6.49pm: From BoltonNearly all anti-fascist protesters who were arrested in Bolton during the demonstrations have now been released. Most have not been charged or have been fined £80.
However, disgracefully some Unite Against Fascism officers are still being held.
The success of today’s protests, and the determination and energy of those involved, must be followed up by a mobilisation against the EDL in Dudley on 3 April.
But we also need full defence of those anti-fascist protesters who were arrested today.
There is a good piece at the Expose the BNP website on the media coverage of the protest which highlights the bias of much of the mainstream press and television.
It underlines the importance of reporting from our side. » http://exposethebnp.com/2010/03/20/the-battle-of-bolton-and-the-media/
We urge all those who have read our coverage today to subscribe to Socialist Worker or to donate so that our coverage can be maintained and improved.
4.13pm: From Bolton, Victoria SquareAnti-fascist protesters are celebrating a huge success in forcing the EDL to retreat from Bolton’s Victoria Square. Thousands of anti-fascists have now united from the roads around the square, and the square itself, and marched out together.
Isolated pockets of EDL supporters are watching resentfully as UAF supporters chant “Nazi scum” at them.
A key moment came when hundreds of young people, many of them Asian, joined the anti-fascist protesters inside the square who had withstood attacks from riot police for several hours.
Solidarity has forced back the EDL racists.
The police harassed anti-fascists all day, sent snatch squads to arrest senior UAF officers, and pampered the EDL.
But the EDL did not get their way.
3.30pm: From Bolton, Victoria SquareAfter several hundred mainly young Asians joined anti-racist protesters in Victoria Square the police have been forced to remove the EDL. This is a big success for the protesters.
3.15pm: From Bolton, Victoria SquareAnti-racists in Victoria Square have been buoyed by the arrival of large numbers of young Asians from the town.
Shafiq told Socialist Worker, “The police tried to stop us getting here by holding us in a side road for hours.
“Several times we tried to break through their lines, but they held us back. Everyone cheered when we finally got into the Square.
“Its disgusting that the police have allowed the EDL to do what ever they like here, but we’ve been stopped from defending our own town.”
2.55pm: From Bolton, Victoria SquareA young Asian man, who cannot be named, told Socialist Worker that police and members of the Bolton Council of Mosques (BCM) had tried to stop them going to the demo.
“We were stopped four times,” he said. “It was always a cop with two members of the BCM.
'I don’t see why the BCM are doing this. They are not the voice of all Muslims.
'We've had police visits to the Mosques and schools – even the primary schools. My young niece came home on Thursday terrified saying it wasn't safe to go into town because EDL were out to get her.'
2.45pm: From Bolton, Victoria SquareBolton news reports approximately 2,000 protesters in Victoria Square.UAF says they are outnumbering racists by three to one. Crowd being spurred on by anti-racist rap duo.
Police continue to lash out at those opposing the EDL. Gary, from Stoke, said, “They are vicious. They punched me in the face over and over again. One officer grabbed me by the throat. I thought he was trying to strangle me.”
Rick Coats, from Bury, said, “I saw police wading into us. One in riot gear lost it, hit me on the head and hit people who’d fallen to the ground with his truncheon.”
2.30pm: From Bolton, Victoria SquareAnti-fascist protesters are holding their positions in the square, despite the police attacks and the seizure of at least three senior UAF organisers.
The police have brought EDL supporters into the square. Some EDL supporters are throwing bottles and other missiles but police are not arresting them.
The Bolton News is also running extensive coverage from the protest. A taste of the racist views of EDL supporters comes from the Twitter responses to its reports:
X_LauraJo_X: NIKNAK PADY WAK GIVE A DOG A BONE, IF UR NOT BRITISH FK OFF HOME!!!!!!!!!!!! E E EDL E E EDL (#theboltonnews live at http://ustre.am/egrB) 2 minutes ago
EDLBritain: Hi Hayley muahahahahaa KILL A PAKI KILL EM ALL (#theboltonnews live at http://ustre.am/egrB) 2 minutes ago
1.40pm: From Bolton, Victoria SquareAnti-fascist activities have re-established their rally in Victoria Square, despite riot police attacks on it and the seizure of UAF leaders.
