Report from Schnews: 23/04/12
Quote of the day – “Well who thought it was a good idea to organise these two demonstrations on the same day? Surely it was obvious there would be problems” – random Brighton theatre-goer/by-stander
Yesterday’s counter-protest against the March for England exceeded all expectations. Although the fascists did march they did so inside a mobile police kettle continuously surrounded and occasionally bombarded by counter-protestors. Their march route was cut short and for once the chant “Police protect the fascists” was 100% accurate.
Last year the police successfully kettled most of the anti-fascists, allowing the MfE free rein through the city. They took full advantage of the opportunity to hand out racist abuse and attack alternative looking types. Brighton anti-fascists were determined to avoid a repeat.
Aware that the cops plan was to push the march straight down the road from the railway station to the sea front, the anti-crowd was encouraged to spread themselves thinly along the route. This prevented a pre-emptive kettle.
The MfE were due to start their procession at midday, but due to the geography of the area no-one in the counter-demo had a direct view of their meet-up point at the station. A strange High-Noon quiet settled over the town centre as the counter-protest shuffled and waited, watching police movements for a clue as to what might happen. Numbers gradually built up, serenaded by the bizarrely soothing tones of dub from a punk- soundsytem.
For a while it looked as if the cops were going to throw the towel in and refuse to allow the MfE out of the station. At half-twelve jogging lines of cops and the arrival of horses let everyone know that the fash were on the move.
One eyewitness at the station told SchNEWS “From where they were mustered, they could only see a tiny part of the counter-demo, mainly the UAF contingent. They were very cocky. As soon as they turned the corner and saw the opposition their faces fell”. By this point there were around 500 anti-fascists on the streets.
The nationalists had only mustered around 100, a third of what they had predicted. Yesterday SchNEWS reported that “there was little if any English Defence League insignia actually on display”. Since then we’ve been told that EDL banners and an Essex Infidels flag were unfurled at the station. In reality this was a moot point as the main body of march consisted of known EDL faces, including virtually all of Brighton and Portsmouth EDL with the addition of various unsavoury characters such as Jeff Marsh of Casuals United. Despite the presence of a few token women and kids the march was overwhelmingly male, bald and fat.
It didn’t take long after the march set off before the first few antis were in the road behind a banner. From then on the march became a rugby scrum as the cops used horses, truncheons and pepper spray to force the MfE through. Every time the cops broke through an anti-fascist line, another would form ten or twenty metres down the road.
BATTLE OF CHURCH ST
The pressure only intensified as the police decided to abandon the planned high-profile route and try to smuggle the nationalists down the back-streets. Anti-fascists got ahead of the game and running around the side got in front of the march on Church St to build barricades. Fascists and police came under attack with bottles. It was at this point that some-one set a bin on fire, irritating everyone, right and left, with the acrid smoke.
What was totally remarkable was the level of solidarity for the counter-demo by folk from all walks of life in Brighton. There was no support for the MfE. Pensioners and kids shouted abuse at the fash. The UAF stood shoulder to shoulder with Antifa punks.
Eventually the MfE, numbering around a hundred ended up in their pre-prepared pen, – unfortunately for them so did almost the entire counter-demo. They then had to put up with two hours of being jeered at by the surrounding mob before cops rushed them back to the station to be dispersed.
Their march was dogged every step of the way but as they were leaving the crowd was happy to let the cops rush them along. Anti fascists went on to enjoy a pint in the sunshine.
Despite the usual online japery the few EDL who tried to make a stand outside the cordon were quickly seen off. Joel Titus, self proclaimed leader of the EDLs youth wing was spotted skulking with a crew of half-wits in the Marlborough pub, one of the few bars that would serve them on the day. A handful of anti-fascists were able to send them packing. Virtually no other pubs would serve the MfE and they failed to maintain a presence in town after they were dispersed.
Is this the end of the March for England in Brighton? Watch this space!
Final word to Brighton Anti-fascists “Brighton showed the racists today that their brand of hatred isn’t welcome in our city. Brighton has always historically seen off the fascists, in the the thirties , the seventies and now today. Big thanks to all who turned out! – Up the punks!”
As far as SchNEWS knows no-one on our team got nicked- If you were arrested and require support then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For a great gallery of photos by Guy Smallman
*Updated* Report from Bristol Anti-Fascists can be read here.
Here’s a video of yesterday’s counter protest, more can be found on Youtube.