The English Defence League’s (EDL) promise of a march of thousands in Bristol turned out to be a damp squib last Saturday.
The racists were massively outnumbered by counter-protesters. The EDL’s national mobilisation was one of their smallest ever, with only around 300 people attending.
In contrast, the We Are Bristol protest attracted over 1,500 people. It was organised by Unite Against Fascism (UAF), trade unions and other local groups. Hundreds of anti-fascists lined the streets.
Jo Wall lives in Bristol. She told Socialist Worker, “We live in a city that’s very multicultural and we don’t want anyone to ruin it for us. Everyone here gets on with each other. My whole family have come out today, so I’m very proud.”
Despite police attempts to stop it, the counter-demonstration started at the Fountains in the city centre with an 800 strong rally.
Retired Unison member Dave told Socialist Worker, “The police have leaned on everyone but we have worked with everyone who wants to stop the EDL.
“We’ve had three successful Love Music Hate Racism gigs and we have managed to build despite police intimidation.”
The protest marched to Castle Park and was joined by a feeder march on the way. Many different trade union branches were represented by banners.
Anti-fascists took Bristol Bridge just 200 metres from the EDL—drowning out their message of hate with anti-racist chants.
The EDL’s march took place on the same day as Bristol LGBT Pride. Many people on the We Are Bristol march wore rainbow stickers—and the Pride march had an anti-racist bloc.
Rob, a health worker in the Unison union said, “I think it’s disgusting that the fascists think they represent me.
“The EDL brought their ‘LGBT Division’ here. It must have been hard to get all three of them to come—the EDL don’t have our support.”
Weyman Bennett, joint-secretary of UAF told the crowd, “Some people say when the EDL march, we should turn our backs and ignore them.
“If someone is your enemy, you don’t turn your back, that’s how you get attacked. You stand and fight. We'll march to Pride, because we stand against Islamophobia, homophobia and racism.”
The police were forced to bus the EDL out of town due to a growing crowd of locals opposing them at their rally.
Police target anti-racists
The police operation in Bristol overwhelmingly targeted anti-racist protesters. UAF national officer Martin Smith was arrested at the opening rally.
During the final rally they used riot police and vans to pen in protesters. In other parts of the city, police used horse charges against anti-racists to allow the EDL to march.
Police arrested 11 people. Anti-fascists cannot rely on the police and the state to stop the EDL from marching.