The Met Police made up to 300 arrests (07/09/13) in order to allow the EDL to march across Tower Bridge and into the outskirts of Tower Hamlets.
The day started well enough with hundreds answering the Anti -Fascist Network‘s call to stop the EDL. The AFN responding to earlier threats by the Met to march the league into the heart of Tower Hamlets had announced their meeting point as Altab Ali park – effectively as a side rally to the Unite against Fascism shindig.
The UAF affair went down much as expected – a platform with speakers firmly within the designated protest zone. In the end they produced nearly fifty speakers (all the usual suspects and local worthies). It also has to be said that the UAF really only started banging the drum for Tower Hamlets when it was clear that a police ban on an EDL march into Tower Hamlets proper would be enforced.
Meanwhile the AFN quietly assembled towards the back of the park and when the moment came around 500 surged out behind the banners and to the cops’ surprise marched east in order to outflank them and exploit a few undefended side streets. Many locals joined in with the break away.
Swinging round, the block made for Tower Bridge and tried to make its way through the hastily improvised police cordons. Some were kettled or turned back but one group of around a hundred made it to within sight of the EDL’s rally point on Tower Bridge. Determined attempts to break through were met with the threat of horses and dogs. In the end the exchange between anti-fascists and EDL was limited to shouting abuse.
Other anti-fascists operated in small groups along the route of the EDL’s march. After the huge build up and with all the benefits of the Lee Rigby incident the league only numbered around 600 on the day. One SchNEWS reporter who walked alongside them said “They seemed pretty despondent, there was very little shouting or chanting”.
At the EDL’s rally point at Aldgate station one brave couple, who’d evaded police detection, unfurled a banner with the pithy slogan “Racists fuck off”. This provoked a hail of bottles from the enraged EDL. The banner wielders were then nicked for ‘breach of the peace’. There were also (unconfirmed) reports that non-aligned anti-fascists got into a building site to the south of the rally and hurled bricks into the crowd.
The EDL were permitted a half hour rally, during which Tommy Robinson announced a series of charity walks in the Tower Hamlets area, an obvious move in light of the astounding success of the last one. They were then marched directly back along their route and embarked on their buses. A handful remained drinking under the watchful eyes of cops in pubs near the bridge. No EDL supporters managed any kind of visible presence in Tower Hamlets on the day.
As the news of the EDL’s departure came through the UAF staged a ‘victory march’ along Whitechapel High St. The celebration of this ‘victory’ while nearly two hundred comrades were being held in police kettles and being prepared for mass arrest was condemned by at least one AFN activist as a “fucking disgrace”.
Police brought commandeered buses to the two kettles and began loading prisoners into them to be distributed to police stations across London. Arrest support was organised by Green and Black Cross across the capital, with activists waiting outside police stations for released detainees. As far as SchNEWS is aware virtually nobody has been charged with an offence or even interviewed. They have all been bailed away from ‘demonstrations by the BNP, EDL or EVF inside the M25’. These are the very same bail conditions handed out to activists who confronted the BNP’s attempted march on the Cenotaph . Clearly the Met at least are worried about the growing presence of militant anti-fascists on the streets.
Were you arrested? If you haven’t already then it’s probably worth your while to contact Green and Black Cross who are collating information and organising legal support.
For more information on autonomous street based anti-fascism – ANTI FASCIST NETWORK
Anti-Fascist Network: East End: Always Anti-Fascist
East Midlands Anti-fascists: Heavy manners in Tower Hamlets
South London Anti-Fascists: Our Thanks
Vice: I Was Arrested for Trying to Report On Saturday’s EDL Rally
Undisinfo: The Hate Agenda’s Transparent This Weekend
Netpol: Mass arrest – an abuse of power