Copenhagen: the crackdown

Most of those arrested in Copenhagen were entirely innocent

Reporting on Saturday's march here in Denmark is overwhelmingly focused on police action, with 938 people arrests made. All but 13 have already been released. An eyewitness I spoke to watched the entire scene from her apartment overlooking Amagerbrogade street. Some young people who had infiltrated the crowd were throwing stones and smashing windows as they passed the Copenhagen Stock Exchange. Police descended on an entire section of the crowd referred to as the "Black Bloc". Most of those arrested were entirely innocent and bird's-eye images of lines of the detained in multicoloured bobble hats and ski jackets contrast with rumours circulating yesterday of hundreds of black-clad youths.

The operation was shockingly efficient. The arrested were pulled on to an adjoining street, tied up with cable ties and left to sit on the near-frozen roadside for nearly four hours. I heard a marcher from Japan tell how he was put into a police bus and brought to a huge warehouse where he was detained in a cage for up to nine hours. He described the atmosphere as jovial, with everyone there safe in the knowledge they had done nothing wrong. By the time I passed the scene half an hour after the arrests were made, all that could be seen was a line of strict police blocking off views on to the adjoining road.

Back on the march outside the Bella Centre, Mary Robinson, former UN high commissioner for human rights, wrapped up the movement with an inspiring speech. She emphasised again one of the salient points of this conference, that it is about people. "I sometimes worry slightly about the images we have . . . If the image is a melting glacier or the polar bears -- and I love polar bears -- it still distances us . . . For me, the image of climate change is a poor farmer, a poor indigenous woman, and she is desperate because her livelihood is being undermined."

Unlike previous speakers, Robinson wasn't afraid to launch into the numbers debate. She put the minimum that developed countries must donate to the developing world way above the earmarked $10bn. We should expect a fund of $200bn per year and put the initial fast-track fund at a minimum of $100bn. "This is very modest in terms of financial bailouts and defence budgets," she said. The crowd was reverentially quiet throughout, but livened up when Desmond Tutu took to the stage, cackling and grinning and calling for the "wonderful rich people -- and you are wonderful" to realise their "moral" obligation.

While this went on outside, one blogger inside the centre described the place as "hermetically sealed", with people crowding around screens to follow the protest outside.

Another 200 people were arrested today in an unauthorised march that was planned to blockade Copenhagen's port. The protesters were on their way to the headquarters of the shipping firm Maersk. There has been little mention of this protest, which seems to be a very fringe affair, involving what the police have called some "hardcore" protesters.

The only sign of action was the sound of police cars racing around the city at around 2pm, adding a little drama to what was otherwise a pretty quiet day in town.

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Meet Anne Marie Waters - the Ukip politician too extreme for Nigel Farage

In January 2016, Waters launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). 

There are few people in British political life who can be attacked from the left by Nigel Farage. Yet that is where Anne Marie Waters has found herself. And by the end of September she could well be the new leader of Ukip, a party almost synonymous with its beer-swilling, chain-smoking former leader.

Waters’s political journey is a curious one. She started out on the political left, but like Oswald Mosley before her, has since veered dramatically to the right. That, however, is where the similarities end. Waters is Irish, agnostic, a lesbian and a self-proclaimed feminist.

But it is her politics – rather than who she is – that have caused a stir among Ukip’s old guard. Former leader Paul Nuttall has said that her views make him “uncomfortable” while Farage has claimed Ukip is “finished” if, under her leadership, it becomes an anti-Islam party.

In her rhetoric, Waters echoes groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First. She has called Islam “evil” and her leadership manifesto claims that the religion has turned Britain into a “fearful and censorious society”. Waters wants the banning of the burqa, the closure of all sharia councils and a temporary freeze on all immigration.

She started life in Dublin before moving to Germany in her teens to work as an au pair. Waters also lived in the Netherlands before returning to Britain to study journalism at Nottingham Trent University, graduating in 2003. She subsequently gained a second degree in law. It was then, she says, that she first learnt about Islam, which she claims treats women “like absolute dirt”. Now 39, Waters is a full-time campaigner who lives in Essex with her two dogs and her partner who is an accountant.

Waters’s first spell of serious activism was with the campaign group One Law for All, a secularist organisation fronted by the Iranian feminist and human rights activist Maryam Namazie. Waters resigned in November 2013 after four years with the organisation. According to Namazie, Waters left due to political disagreements over whether the group should collaborate with members of far-right groups.

In April 2014, Waters founded Sharia Watch UK and, in January 2016, she launched Pegida UK with former EDL frontman Steven Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). The group was established as a British chapter of the German-based organisation and was set up to counter what it called the “Islamisation of our countries”. By the summer of 2016, it had petered out.

Waters twice stood unsuccessfully to become a Labour parliamentary candidate. Today, she says she could not back Labour due to its “betrayal of women” and “betrayal of the country” over Islam. After joining Ukip in 2014, she first ran for political office in the Lambeth council election, where she finished in ninth place. At the 2015 general election, Waters stood as the party’s candidate in Lewisham East, finishing third with 9.1 per cent of the vote. She was chosen to stand again in the 2016 London Assembly elections but was deselected after her role in Pegida UK became public. Waters was also prevented from standing in Lewisham East at the 2017 general election after Ukip’s then-leader Nuttall publicly intervened.

The current favourite of the 11 candidates standing to succeed Nuttall is deputy leader Peter Whittle, with Waters in second. Some had hoped the party’s top brass would ban her from standing but last week its national executive approved her campaign.

Due to an expected low turnout, the leadership contest is unpredictable. Last November, Nuttall was elected with just 9,622 votes. More than 1,000 new members reportedly joined Ukip in a two-week period earlier this year, prompting fears of far-right entryism.

Mike Hookem MEP has resigned as Ukip’s deputy whip over Waters’ candidacy, saying he would not “turn a blind eye” to extremism. By contrast, chief whip, MEP Stuart Agnew, is a supporter and has likened her to Joan of Arc. Waters is also working closely on her campaign with Jack Buckby, a former BNP activist and one of the few candidates to run against Labour in the by-election for Jo Cox’s former seat of Batley and Spen. Robinson is another backer.

Peculiarly for someone running to be the leader of a party, Waters does not appear to relish public attention. “I’m not a limelight person,” she recently told the Times. “I don’t like being phoned all the time.”

The journalist Jamie Bartlett, who was invited to the initial launch of Pegida UK in Luton in 2015, said of Waters: “She failed to remember the date of the demo. Her head lolled, her words were slurred, and she appeared to almost fall asleep while Tommy [Robinson] was speaking. After 10 minutes it all ground to an uneasy halt.”

In an age when authenticity is everything, it would be a mistake to underestimate yet another unconventional politician. But perhaps British Muslims shouldn’t panic about Anne Marie Waters just yet.

James Bloodworth is editor of Left Foot Forward

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear