Monday 22 March 2010

Greater Manchester Police line up with English Defence League racists

Thousands of supporters of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) went to Bolton on Saturday to challenge the racists of the English Defence League (EDL).

The multiracial mix of anti-fascists outnumbered the EDL several times over. But it didn’t take long for the Greater Manchester Police force to show their true colours and lay into the anti-fascist majority.

The police had spent weeks dissuading locals from attending the protest against the EDL, but, having largely failed, they brought out the riot police, the dogs, the horses... and the media spin machine.

Hundreds of young, local Asians were prevented from joining the protests, and the demo was already divided by police erecting barriers to prevent a united assembly. The previously agreed designated demonstration area was quickly shown to be nothing of the sort, with riot police storming in early on to attack anti-fascists and arrest leading organisers of UAF, including Weyman Bennett, who was arrested for “conspiracy to commit violent disorder”.

Police then proceeded to attack protestors with batons and dogs. The fact that they were plastered in riot gear from the start shows that they were not there for peaceful reasons. Officers went around the protest with child protection officers, warning parents that if they did not leave they would report them, threatening photographers, and swooping on leading organisers, knocking bystanders to the floor as they did so.

Meanwhile, the EDL side of the protest was left virtually un-policed, despite a barrage of bottles, coins and lighters being lobbed at UAF protesters and racist chants flowing over the separation barrier.

In total, 64 UAF protestors were arrested, with 60 released without charge. When the secretary of Manchester UAF was arrested police took the keys to her house from her whilst she was in her cell and went into her home to snatch her computer and files, using anti-terrorism laws to justify this.

Police meanwhile laughed and joked with the EDL racists, with Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan, who led the police operation, saying, “I would also like to praise the efforts of the EDL stewards who worked with us in the face of some very ugly confrontations.”

The police told the media that two officers were injured in the protests, one receiving a broken finger and one after being bitten by a dog. They forgot to mention that it was a police dog (and who can blame the dog?).

From Cable Street to Welling and now Bolton, the police have a long history of standing up for the “right” of fascists to divide communities and terrorise ethnic minorities.

For the rest of us this is another serious attack on the right to protest, and one that can’t be ignored.

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