Another English Defence League march and another low turn out – this Saturday (4th February) it was Leicester’s turn to host flag-waving mob. Last time the EDL were in Leicester in October 2010 they mustered 1,500 and broke through police lines to ran amok attacking Asians. Tensions were therefore running high before the event.
This time round Leicestershire police were taking no chances, spending £850,000 with over two thousand cops in public order gear on the streets and the blanket use of the Public Order Act to force the opposing sides apart. Leicester’s cops produced a leaflet expalining that they had they had the power to take any person under the age of eighteen to a ‘safe place’ during the demonstrations.
The UAF pulled an interesting bait and switch on the day – having previously promised to abide by police instructions and confine themselves to a symbolic march announced on Friday that all opposed to the EDL should get to Leicester’s clock tower for a static demo. The clock tower had the potential to be a great vantage point to actively oppose the EDL. By Saturday morning however the UAF were urging people back onto the police approved march route. Cunning or contradictory? – Only you, the viewer, can decide. In the event the UAF march was tiny as active anti-fascists and local youth spent the energy attempting to get to the route of the EDL march from side streets
The day started with hundreds of anti-fascists and locals ignoring any Section 14 warnings and gathering at the Clocktower. According to one eyewtness from the Anti-Fascist Network “They were not veteran protesters but people who just did not want EDL in Leicester’s city centre” Police horses were used to kettle and push the crowd aside. According to a legal observer from the Network for Police Monitoring NETPOL, the costly police operation was directed at “controlling community opposition to the EDL” while facilitating the fascists unwelcome visit to the city.
An estimated 700 EDL marched past the shut up shops on Belgrave Gate. The official UAF march took a circular route back to Welford Place but some UAFers, assorted anti-fascist and local youths who had evaded the police also made repeated attempts to oppose the EDL along the way. They lined the latter stages of the EDL march and occupied the Clocktower area again.
NETPOL gave this summary of the 4th February in Leicester. “The EDL were enabled to move fairly freely, to break away from the main body of the march and form up in groups. They had few restrictions in reality whereas those who opposed them, especially young Asian men, faced a set of restrictions. They were picked on by police whenever they attempt to move in even relatively small numbers. One group of young locals were chased into a park and had dogs set on them. An ambulance was called. There difference between the policing of the EDL and the community response was marked throughout the day and everywhere in the city.”
After the marches were over locals gathered up in the city centre. It was clear to those looking on that anyone who was black or Asian put into a kettle. They were led with horses out of town. They were moved towards the Highfields area of Leicester and were, as one copper put it,being taken home. There have been reports of clashes – but no arrests were made.
In one interesting development the EDL were seen burning the flag of Argentina (that hotbed of jihadism)– hoping to ctach a ride on another patriotic wave as tensions over territory and oil deposits in the South Atlantic cause another hoo-ha about the sovereignity of the Falkland islands.
What’s next for our flag-waving chums? Rumour has it that they might be heading to Bristol – watch this space…
Meanwhile tiny EDL splinter group the Infidels held their own breakaway demo in Rochdale on the same day. Standing in the snow in an empty carpark surrounded by cops without any audience, this event was notable only for the re-appearance of openly Nazi groups such as the British People’s Party.