Socialist Worker

Rotherham 12 were defending themselves in the face of an 'unexpected onslaught', court told

by Phil Turner
Issue No. 2530

Sheffield Crown Court, where the trial is taking place

Sheffield Crown Court, where the trial is taking place (Pic: Bencherlite)


Protesters did no more than act in self defence while standing together against a "cauldron of hatred" from Nazi thugs, the Rotherham 12 trial heard.

Michael Mansfield QC, defending two of the men who are accused of violent disorder, said the "air was filled with fear" after the people of the town were "besieged and plagued"by "toxic" fascist groups who marched 14 times in 14 months.

An 81-year-old grandfather Mushin Ahmed was kicked and stamped to death in a brutal murder.

He died days before a march by Nazi group Britain First on 5 September last year.

Asian men, known as the Rotherham 12, were charged with violent disorder after a peaceful counter protest against the march.

A charge of possessing an offensive weapon against one of the defendants, Asif Zaman, was withdrawn on the instructions of the judge.

“The fear was not a fantasy—it was a reality,” Mr Mansfield told Sheffield Crown Court.

“But there comes a point when people have to say to themselves, are we going to be humiliated to the extent that we won't leave our homes? And is it time to show our respect and solidarity for this elderly man who was stamped to death?

“To say we are not afraid and by the community make a public statement that we're not going to be overwhelmed by fear and ultimately stand up for one of our number.

“To say we've had enough of being tarred by a particular brush and we're going to stand up and going on the streets, making our legitimate voice heard by standing together as a community.”

A group of drunken fascists stood outside the William Fry pub being racially abusive to a group of young Asians and threatening violence.

The Nazis then attacked demonstrators on their way home from a counter protestby throwing pint glasses and beer bottles.

The pub was known as a gathering place for football hooligans with close links to fascist organisations. It had been linked to racist attacks in the area.

The landlord and a doorman were known members of a football hooligan group associated with Rotherham United FC known as Section 5.

The men outside the pub were members of Yorkshire's Finest, a fascist group linked to the English Defence League.

Militant

They were known to attend far-right marches to cause trouble to give themselves a more militant image than others, Mansfield said.

They filmed the violence at the pub as a way of recruiting others in a failed attempt to boast that they had successfully resisted attacks by Asians, he said.

The jury was handed photographs from the group’s Facebook site, one of which shows a Union Jack with the words “We arrive, We …. fuck up, We leave”.

The two men Mr Mansfield represents, Asif Zaman and Arshad Khan, both had their children in the area.

They had gone on a peaceful counter protest organised by Unite Against Fascism in the town square to show respect to the murdered man. But the day became a “nightmare.”

Mansfield told the jury, “They wanted to make a public statement, not to change the world or to impose their views, but were just citizens of Rotherham, whose voice, you may feel, should be heard in the context of everything else going on. It's like they won't be heard unless they do."

“They had every right to do what they did, given what happened and where they live,” Mr Mansfield said.

“They faced an unpredicted and unexpected onslaught which they should not have had to face.

“They only did what they genuinely and honestly and instinctively thought was necessary.”

Defence barrister Nick Wrack said it was wrong to equate the fascist thugs intent on violence and causing trouble with peaceful counter protesters.

“Don't give these people the satisfaction, the victory of carrying out what they did that day by seeing any single one of these defendants convicted,” he told the jury.

The trial continues.


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.