Grass-Roots Campaigning – SODEM

                               This article was written by Pilar Gomez

Anti-Brexit group SODEM, started by the amazing Steve Bray, is a movement which has stood outside UK Parliament when it sits, engaging passers-by and MPs who are going in and out for well over a year now. Their aim is to keep Remain on the table and they have been very successful. They have been entirely peaceful in their strategy and carry out their right to peaceful protest in a democracy. Campaigners from all around the country travel there to support the permanent core around Steve Bray in their own time and using their own funds, and their Remain placards have become a familiar sight on the news every night, behind journalists standing outside doing their pieces to camera. When the BBC built a tall tower to try and keep them out of their camera shots, Steve put his placard on a long pole. The SODEM campaign is crowdfunded by ordinary grassroots supporters and activists. They are just one of several anti-Brexit groups who have benefitted hugely from having the #FBPE twitter community develop in the UK and who have used the hashtag to network, organise and amplify.

However on the 13th of December there was a photo in the press and social media of members of a group calling themselves Leave means Leave, who have appeared as a counter protest to SODEM and were doing Nazi salutes outside our Parliament. The Leave Means Leave people first turned up on the 3rd of December this year and have started harassing our anti-brexit campaigners, causing problems, name calling, spitting, general aggressiveness. One of our activists was even pushed over by a Leave means Leave thug. It is clearly a targeted effort from a desperate far right who know we are on to them. Why only appear now outside parliament after all this time? In truth they are frightened that Remain voices have increased in power and volume and simply are not going away so they are engaging in a little attempted intimidation. A call went out on twitter for reinforcements.

The remain community rallied and shared and retweeted, and people who could help did so. As the far right are using social media and bots to spread their lies and their hate and encourage thugs to try and physically frighten people, we must take back the tool of social media to push back against them. We must spread truth and respond to calls for help. I feel very privileged to know a few of the regular and brave campaigners who help at SODEM and consider them as friends now. We all found each other thanks to #FBPE. We can use the tools of social media networking to push back against extremists and given the presence of the far-right threatening society across Europe with their lies and divisiveness, it is important to support the premise of like-minded people finding each other across the continent and finding ways to help each other to reject the real life manifestations of this poison that threatens our democracy and our freedoms.

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