Anti-fascist protesters emerged victorious on Saturday after holding Bolton’s central Victoria Square against the racists from the English Defence League.
But mainstream national media reports are presenting it as a contest between two violent groups – and blaming the anti-fascists for the violence.
Anti-fascists faced brutality from police with dogs and on horseback. There were over 60 arrests – 55 Unite Against Fascism and 9 EDL, according to Sky news – including UAF leader Weyman Bennett “on suspicion of conspiracy to commit violent disorder”. The police commander made disgraceful allegations about the protesters.
Video on the Bolton News website makes it clear, however, that the violence was not coming from the anti-fascists. It shows an elderly veteran of World War 2 who had joined the protest, and UAF stewards can be heard urging protestors to stay calm in the face of apparent police efforts to provoke a riot.
The Bolton News had a reporter in Victoria Square who described on Twitter how EDL members had broken away from the square to cause violence: “Number of demonstrators intent on causing disorder have broken away from protest site. Large numbers of officers deployed to address.” The journalist saw “missiles flying” as the EDL tried to get out of its enclosure.
Anti-fascists clearly outnumbered the EDL, yet the BBC on its website and on TV news cited the police estimates that there were 1,500 anti-fascists and 2,000 EDL. The facts suggest otherwise.
The Bolton News reported on Twitter at 3.30pm: “EDL look to have gone from the sq[uare] but more UAF supporters making their way there. Banners from Hull, London, Birmingham among those seen”
Anti-fascists continued to join the protest. Twenty minutes later the Bolton News reported a “large number of asian youths in ashburner street”, just outside Victoria Square
This was the turning point when hundreds of young Asians joined the protests.
Socialist Worker’s reporter described this moment: “Anti-racists in Victoria Square have been buoyed by the arrival of large numbers of young Asians from the town. Shafiq told Socialist Worker, ‘The police tried to stop us getting here by holding us in a side road for hours. Several times we tried to break through their lines, but they held us back. … Its disgusting that the police have allowed the EDL to do what ever they like here, but we’ve been stopped from defending our own town.’”
About the same time, UAF’s twitter feed reported: “Another huge contingent of UAF supporters finally allowed to enter the square”. Hundreds of anti-fascists had been blocked by police from entering the square.
The BBC’s reporting was execrable, quoting the EDL and repeating its claim that “it describes itself as a peaceful, non-political group”. UAF spokespeople were not quoted.
Sky news at 6pm also reported the protest as a violent confrontation, citing the numbers arrested as if they were proof of violence on the UAF side.
Expose the BNP (repost)