The EDL were yesterday forced to have their Bradford demonstration behind 10 foot solid walls, almost completely away from public view. Bussed in, and shepherded through airport style x-ray gates, their presence was only felt when they showered counterdemonstrators with stones, bottles and smoke bombs.
The police will no doubt congratulate themselves on facilitating protest without riots breaking out all over Bradford. But much of the anticipation of serious disorder was probably down to the police themselves, who had spent weeks convincing local communities that allowing opposition to the EDL on the streets would lead to a re-run of the 2001 Bradford riots. The only counter demonstrations they ‘facilitated’ were those by the UAF and the police-sponsored ‘Be Peaceful’, both a substantial distance from the EDL.
This scare mongering must surely have had a significant impact. But around 800 people turned out regardless, amassing in the city centre, just metres from the EDL, in an unplanned, spontaneous demonstration. Police repeatedly attempted to move this crowd back, using lines of police and horses, and clamping down hard on anyone tempted to ‘return’ a few of their missiles to the EDL.
It is doubtful too whether the EDL felt their protest was facilitated. Held so completely out of public view, it looked more like they had been herded into a temporary prison.
The police will probably claim that the huge site bordered by ten feet solid walls was justified and successful in containing the EDL. Except that it didn’t actually contain them. One of the most notable things about the EDL is their ability to fight their way out of all sorts of police containment. This time at least a hundred broke through lines of baton wielding cops and escaped over the walls, pursued by both police and counter demonstrators. On at least one occasion counter demonstrators got there first and a few EDL were seen sporting bloody noses and lips.
After that point the police finally managed to get control. They deployed riot police to keep anti-EDL groups on the run, pushing them further and further out of the city centre until they dispersed. They also deployed large numbers of riot police to kettle the EDL, containing them tightly with shields and batons. Slowly the kettled EDL were put back on their buses, the last ones leaving around six o’clock, a full two hours after their demo had been scheduled to stop.
There were five arrests reported, there seemed few injuries and property damage was minor. But some of the measures used by police – particularly those aimed at deterring counterdemonstrations – have to raise questions about just what is acceptable and/or justified in the name of preventing public disorder.