Saturday, August 28, 2010

The 'big one' was a washout for the EDL

Well well. I haven't time to update you on everything that happened yesterday. You should have been following me on Twitter if you weren't. You can see some pics too. But the big picture is perhaps best encapsulated by the well known acronym: wtf? As in, wtf was all of this hysterical nonsense about 'riots'? As in, wtf was all of this about the EDL making Bradford their 'big one'.

Because the first claim, that holding an antifascist demonstration in Bradford would inevitably provoke a riot and couldn't be carried off peacefully, was the rationale for the police delivering leaflets through people's doors warning people not to attend the counter-demo or risk being arrested - reminding people of how many years people were (disgracefully) sent down for after 2001. It was the rationale for the council, supported by the police, calling a poorly attended 'multicultural event' out of its fundament and telling Asian lads effectively that if they didn't want to get arrested they should go to Manningham instead of the city centre. It was the rationale for local council-funded mosques organising day trips to take the youth out of the city. It was the rationale for all the smearing and nonsense from Searchlight and the Telegraph and Argus and the police and the council - though, to their credit, eight local councillors supported the 'We Are Bradford' protest, and one of them turned up and spoke.

The combined forces of the national and local state, the local media and an anti-fascist group with union funding were all against this protest happening at all, and they put incredible pressure on people. We couldn't mobilise many people at Exchange Square. I would have expected a few thousand people under normal circumstances. In fact, it was closer to one thousand, though admittedly it was a rather boisterous one thousand, with music, dancing and brrrraaap-brrrrraaap aplenty. Many of those present would probably rather have been out there with the local people when they decided to confront the EDL directly. But that would not have been possible with so many police present. And the point, that antifascists could stage a peaceful protest in the centre of Bradford without triggering a 'race riot', and that it is the racists and fascists, not antifascists and not local communities, who start riots, was made.

As for the EDL's big day out, it was a shambles that ended with fascists and racists getting their arses kicked and their collars felt. This wasn't mainly because of the police. It was because lots of the normal crowd were scared off by the possibility of having a fight with local Asians. This is going to be a long-term problem for them. They can't physically intimidate Muslim communities in Britain, which is supposed to be their rationale. They can build a periphery of racists, some of whom will come along to their demonstrations if there's little risk to themselves. They can provide the (almost bankrupt) BNP with a recruiting base. They can write acres of masturbatory 'poetry' for their websites, and produce little black hoodies with the EDL logo on. They can beat people up in small numbers. Indeed, where they think they've got an easy target, they can mobilise several thousand people who are ready for a ruck, prepared to break police lines and go on a riot. But Braford, 'home turf', 'the big one'...? No, the majority of the 'infidels' didn't dare turn up to that one.

For most of the protest, 800 EDL were penned into a mothballed shopping centre project surrounded by large fances. They had spent the morning getting tanked up, on an agreement with the police who laid on double decker buses to take them to and from the pubs. They presumably had more than a few carry outs while they were penned in to the 'Urban Gardens'. During this time, they regaled onlooking journalists with their usual repertoire of 'Allah is a paedo', and added a new chant of 'we love the floods' in reference to the recent catastrophe in Pakistan. When it turned out that a small, multi-racial crowd of local people had arrived opposite the EDL protest zone, the EDL started throwing bricks, bottles and even a smoke bomb in their fury. My understanding is that, unlike in 2001, local Asian kids made it clear to police that they weren't interested in fighting with coppers and that their main goal was to defend the local community. To that end, they tolerated a lot of shit and provocations from the police, refusing to be goaded into brawling with them: a lot of tactical lessons have been learned.

In the end, a few hundred EDL succeeded in breaking through the police cordons and started to run riot. Now, I put it to you that if 8,000 cops, with helicopters, mounted officers, surveillance and superior control of the geography, couldn't contain a few hundred fascist and racist thugs, this is because they were more obsessed with 'controlling' Asian youths (the paranoid racism of West Yorkshire Police hasn't changed) and antifascists than anything else. This vindicates the argument that the state can never be relied on to combat fascism. As it happened, it was hundreds of Asian kids, almost a thousand of them, who appeared as if from nowhere and stopped the EDL in their tracks, giving a few of them a good battering before sending them running back to the police to be voluntarily kettled again. If the high point of the EDL's day was getting back under police protection and saving themselves from the local community, you know it's an #EPIC #FAIL.

The tragedy is that those kids had to do it by themselves. The tragedy is that an antifascist group, and the local media, and the police, and the council have spent months mobilising against a counter-demonstration. The tragedy is that people's energies were not harnessed to building up local capacity for resisting the EDL, such that tens of thousands were out in opposition to the fash, so that they didn't dare try to riot. If that had happened, there wouldn't have been a peep from the EDL. They would have been extremely well behaved, for a bunch of bevvied racists, and left early. Instead, that vital energy was wasted in a campaign for a ban that was only ever going to lead to exactly the pattern of 'static' protest followed by EDL rioting, ultimately contained by well organised local people, that ensued. It's a disgrace that people were organising poorly attended separate events (the 'multicultural event' drew about 100 people at its height), doing everything they could to prevent unity on the day. Lessons will have to be learned from this.

One last thing. How is it that all the news noticed that there there was a peaceful UAF protest in the city centre, and that neither Hope Not Hate nor the Telegraph and Argus appeared to? Why were there surreal reports, obviously written from miles away, with wholly invented details and wholly separate events blurred? What is the point of that, after everything else that has transpired?