Mika Salo | 22.03.2010 21:42 | Anti-racism
Many shops were shut, and the local taxi drivers were on strike against the EDL.
We were welcomed by the Manchester Trades Council and other activists. Within minutes, the national secretary of Love Music Hate Racism was arrested by s police short-shield snatch squad, and a line of UAF formed to prevent any further police incursions. A copper came up to me personally and said "You know who's coming, don't you" and "You know what happens next", then grabbed my neck. A tug of war ensued between the coppers and protesters with me as the rope, but the coppers won that one and I was nicked.
Not glorifying this, a nicked revolutionary is not an effective revolutionary.
Meanwhile, more and more people were arriving in the square, now getting on for 2000 protesters in the square. The police continued to make arrests and incite violence - a GMB union member got a head wound, and a GMB pensioner was arrested and roughed up.
Other coppers were photoed and videod laughing and joking with EDL fascists, there's plenty of evidence on Youtube and other sources.
More and more people arrived, and the police ushered the EDL (about 1500) into the other side of the square. They started throwing sticks, bottles, other weapons and coins at us (thanks guys - that cash will go to more leaflets etc!) while the police left them to it.
It was looking like it was going to be a tough day, but then late arrivals teamed up with groups of local youths and were about to corner the EDL in the square. They bottled it and legged it. As a London comrade said "We had joy, we had fun, we had nazis on the run, but they joy didn't last, 'cos the nazis ran too fast!"
Minutes later, the police fled too, and the violence stopped. We had held our ground, and we repelled both the Police and the EDL.
A number of spontaneous marches took place around Bolton centre, I saw three on my way back!
It was a long day in many ways, but we all made it home on Saturday as planned with no charges, no fines, no cautions, nothing. And untimately, we won. The mood on the coach coming back was great, everyone had their own stories to tell, and I hope others post responses. I can't do a great job of telling the story as I missed the main events!
SO WHAT CAN WE LEARN?
1) As ever, numbers are essential. The police violence stopped as soon as it became clear they were heavily outnumbered. At the same time, coincidentally of course, myself and other comrades were released.
2) The police and media will be going all out to talk about violence and nothing else. Their message is clear "Stay away". "Do nothing". "Definitely don't go to Dudley".
WE SAY EVERYONE TO DUDLEY EASTER SATURDAY. This is the next stop for the EDL. Let's see if we can make it their last stop.
Whether you're UAF, StBNP, ANTIFA, none of the above, whoever you are, get to Dudley. Coaches from Nottingham are already being organised, and details will be up shortly.
Numbers are essential. Local strikes and action are essential. Solidarity from around the country is essential. YOU are essential!
P.S. Good luck to the guys we picked up! Hope you make it!
(Point to be made here - Why did the UAF leadership agree with the cops/EDL to share the Square, and then pretend they are a No Platform organisation?)
My opinion was not to enter Victoria Square.... What was the point of getting penned in, and then trying to break out? We were already out, and able to stay reasonably mobile. We assessed the surrounding area, and ended up with a nother group of anti fascists / UAF who were protecting Oxford Street. They did this quite successfully, Once (maybe twice) there were small groups of EDL who tried to attack the antis from the rear, and they were prevented from doing so by the group on Oxford Street. There were also about 4 or 5 experienced anti fascists who succeeded in removing a number of fash spotters from Victoria Square near the opening of the metal police cordon that seperated the Square from Oxford Street on "our" side. Like us they stayed fairly mobile, and on their toes to avoid being kettled. The cops did try to contain the crowd on Oxford Street, but if you were thoughtful it was possible to move fairly freely. There were also a group of local Asians over the road by MacDonalds. They were surrounded by cops but made several attempts to break out.
Finally at about 3.30pm some of the Oxford Street crowd, including my mates and me, and the group of Asians made a concerted effort to charge out of the cordon and back to the Square by turning left and left again (down a side street) and therefore avoiding one line of riot cops now blocking Oxford Street. We did this with the (non riot) cops in pursuit, then appraoched the Square where another group of riot cops tried to stop us. The sudden influx of people was too much for them and we successfully entered Victoria Square to cheering, applause, and hand shakes. At this point the EDL were chucking lighters, coins, and plastic bottles. But the sudden entry of greater numbers into the Square seemed to be the turning point. Within about 10 minutes the cops were pushing the EDL back out of the Square and escorting them back to their buses. (I wouldn't say we had the EDL and the cops on the run - let's be realistic here!). Nevertheless their rally was cut short and they were escorted away unable to repeat the events of Stoke. In that sense this was a successful day, and we certainly left later feeling like we had achieved quite a lot.
After the EDL were in retreat whole groups of people marched through various streets and made sure that everyone was safe. Again this was a success.
Lessons to be learnt.... Numbers are crucially important. But the leadership of the UAF, and the SWP "cadre" who follow their CC must wise up, and wise up fast. This is not a game. We need to be 100% serious. Are you wanting community direct action, or are you going to keep on asking the state to use their powers to "ban the EDL"? Surely after Bolton you have seen the problem with this approach.
Something has happened after Stoke. Possibly EDL leadership in some police grassing operation. But suddenly the cops have given the EDL freedom to chuck missiles, whilst attacking UAF supporters. Even the 89 Year Old WW2 veteran Bertie Lois was knocked over by a cop!! And even the liberal press portrayed the events as if it was the UAF who are a bunch of thugs. And Weyman Bennett and Martin Smith (who are both harmless and useless in terms of an effective strategy) were nicked on serious conspiracy charges.