Some 300 people came to a rally to demonstrate against the fascist British National Party (BNP) in Liverpool on Saturday of last week.
The protest had been called to oppose BNP plans to distribute racist leaflets in the city.
The anti-fascist demonstration was called by Liverpool Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and Liverpool Love Music Hate Racism.
It attracted a broad range of people, including students and local trade unionists.
Many at the anti-Nazi protest were shocked by the behaviour of the police.
Senior officers told the protest organisers that the BNP had decided not to turn up. This information was false.
On hearing the police claims many protesters assumed that they had won and dispersed.
Others, including UAF speakers, argued that they should not trust the police’s assurances and should instead march down to where the fascists had been due to meet.
A group of around 100 anti-fascists attempted to reach the point where the BNP had assembled. But the police refused to let them through and threatened to arrest leading activists.
Protesters who did manage to get near the Nazis reported seeing around 50 fascists there, including BNP leader Nick Griffin, surrounded and protected by the police.
The police allowed the Nazis to distribute leaflets but penned in those protesting against them.
The fact that the fascists were outnumbered and challenged by their opponents is important.
But the events also show that the police cannot be trusted to play an honest role in such protests.
Mass movements against fascism in the past – from Cable Street to the Battle of Lewisham – have succeeded by defying police attempts to protect the Nazis.
Those lessons need to be relearned by today’s movement against the BNP.