Obituary: Gary Fletcher 1967-2004

Gary was a militant anarchist who lived and fought for a better society in Bolton. Gary was a committed class-struggle anarchist heavily involved in the struggles against the Poll Tax and Anti-Fascism in the 80's and 90's.Gary formed part of the Bolton Anarchist Group - an affinity group whose impact and influence within Anti-Fascist Action (AFA), especially the Northern Network was instrumental in the anti-fascist successes against the revived BNP of the 80's and early 90's. Gary distinguished himself in many actions against the BNP ensuring AFA's no platform for fascists in the North of England was a great success.

At first glance Gary could appear forbidding and fiery of character, but anyone in his presence for any time was won over with his ready wit, warm uninhibited friendship and hatred of oppression. Gary was without guile and treated his friends as equals. He was a positive and dynamic influence on all those who met him, though his sometimes frank manner reflected his impatience with the oppression of the system, rather than animosity to friends or comrades. Gary's politics could be summed up in one word: 'militant' - direct action was instinctive with him. Gary was a pivotal figure in any activity. Although Gary was a strong individualist, he never underestimated the importance of collective action.

Gary was a born story-teller and used to keep people entertained on actions with his stories. My personal favourite which I also witnessed took place at an anti-fascist event. From where I stood, I saw the colour drain from Gary's face, as a copper pulled him up and searched him, coming up with a small cylindrical object from his clothing. I expected the worse: but then inexplicably, the copper returned the object after saying something to Gary who suddenly looked very relieved, almost ecstatic. Gary walked over and smiled his smile, and then told me what happened. The copper mistakenly attributed the object as a rape alarm and accused Gary of being 'soft.' Gary, probably for the first and only time ever - agreed with the 'plod'! This apparent meeting of minds between Gary and the plod (in every sense of the word), wasn't because Gary had lost his radical edge or instinctive hatred of the agents of state oppression but to the fact the item was a CS canister and Gary faced a custodial sentence if caught.

Gary's struggle for a better society was cut short by a long and debilitating illness. Gary died at the young age of 37 with much promise unfulfilled. Gary remained true to his beliefs up to the end asking for no religious imagery or speeches at the funeral. The best tribute to Gary would be to redouble our efforts to change this evil and corrupt system. Gary will be missed by all who knew him. For those who want to know a little more about Gary, he appears in the anti-fascist book, No Retreat: The Secret War Between Britain's Anti-Fascists and the Far Right, as 'Gary the axe'.