Business as usual on Saturday?

6th February, 2012

Of course we are all grateful that the presence of the EDL in Leicester on Saturday did not result in violence. It was clear from those who saw them at first hand that they were intent on causing trouble and spreading their messages of hatred and racism.

But as the ‘authorities’ congratulate themselves on a job well done, some questions remain.

Why was there little trouble? Why were the police so heavy handed with a small peaceful group of us who had gathered at the Clock Tower to bear witness and show the EDL they were not welcome. Was it business as usual? Last but not least what will happen next time?

Let’s just look at some of the facts about events on Saturday.

The EDL, a nasty bunch of right wing racist thugs, are escorted a through the streets of Leicester, past the Clock Tower, on the busiest shopping day of the week with the support of the authorities. Some have argued there was no need for the EDL to do anything more as they had got exactly what they wanted. For the first time in over 25 years those in power in our city have permitted such a march.

What the EDL are like cannot be disputed. We can look at their record on the internet. But more than that we know what they did in 2010 in Leicester when they attacked and injured the police and smashed up shops, threatening people with violence. These events are well documented by the media.

It has been suggested by the City Mayor that some wanted a repeat of what happened last time. That is inflammatory and simply not true.  I suggested to the City Mayor that the EDL should not be allowed to march and instead they should be given space away from the city centre to hold their rally, and if they did anything that threatened people or was unlawful, then the police should deal with as they would any of us.

I was told there were no powers to do this. Why then was Section 14 of the Public Oder Act 1986 used against peaceful local people, including many local councillors, who assembled at the Clock Tower to make known to the EDL that they were not welcome in our city?

If this power can be used against peaceful law abiding local people why wasn’t it used against the EDL who from their banners came from Hull and Weymouth? It is the EDL who have the track record of violence and arrests not local people protesting against them.

I appreciate that the police have a difficult job is situations such as this. But the way the police forcibly moved about 50 local people down Gallowtree Gate using mounted police riding at us, and threats of arrest was excessive use of force. I have been on many demonstrations since the late 1970s in our city and not experienced this before. It was unnecessary use of force with at least one person being hurt by the police.

At one point a senior police officer told the councillors in the group not to express our opinions and when about half a dozen of us were having a cup of tea the only black person amongst was removed by the police. These are not the tactics we expect from those in power. We have a right not to be bullied and intimidated for our legitimate and lawful views.

We expect our rights to peaceful protest to be upheld, not trampled on.

So I was even more surprised to hear Superintendent Nixon on the radio this morning threatening some of us with action from within the city council. I seriously question the appropriateness of that remark.

Was it business as usual? No of course it wasn’t. The city was closed down, and virtually empty in the morning, with a few more people coming in during the afternoon. There was one lone stall holder on the market hardly business as usual! Many workers will have lost a day at work and many businesses have lost money. Surely sufficient reason alone for banning the EDL from the city centre?

I am not a member of Unite Against Fascism, neither am I constant critic of the police. I have worked constructively with the police over many years at all levels. I have a consistent record for over 30 years of opposing the far right in our city. This is not a bandwagon I have just jumped on for any other reason, as some have said. My views are informed by what happened with the rise of the Nazis and other far right groups in the 1930s in this country and in Germany, and the rise of the National Front in Leicester in the 1970s. Many in authority advocated appeasement and turning the other cheek. We all know what that led to. “For evil to triumph it only takes good people to do nothing”. (Edmund Burke – not exactly a left winger!)

 

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  1. Paul Smith

    6th February, 2012

    Ross,

    You ask the question: “Why then was Section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986 used against peaceful local people, including many local councillors, who assembled at the Clock Tower to make known to the EDL that they were not welcome in our city?”

    The answer seems very simple. You were breaking the law.

    There were designated assembly points for both sets of protesters. The Police made it crystal clear that anyone not assembling at those points and meeting at the Clock Tower were liable to arrested. I knew it. The members of Unite Against Facism knew it. Even the EDL knew about it and they abided accordingly. And yet you and a few others chose to ignore it. What did you expect would happen? Were the Police supposed to just ignore you? If you had been ignored then surely members of the EDL could justifiably have expected to also have gone to the Clock Tower and “peacefully protested” in a similar manner. However, I suspect that somehow it wouldn’t have ended up being very peaceful.

    No. The Police had to maintain law and order and protect your safety, the safety of all the protesters and the safety of all citizens of Leicester. I for one thank them. You should unconditionally thank them too. I don’t know what your agenda was but you certainly seem to be way out of step with the thinking of most people I’ve heard and members of your own party.