The EDL: pity they can't hold a tune
Anti racists penned inside Piccadilly Gardens
The EDL have been spotted
That Union Jack was a bit of a giveaway
Letting the dogs out
"They bite, y'know": copper states the obvious
I was left to prowl round the edges of the square, peering through the fences to see what was going on. Some of the EDL had been corralled into a corner by Debenhams. They were easy to find by the appalling noise they were making: "Land of Hope and Glory" simply does not work when done as a football chant.
There were no more than 300 EDL supporters for what was meant to be their national rally. The anti racist groups mustered nearly twice that many for what was only a north west regional call out. Nearly 100 anti racists turned out just from Liverpool. They occupied most of the lawn and fountain area of Piccadilly Gardens, leaving the EDL with nowhere much to go.
The police moved some of the EDL out of the square at one point and then let them back in again, where they were directly facing the anti racists. It is impossible to tell whether this was a deliberate provocation, or whether the police had decided they didn't want to risk the EDL having a chance to scatter into the backstreets of the Northern Quarter.
The EDL kept up the football style chanting until 5 o'clock, when the police moved them out of the area. But somehow a few of them went in the wrong direction, towards Portland Street, just as the police were letting the anti racist demonstrators out of that side of PIccadilly Gardens. One of the EDL yobs was reckless enough to shout a racist insult at some Asian lads who were standing nearby. Immediately 100 anti racists started to home in on his little gang.
The police then carried out one of their classic acts of stupidity, which raised tensions instead of defusing the situation. Two mounted police rode into the demonstrators while those on foot flailed their retractable batons at whoever was nearest to them. That simply cranked up the anger. Some one shouted, "Are you proud of protecting fascists?" Some one else threw a can at the EDL gang.
Then five dog handlers moved in to terrorise the anti racists and force them further down the street. They got quite carried away. I saw one of them threaten to set his dog on an Asian family who were walking along the pavement. They included an elderly lady and an 8-year-old girl. Another threatened to set his dog on a journalist who was standing in the road filming. I was using my own camcorder at the time. I trained it on the copper in question and advised him that if he set his dog on me I'd sue him - after I'd strangled his Alsation.
Meanwhile, the EDL supporters were standing across the street smirking at the upset they'd caused. They were shortly escorted away by their uniformed friends. And that was pretty much the end of the event.
This rally did nothing for the English Defence League's credibility, or their public profile. The ordinary shoppers who stopped to watch them only did so because they were an entertaining spectacle. Nobody seemed to know what they stood for, except that they were "the racists" they'd heard about in the news.
If the EDL had hoped to use this rally to promote their narrow version of English culture, they failed miserably.