-right groups in Britain. And they’re young.
“By using this slick marketing and presentable imagery, and distancing themselves from the more rough and tumble elements of the British far right, they’re attracting a younger more professional type of person. And all of this belies what is actually a very extreme ideology.”
Mr Mulhall claimed the ideology of GI was far more extreme than the likes of the English Defence League (EDL), highlighting the group’s promotion of “ethnoplurism” – the separating and segregating people along racial lines.
“These are racial ideas that are much more extreme than something like the EDL would have ever posited. That’s why it’s so worrying – they look very moderate and respectable but they’re actually pushing a very extreme far-right ideology,” he added.
Support for GI increased amid a series of terror attacks across Europe last year, while it has also hijacked concerns over the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants in Europe.
Last summer, the group raised tens of thousands of dollars to set sail on the Mediterranean in a bid to obstruct NGO vessels from rescuing migrants who had set sail from North Africa, but they were forced to abandon their mission after a crowd-funding company cancelled their account.
GI now has a base in 13 European countries, with the largest operations in Germany, France and Austria, where the far-right movement has dozens of branches – some with their own gyms, bars and restaurants.
Since the summer, it has also bought its central tactic of staging stunts to the UK, including mounting a banner on Westminster bridge stating “Stop Islamisation” and dressing as London’s Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan and asking people to sign a petition to “ban Christmas”.
Mr Mulhall said that while support for the group is far less widespread in Britain than on the continent, there is a concern that a “mass” of far-right activists online could be drawn into the GI movement.
“At the moment it seems unlikely that they’ll have the same success in the UK as Europe. But then they’ve been there for years and it’s just got off the ground here so we’ll have to see,” he said.
“The thing with the UK is there’s this mass of unaligned online far-right activists – thousands of people – who engage in online activism but aren’t part of a traditional far-right party in any sense.
“If they have an ability to bring those people offline, then they become really important. And even if they don’t succeed as GI, they might have a worrying impact on the normalisation of the rhetoric around race and ethnicity.”
In any case, he said, the London conference serves as an indication of how seriously GI’s European leaders are taking the British wing of the white supremacist movement.
GI has not responded to The Independent‘s request for comment.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies