Bolton residents came together on Thursday of last week to express their anger at the police’s handling of the recent protest by the English Defence League (EDL).
The meeting voted unanimously for a public inquiry into the behaviour of the police and the council in the run up to and during the protest.
The meeting was organised by members of the Muslim community, but was also attended by trade unionists, students and local anti-fascist activists.
Speakers from the floor asked why the council, backed by the police, chose to “close down the town” and prevent local people joining the counter-protest organised by Unite Against Fascism.
Many also expressed anger at the violence of the police towards anti-racist protesters.
There was also some criticism of the leadership of the Bolton Council of Mosques for its role in preventing local Muslims from joining the counter-protest.
The organisers of the meeting invited the leader of Bolton council, the chief executive, police authorities and leaders of the Bolton Council of Mosques to attend, but none turned up.
Some local councillors did attend—but a minority were uncomfortable with the tone of the meeting and threatened to walk out at different points.
Speakers talked about the racial abuse they encountered from EDL supporters on the day.
People who had helped organise the large and peaceful demonstrations in Bolton for Gaza in 2009 said that such a protest should have been organised against the EDL.
Councillor Ishmael, one of the few Labour councillors who publicly identified with the meeting, reflected the mood when he said, “If you want a public inquiry you will have one.”
People left feeling angry that racists could come into their town and be protected by the police, while they were denied their right to protest.