(left) British cops "leading" fascist march
A spokesman for the anti-fascist contingent, however, denied there had
been any intention to cause violence and said the police had been
hostile from the start."They sent riot squads into a peaceful
demonstration and that's how the violence happened," he said. "They
treated the EDL with kid gloves. We don't accept the police account at
all and are very concerned about the nature of the policing and would
like to see some kind of investigation."
The following is from The Morning Star.
Attack-mode police should be ashamed
Monday 22 March 2010
Last Saturday saw a fantastic show of strength and unity against the far-right English Defence League as it attempted to spread its hate-filled message at a demo in Bolton.
Unite Against Fascism activists were joined in the streets by fellow anti-racists, anti fascists, pacifists and trade unionists to show that there's no place for Islamophobia in modern Britain.
Victory belonged to the left - the EDL was unable to occupy the town square and was reduced to hurling insults and occasional bottles and coins from its side of the square.
But what should have been a day for celebrating chalking up a win against the far-right was marred by the brutality of Greater Manchester Police.
They seemed hell-bent on stoking up trouble with UAF activists, virtually ignoring the antics of the EDL.
Just looking at the scale of police presence - complete with helicopters, horses, dogs and riot police dressed up like Robocop - one would think that a riot, or even a revolution, was about to break out at any minute.
Surrounding shops, bars and restaurants had been advised to close and almost all did, such was the fear stirred up by the police.
The police were like machines that day - they were bullying, heavy-handed, intimidating and aggressive, with "snatch squads" intermittently breaking into the crowd to arrest unsuspecting activists in the anti-fascist movement.
When activists tried to move away from trouble spots, police would barge in to arrest people and drag them to the floor.
Police harassment was virtually impossible to avoid as they rolled smoke canisters in to the crowd. It seemed as if they were in total attack mode.
Whoever was giving orders was having a field day - instructing the police to link arms and surge forward into a crowd which had nowhere else to go.
By law, under the Human Rights Act of 1998, we have the right to peaceful protest. We have the right to meet safely and freely without threat of intimidation, bullying or degrading behaviour by the police.
Activists are required to inform the police if they wish to march, but there is no legal obligation to inform the police of a rally. It is usually out of courtesy that organisers do inform them.
Obviously the police have powers and weapons at their disposal to prevent serious disorder, violence or crime. But the law states that they must balance this with people's right to protest peacefully.
By gratuitously arresting people and deliberately intimidating the crowd, the police could then claim it wasn't a "peaceful" protest.
Those who stand up against racism and fascism in Britain do not deserve such ill-treatment.
Activists who witnessed misconduct or were put in danger should bombard the Police Complaints Commission with letters complaining about the excessive use of force.
A large contingent were prevented from joining fellow activists in the square, being held back by police for hours.
The police were holding them by force illegally. They had no right to do so - it was a direct attack on our human rights and civil liberties.
We have the right to protest, to democratically assemble peacefully, without fear of threat and intimidation from gung-ho police.
What happened in Bolton was terrible. It is miraculous that no-one ended up seriously or fatally wounded as a result of police aggression.
What activists witnessed was the true face of the police as an instrument of social control and protecting capitalist ruling ideology. Their strategy is simple - divide and rule.