Content note: this article contains discussion of anti-Semitism, racial hatred and violence.
A British far-right leader with prior hate crime convictions worked as a cleaner at Royal Holloway Students’ Union, an investigation by London Student can reveal.
Mark Atkinson, leader of the extreme right-wing Racial Volunteer Force (RVF), was employed at Royal Holloway Students’ Union through contracting company CleanTEC to clean SU premises. He is also believed to have worked in other parts of the campus, and RVF will hold a demonstration at RHUL this Saturday.
A source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they saw Atkinson on campus and confirmed his employment with the university.
London Student has independently verified Atkinson’s employment with CleanTEC. LS has also contacted the students’ union for comment, but nobody has been available.
Sources on social media claim that he left after his political views were made known to the SU, which asked the cleaning company to move him to other jobs, along with a colleague.
After this Atkinson and his colleague left their positions at CleanTEC. He also claims on Twitter that CleanTEC had been aware of his political views since 2012, when detailed background checks were run for the Olympic games, though London Student has been unable to verify this.
A Twitter account with the handle @MarkAtk67738341 has issued plans for the demonstration, and a second Twitter account told London Student that the two employees had been banned from campus by the SU, though they denied that they held extreme views. They claim that the university has infringed upon their freedom of speech.
On Thursday RHUL responded to the planned demonstration by issuing a statement promising increased security on campus.
It said: “Our College has also worked closely with students who wish to voice their views to make sure that they can do so safely, working with the police to make sure all protestors, regardless of their position are able to make their opinions heard peacefully.
“Royal Holloway champions the right to peaceful protest, bearing in mind that any member of our community who engages in behaviour that is unlawful, or that does not reflect the principles the university values, such as diversity and equality will be challenged.”
No Fascists Royal Holloway is organising a counter-demonstration for the same day. The description for the event states: “We feel that when fascism rears its ugly head it is important to stand up to it.
“A peaceful counter-demonstration sends a clear and decisive message that fascism is unacceptable and we stand in solidarity with Jewish, BAME and LGBT+ students”.
Atkinson co-founded RVF in 2002, formed as a splinter of the neo-Nazi organisation Combat 18 (C18), sources say.
He has been jailed for racial hatred and in 2015 was due to attend an anti-Jewish demonstration in Golders Green. An RVF publication seen by London Student features an extensive essay denying the Holocaust.
According to one source, Atkinson is pictured in issue 3 of C18 Black Mag attending a trip to a concentration camp in the 1990s. Photographs show members of the group posing on operating tables.
In 2005, Atkinson pleaded guilty to race hate crimes for creating and distributing race hate material. He admitted conspiracy to publish the magazine Stormer, alongside four other men.
Judge Jeremy Roberts said that the material was intended to “encourage readers to resort to violence against people with non-white backgrounds”.
While working as a waste collector in Feltham in 1997, Atkinson was jailed for 21 months for possession of hundreds of copies of Stormer for distribution.
The presiding judge in that case, George Bathurst-Norman, expressed disappointment with the maximum sentence of two years.
He told the court he had “never encountered such vile outpourings of hatred and incitement to violence as revealed in these magazines.
“From reading them Combat 18’s purpose is clearly aimed at stirring up racial hatred and violence not only against racial, ethnic and religious minorities and their supporters within our society but also targeting and naming specific individuals within those sections.”
Speaking to National Front supporters at the Remembrance Parade in November 2014, Atkinson spoke about “unity” in the far-right between the National Front and the RVF.
And an “anti-Jewification” demonstration in Golders Green in 2015 that Atkinson and the RVF were due to attend was confined to one hour in central London following pressure from Jewish leaders, local groups and the anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate. Concerns about the demonstration were raised by more than 40 MPs in a parliamentary motion as a result.