Saturday’s anti-EDL demonstration in Bolton has attracted a great deal of comment around the blogosphere and in the media. Much of it nasty, outright lies and smears, some of it genuine debate about the kind of tactics we need in the future. I’m not going to comment much on the discussion of tactics right now (though the most important thing we need in future is more people, especially from the trade unions and local communities). I want to focus on the shameful behaviour of Greater Manchester Police, and their subsequent attempts to smear anti-fascists.
According to the Police “The number of arrests made is a clear indication that this is not a peaceful protest and some demonstrators are determined to cause trouble”. It is nothing of the sort, it is an indication of a wound up police force intend on creating disorder and making arrests.
The Police were in a confrontational and agressive mood from the beginning. When I arrived, with a group from Liverpool, they immediately confronted someone with us, for no clear reason. When I went over to ask why, a second police officer barelled into me to push me away. As the demonstration grew in size, the police began to kettle us in. Some attempts were made by people to break out of the kettle. From this point onwards the police became violent and belligerent. They sent several groups into the demonstration to arbitrarily arrest individuals. Realising this the demonstration linked arms to prevent further arrests. Instead of backing off, riot police continued to try to force their way into the demonstration to make arrests. In the course of this I:
- Was struck several times by police officers in the face, neck and chest and kicked between the legs.
- Witnessed a clearly enraged police officer tear down a union banner held by a 60 year old woman, causing injury to her.
- Witnessed other people being struck harder than I was.
- Was dragged out of the crowd by my nose and arrested.
I have since heard reports of the following:
- A student being struck over the head and needing staples in his scalp, who was also forced to sit in A and E with 3 members of the EDL constantly abusing him whilst he waited.
- A young man arrested at the same time as me being told as he was arrested “I recognise you, you queer, you’re not so tough without all your friends around are you?”.
- An 89 yr old WW2 veteran being knocked to the ground.
- The arrest of the main organisers of the demonstration on extremely serious charges.
I want to emphasise that I saw nothing on the day that justifies this level of violent policing. I was arrested whilst merely linking arms with others and peacefully holding ground. Everyone else I saw who was arrested was doing the same. The police created a riot on Saturday.
To all anti-fascists: There are real debates to be had about the correct strategy to go forward, I am happy to have them. But we should unite in our condemnation of the behaviour of Greater Manchester Police that day. Anything less is shameful.