Bristol threw a very big unwelcome party for the racist thugs of the English Defence League (EDL) who descended on the city Saturday for its march of hate against Muslims.
Thousands of locals turned out for a demonstration and flash protests across the city in a brilliant show of unity. This was in defiance at attempts by the local council and police to roll out the red carpet for the racist thugs.
Activists protested at the rail station set as a “muster point” for the EDL, others briefly occupied the site where the EDL were to rally.
Meanwhile some 800 trade unionists gathered at the We Are Bristol rally at The Fountains in the city centre — this was despite a police diktat banning anti-racists from gathering.
Trade union speakers and others condemned city leaders for its disgraceful decision to hand over the city centre to the EDL.
The decision was an insult to the city on the day it was celebrating Bristol Pride.
In the week running up to the march, authorities and the local press ran a campaign to discourage locals form joining the city-wide protests. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of pounds was wasted on drafting in some 1,000 riot police — including from Wales, Leicester, West Midlands, City of London and Greater Manchester — to suppress local objections to the EDL.
The We Are Bristol campaign was supported by MPs, lcoal trade unions and the TUC South West Regional Council.
Police arrested UAF national officer Martin Smith at the The Fountains.
Some 800 people then marched to the official rally point at Castle Park. The demonstration was joined along the way by a feeder march.
Among the speakers at the rally were: Kerry McCarthy MP; Mohammedur Khan, Labour councillor for Eastville ward; Marvin Rees, Labour Mayoral candidate; Dave Chapple, CWU rep and SWTUC vice chair; Roger Thomas, PCS SW regional vice chair; Gwynneth Powell, secretary Davies Unite Health branch; Glyn Ford, Polint, European anti-fascist campaigner; Varinder Singh, Sikhs against the EDL; Ayan Cilmi, We Are Bristol; Weyman Bennett, joint secretary UAF; and Jeff Hurford, UAF South Wales.
After the final rally many people slipped through police cordons to join the thousands who began to surround the EDL zone, others joined the Pride celebration.
Despite being given the keys to the city the EDL could only muster some 300 supporters. This is the EDL’s smallest “national mobilisation”, and a miserable turn-out for a movement that could once mobilise thousands of hardened thugs.
The counter protests ensured that the police were eventually forced to clear the EDL out of the city. In past events the racist thugs have been allowed to roam city centres following the end of their official event.
Mickey Bayliss, South West organiser for the EDL, told This is Bristol that “we will not be coming back to Bristol in the near future.”
Martin Upchurch from We Are Bristol said:
The people of Bristol gave a clear message to the EDL that they are not welcome here, and our streets and communities are safer as a result.”
Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of UAF, said:
The counter demonstration united black, white, Asian, faith communities, straight and LGBT, in a show of defiance against the vile Islamobobia of the EDL.”