Paul Holborow, an organiser of the Anti Nazi League in the 1970s, gestured to a street leading into the square and told the crowd, “The whole of that street is full of our supporters, but the police are stopping them. We will not be silenced.
“When Nazis grow, then people of colour suffer. Some are beaten and some are killed.
“We need to be immensely proud of what we are doing today. We have sent a message to every Nazi that we will hound them back to the sewers.”
According to police, more than 30 UAF protesters and three from the EDL have been arrested so far.
Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan, from Greater Manchester Police, who is leading the policing operation, said, 'There have been unwarranted attacks on police lines that have resulted in injuries. This is not a peaceful protest and we are facing a lot of hostility. We will take swift action when confronted with disorder.'
That turns reality on its head. It is the police who are acting violently and attacking anti-fascists. Protesters are having to defend themselves from repeated assaults by riot police. It was announced to the rally in the square that two anti-fascists have been hospitalised by police.
Meanwhile they are treating the EDL with kid gloves – smiling and chatting with EDL stewards, arranging for them to go into pubs, allowing them to have “one more pint” before joining the demo, and ignoring underage drinking.
1.10pm: From Bolton, Victoria SquarePolice have broken up an entirely peaceful UAF rally in the square and seized organiser Weyman Bennett. Trade unionists are trying to speak but have been stopped.
12.55pm: From Bolton, Victoria SquarePolice are preventing hundreds of anti-fascist protesters from entering Victoria Square. Those inside are chanting “Let them in”. They have had to link arms to block the police and defend the UAF speakers. Riot police have repeatedly pushed into the crowd.
Weyman Bennett of Unite Against Fascism address the crowd, saying, “Police are rioting and are out of control.
“Anti-racism is not a crime, and it’s about time the police stopped treating it as such.
“I say to the police, if you can turn this number of officers out here today, why could you not stop the EDL running riot through Stoke last month?”
12.17pm: From Bolton, Victoria Square
Riot police have made repeated attempts to try to push some anti-fascist protesters out of Victoria Square “to prevent a breach of the peace”.
Police, including those on horseback, have used batons against protesters. Demonstrators have linked arms to hold their positions and are standing firm.
The small number of EDL supporters in the square are untouched by the police.
In the square, Miriam Wilkinson from Manchester says, “If I had stayed at home and watched the EDL rally on TV I would have felt intimidated.
“But by being here with other people you feel empowered to stand up to them. You can’t just ignore them.
“The BNP’s election results have encouraged the EDL. They are trying to exploit the fact that people are disillusioned with the major parties.”
Sam Ud-din, district secretary of Lancaster, Morecambe and district NUT, is one of a group of teachers who has come on a coach sponsored by the union’s political fund.
He says, “We’re here to make sure the EDL don’t take any of the streets of Bolton.
“They may be the paramilitary wing of the BNP but that doesn’t give them any rights.
“The enthusiasm of anti-fascists is sending a message that the EDL will never be welcome.
“Unfortunately the police are corralling anti-fascists. They should be corralling the EDL.
“The use of dogs and horses in inappropriate, the use of snatch squads is worse.”
Meanwhile the police continue to allow the EDL supporters to walk around Newport Street, the main pedestrianised area of the town.
Sandy, a 16-year old FE student at Bolton college added, “It’s disgusting that the EDL should be allowed into my town.
“I’ve come here with lots of my friends because people from Boloton are from all different backgrounds – and that’s how we want it to stay.”
11.46am: From the South Wales coach
One of the protesters against the EDL today is David Rapsey who works at the DVLA in Swansea. He is a PCS union member who will join the national strike on Wednesday.
