It would seem the police have been ill educated into the exact meaning of a peaceful demonstration if last Saturday’s demo against the English Defence League in Bolton is anything to go by.
Despite peaceful behaviour on the part of protestors, eye-witness reports tell of the police punching, pushing, using truncheons to hit demonstrators, aggravating the crowd, even knocking down a World War II veteran. However if you followed the media coverage of the day it paints an entirely different story, ignoring the police aggression and violence and depicting the anti-fascists as the violent group.
Those anti-fascists present on the day will speak the truth, and if you’re lucky they might show you their wounds.
On arriving in Bolton the groups from Unite Against Fascism and other such organisations headed for Victoria Square, where the police were attempting to kettle around half of the UAF demonstrators. After the police’s unsuccessful attempt to push and break the crowd, who had by this point all linked arms to make rows of human chains, they sent in the armoured riot police.
The riot police aggressively picked people at random from the crowd to arrest. Here are three reports from UAF demonstrators who were unlucky enough to fall victim to the police last Saturday:
“I heard one armoured police man shout “We’ll start pulling them out - that one!” and that’s when they pointed at me. I was pulled out from the crowd and circled by approximately 10 armoured police who began punching me in the head, I felt a truncheon on the back of my leg, something hit me in the small of my back which has lead to a lot of pain and swelling. My tooth was also chipped and as I tried to pick my glasses up, the armoured police deliberately stamped on them. They also tried to kick me in the balls, but missed!
It was so deliberate, nasty and spiteful. I was arrested and later released without charge” (Account from a pensioner at the demonstration)
“A number of riot officers began using their truncheons, a blonde woman in front of me was hit on the head, she then fell to the floor, a man next to her was also hit on the head and he fell on top of her. We tried to get them both up, I had my hands around the mans torso, at which point I was hit on the head and I also fell to the floor. I checked my injury and realised with the amount of blood it was a flesh wound. After this I was taken by ambulance to Bury hospital, some 11 miles outside of Bolton and received 5 staples on my wound.”
“An officer approached me and said "You know who's coming, don't you?" I ignored him. "You know what happens next, don't you?" I ignored him. He punched me under the chin, and grabbed the neck of my shirt. A tug-of-war ensued between the police and protesters, with me as the rope. Unfortunately, the police won, and I was arrested. At the Police station I had still not been told why I was arrested, or my rights. I was later told I was arrested to avoid a breach of the peace, and/or obstruction, and/or assault. It was quite fun watching the custody officers arguing over why I was arrested!”
These reports highlight an extreme level of police brutality. We must ask ourselves how these actions can be called ‘right’ and ‘just’ when the organisers of the demo clearly stated and demonstrated that they wanted to hold a peaceful protest.
Perhaps you won’t find the truth in the fear mongering police reports or media coverage, but if you dig around on the internet and speak to people who were there you’ll hear the stories, find the photos and see the videos.
We need to have an advantage of at least 5-1 on demonstrations if we are to defeat the EDL, we need more people from local communities, unions, and from around the country. Whatever your age, gender, ethnicity, we need your help.
The important message we must take from this protest is that as we unite we begin to truly represent the anti-racist, anti-fascist majority.
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