Sunday, 15 July 2012

EDL Outnumbered by Counter-Demonstrators in Bristol

The dreaded EDL march in Bristol on 14th July 2012 became the cause of much laughter and the butt of many jokes from counter-demonstrators when it transpired that their turnout was far lower than expected. That said, their march was not without incident, and the EDL took several swipes at counter-demonstrators and police. Here follows my eyewitness account of events admist chaos, confusion, projectiles, kettles, cordons and the occasional violent outbreak.

Standing Stone's Blog has made a short video showing many of the incidents documented below:

Stepping off the train at Temple Meads, myself and a small band of Bath activists were greeted by around 20 police, whom we were able to walk past without hassle. Some Bristolian friends we had arranged to meet near Temple Meads had been moved on, and we arranged an alternative meeting point. En route to meeting with our Bristolian friends, we took a look at Castle Park, where the police were under the impression the counter-demo would be starting from. The surrounding streets were lined with riot vans, but the only people in the park itself were a couple of dog-walkers.

We arrived at the pub around 10:50 and waited for the rest of our friends to turn up. While waiting, we were informed that around 30 EDL were in the pub next door, including Mickey Bayliss, the organiser of the EDL march. Shortly afterwards they left the pub and walked past the window. News came in that there were around 70 EDL at Temple Meads and around 150 anti-fascists, and news came in from elsewhere about a racially-motivated attack by the EDL. Our friends arrived just as we had decided to head to the fountains for the large demo, only to learn that they were being kettled. After a long round-a-bout hike, we ended up near Redcliffe Church, where we saw the EDL march for the first time. A large group of anti-fascists had gathered, but the two groups were separated by a blockade of police vans and a line of cops. We soon decided to head off and see what else was happening.
EDL marching in Bristol, 14th July 2012

Police cordon near Redcliffe Church
Soon we encountered the union march being kettled by police, with mounted police on standby close by.

Kettle of trade union march
Mounted police
We were able to get around the kettle and headed for the riverside, where we were able view the EDL demo from afar, moving very slowly across the bridge. As they were scheduled to finish at Queen Square, we made our way onto Prince Street to attempt to get close. Here we encountered the Pride anti-fascist demonstrators, dressed largely in pink and all holding placards. One of them was handing out free veggie burgers - much needed after a long morning of walking.

One of the Anti-racist Pride marchers
A large contingent of anti-fascists then made their way up Prince Street, and were soon confronted by riot vans and police cordons. Riot vans soon lined the entrance to the bridge, and a police cordon made its way towards us. We rushed into a nearby pub to escape trouble, and when we came out we saw an EDL member being dragged into a riot van to the sound of cheers and clapping from the remaining anti-fascists.

We had a call saying that there was a plan to block the EDL's exit, so made our way around, only to be confronted by a huge police blockade. Another meeting point was arranged, and after a long detour we met up with a large group of anti-fascists on the riverside, and soon mobilised to finally confront the EDL. We took a route that led us up to a cliff overlooking an area of waste ground into which the EDL were starting to pour into. From here we could see the whole lot of them, and people laughed and joked at the feeble turnout of around 250 morons. Shouts of "Racist scum" and "Equality" erupted from the anti-fascists. The EDL then sang us a song. The monsters, it seemed, were merely a tone-deaf third-rate street-theatre outfit. They unveiled a Pride flag to much laughter.

The EDL march was this small.
And then the pelting began - stones flew over our heads and several people were hit. Several highly-aggressive EDL members somehow made their way up to us and were stopped by police. The police then came at us with batons and formed a line to move us on. Several people were pushed and shoved against their will. Dogs and mounted police showed up. We moved backwards slowly until we came to a bend, at which point we left, went up the road and turned a corner. A girl was clutching a towel to her head after having been hit by a stone thrown the EDL. Bastards. We made sure she was ok and got her friend to call for an ambulance and wait with her. A huge soundsystem on a trailer rounded the corner heading in the direction we had just come from. Back we went, dancing to our new soundtrack. We soon got turned away again, so headed back onto the roads in order to catch the EDL on their way to the train station. On the way we passed a pub with a group of EDL members sat outside. Recognising us, they threw several glasses, one just missing my leg, and began to give chase. I ran as fast as I could, and myself and a few others dived into a hedge. Several EDL ran past, one with a large rock, which he kept throwing at the pavement. They were spreading out looking for us. Police came up the other end of the road, so we took our chance and ran again. We joined a large group of anti-fascists at a high point overlooking the EDL march. The EDL were fighting and struggling with the police, who kept them contained. From here we were able to launch a mini counter-demonstration, but soon the police came with dogs and forced us to move on. We stopped again and continued the demonstration, and again the police and dogs moved us on. We headed out into the road and a police cordon began to form around us. They moved us back and split us, and we were moved back towards Temple Meads. From here we were prevented from being able to reach the end of the march, but the video below shows what happened next. Our only option was to backtrack, and so we headed to College Green to show solidarity with the Pride festival, and celebrate with a beer.

With less than 300 people, the EDL showed Bristol that they were an insignificant minority, and their violent and aggressive behaviour towards counter-demonstrators and the police throughout the day put rest to their claim that they demonstrate peacefully. The police did their best to divide us, but even though we were separated into lots of small groups, we were united in our cause. People came out in force to make it clear that fascists are not welcome in Bristol, and I would like to congratulate all of those thousands who marched and lined the streets in opposition to them. Well done people. Let's hope they never come back.

There were many incidents of violence and aggression by the police. If you witnessed or were a victim of one of these incidents, please contact NetPol

Bristol Indymedia article on the demo here.

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