When I arrived workers were sweeping up broken glass from the first attack, which took place inside the venue. The event was a, not very well attended, gathering of peace activists, the kind of activists you generally come across at peace movement events.
Sometime later I was stood outside chatting to a woman who was having a smoke, a statement from her is reproduced below and I can verify that it is accurate, when I noticed a couple of women poking their heads around the corner of the building. They saw that I has seen them, I wandered over to them and they continued to poke their heads around the corner and then duck back, I wandered back to the entrance steps and waved at them. Then one of the peace activists at the event came out and I asked him if the women poking their heads around the corner were anything to do with the earlier attack, he went to have a look and as he returned a group of, I think, four men ran up shouting and one of them attacked him by jumping on his back.
I asked one of the attackers why they wanted a fight, the response is attached as a mp3 above, the attacker said he was only interested in having a fight with one of the peace activists at the fundraiser and it was nothing to do with Chelsea Manning.
The main attacker, the woman with dread locks in the photo above, tried to hit me when I asked her why she was attacking the event, but she was drunk and it was easy to dodge her swipes and she failed to touch me. The second audio clip above is her threatening to smash one of the peace activists face into the kerb as she left.
In all my years of activism the only incident that compares with this is when the EDL attacked a Sheffield Indymedia meeting, ironically the EDL were less violent and more reasonable than activists who attacked the Chelsea Manning fundraiser at The Casa.
Following is a statement from the woman I was chatting with outside the Casa before the attack started:
Anyway, back to Saturday evening...... I was outside talking to the Indymedia journalist from Sheffield, I was in the lee of the doorway due to the high winds and he was slightly further down the steps to my right.
He said he could see two women poking their heads around the corner from the alleyway at the side of The Casa and I asked him whether they were the women from earlier but said he didn't know as he had not arrived by the time of the glass throwing incident.
I couldnt see them as I was sheltering in the doorway but when you came out, we mentioned it to you and you walked to the left to the entrance of the alleyway and from what I could hear - you were asking them to show themselves. You were not doing this in an abusive way, it was not rude and you turned back towards The Casa.
When you were by the street entrance of the club, I heard the sound of running and saw several people,men I think, running down the road from the direction of The Phil and before you had time to turn round or me to shout a warning this man had lept on to your back.
You fell forward and I think managed to save your self from falling by grabbing the rails of the club and you then turned back towards the steps and then it seemed as if maybe six people, including the women from the side of the club had joined the men and were trying to pull you into the street.
I was trying to pull you up the steps and they were trying to pull you back down again.
Then the woman with the blond dreds, made to pick up the large plant pot to the left and I am sure she had the intent to throw it.
When you were at the top of the steps, the man who jumped on your back was being very verbal and abusive - you lost me my job you **** etc and then someone pulled you back inside, you went to get your stick but another man who I dont know persuaded you to go back into the back room.
But it was shocking, the way the man jumped onto your back, because it did not give you the opportunity to defend yourself and because of the storm impossible to hear their approach.
From my vantage point at the top of the steps I could see all this.
I am not from Liverpool, do not have an agenda nor an axe to grind against these people - I just came to the fundraiser because a dear friend (Name redacted) was organizing it and the whole thing was sabotaged by a group of undisciplined street thugs who tried to ruin an event they really ought to have been supporting.
In addition to a lot of verbal abuse from the women, there were at least four physical assaults during the evening, three of which I witnessed personally.
One of the women (with blonde dreads) hurled her half full glass inside the venue, narrowly missing mine and other people's heads, hitting and injuring [name redacted] in the ankle and smashing on the floor. [I have since been told that the glass was aimed at Ciaron who ducked it - I was facing the other way towards the women and didn't observe this].
The three and others who had arrived a few moments before, were told to leave the Casa by management. Some time later, they returned and assaulted someone who was attending the event and had gone to smoke outside. They did this by a number of them jumping on him from behind. I did not witness this myself.
During the ensuing altercation (the person who had been assaulted was by now inside and those outside trying to deal with the situation were a mix of people attending the event, other Casa customers and bar staff), the woman with blonde dreads who was on the pavement reached through the railings into the venue yard and grabbed one of the people trying to reason with her by his jacket, pulling him towards the railings.
While the manager [name redacted] was telling the group to leave, she was physically assaulted (hit) by the woman with blonde dreads. At this point the group dispersed.
There were numerous witnesses to all these incidents. Ciaron O'Reilly was not involved in any altercation as far as I am aware. At one point before the first incident, he was challenged by the woman with blonde dreads and he suggested that they go outside to speak to avoid disrupting the event. However, this didn't happen as the group started attacking someone else and was then told to leave. [See clarification above - have since been told Ciaron was the target of the thrown glass].
The woman who perpetrated at least three of the above incidents complained to me directly during the evening about how unsafe she had felt at the anarchist bookfair after she had ripped up Ciaron O'Reilly's Assange solidarity postcards. Ciaron's response there was to verbally defend his right to free speech. Demanding 'safer spaces' at the bookfair, then instigating violence at a benefit gig seem contradictory in the extreme.
If you live in Liverpool and are involved in activism, I think this is your problem as well as ours.