He says, “I’m going to strike to stand up for myself and my fellow workers. Today I am part of the attempt to stop the fascists on the streets.
“These aren’t separate issues.”
Marianne Owens, vice chair of PCS Wales, says, “The crisis and the job cuts that PCS members face can’t be divorced from the threat from the BNP and the EDL thugs. They are trying to profit from the crisis through their message of division and despair.”
Ahmed al Jeffrey from Swansea says, “I’m looking for a job at the moment and have been since September. Unemployment is fuelling racism. I’m making a stand to say there are more of us than them.”
11.40am: From Bolton, Victoria Square
Police have marched into the anti-fascists in Victoria Square to snatch Martin Smith of Unite Against Fascism.
Taj from Liverpool said, “This is intimidation. The police are trying to stop us demonstrating against the EDL.”
Anti-fascist protesters in the square are linking arms to hold their ground and not be pushed around by the police.
Banners now include Morecambe Trades Council.
11.15am: From Bolton, Victoria Square
A group of anti-fascist protesters tried to occupy the whole of Victoria Square. Police used dogs and horses to force them back.
Banners now include Bolton Metropolitan Unison, Manchester NUJ and Liverpool Students Against Racism and Fascism.
Meanwhile EDL coaches are starting to arrive in the town. Police are allowing groups of young men with EDL flags and badges to wander from the station without escort or telling them where to go.
10.57am: From Bolton, Victoria Square
There are now some 1,000 anti-fascists in the square. Large delegations from Manchester, Salford and east London have arrived.
A Bolton RMT union rep told Socialist Worker, “They talk about foreigners, but what racists just don’t get is that bosses want us divided.
“The Nazis have to be stopped before they get confident.”
Jonathan Basnett, part of a group from Stockport College, told Socialist Worker, “The EDL are not some ‘patriotic’ group. They are fascists seeking to develop links with other fascist groups.”
10.25am: From the east London CoachTrade unionists sit alongside students and are together determined to stop the EDL from marching.
One of these is Nadir, an IT worker from East Ham.He told Socialist Worker, 'This is the first demonstration I've been on. I think it's pretty simple really—we need to come together as humans.
“How are we going to continue with greed and capitalism and divisions based on colour and creed? We need to be able to share and be equal.'
The weather may be wet, but there is no dampening of the fighting spirit.
10.10am: Bolton, Victoria SquareAround 200 protesters have gathered. People from Blackburn, Liverpool, Stockport, Manchester and have joined locals with homemade placards reading, “Bolton Against racism”.
So far there are banners from Manchester Metropolitan UCU, Wigan Unison, Bolton NUT, Stockport Students Against Racism, Liverpool Students Smash EDL Scum, UCU North West Region.
10.02am: From the south London coachRosa and Ella from Graveney School in Tooting said, “Seven of us have come from our school today. We need to protest so that the EDL know that they can’t march unchallenged.”
James Haywood of the National Union of Students executive said, “Students need to play a leading role in the anti-fascist struggle. The NUS black student and LGBT groups have mobilised for today.
“We need to smash the EDL in Bolton today and do their organisation damage.”
9.50am: First report from Victoria SquareThousands of protesters from all over Britain—but particularly the north west of England—are heading for Bolton this morning to demonstrate against the English Defence League (EDL).
They are determined that these violent racists will not be allowed to go on rampage in predominantly Asian areas, as they did in Stoke in February.
Details are emerging of the police plans for the day.
The signs are that they are determined to allow the EDL into the town’s Victoria Square.
The square has been divided in two, with a 21-foot gap between the areas the police want to place the racist and anti-racist demonstrations in.
The town hall steps are boarded up.
Attempts to discourage anti-racists from demonstrating continued up the last minute.
Police made it known through council 'mediators' that section 60 stop and search powers would be used. Young Asian men were particularly warned to stay away.
Residents of flats overlooking the square were told they would be locked in for their safety. In response representatives of the tenants association requested posters from Unite Against Fascism to place in their windows.