Almost 20 years to the day after Britain’s cities simultaneously erupted against the policies of Thatcher’s Tory government, there has been a series of explosions revealing the simmering anger against Blair’s Britain.
The press portrayed the recent events in Bradford as race riots – the reality is that these uprisings have primarily been against the racist far-right Nazi menace and racist policing. They have also been an outbreak of frustrated anger against the reality of life for whole sections of society in Britain today – both black and white.
None of the press has revealed the true sequence of events last Saturday.
As MAGGIE, a Socialist Party member from Leeds who was amongst the hundreds gathered in Centenary Square, Bradford on 7 July points out, all the young Asian men she spoke to wanted a peaceful show of strength against the Nazis. However, the huge police presence was provocative and as events unfolded it was clear they were there to stop the counter-demonstrators not the Nazis.
Socialist Party member HOWARD, who was involved in organising the merged counter-demonstration of Bradford trades council and Anti-Nazi League (ANL) against the Nazis, explains how things developed: “Shortly after mid-day, a well-known Nazi activist entered Centenary Square, where he had a conversation with police officers and then left the square. This individual is extremely well known to police and has been involved in many acts of intimidation and violence over the years.
“Events came to a head when word went round that this person and a group with him were in Addisons Bar, just off Centenary Square. Soon a crowd gathered outside with the intention of seeing them off.
“The fascists emerged and whilst standing behind a police line taunted the crowd to attack them and hurled racist abuse. One lone Asian man charged them and ended up on the floor where he was repeatedly stamped on the head for five minutes, whilst the police only three feet away waved their batons to keep the anti-fascist crowd from aiding him.
“This was the turning point. The police pushed the crowd out and the riot then kicked off because of people’s outrage at the police protection of the fascists.
Anger increased when within an hour the same Nazi was again wandering around Centenary Square and was again protected by police when Asian youths tried to chase him off. This individual was eventually detained by the police – probably for his own protection.
There have been wildly inaccurate reports in some of the media about Asian and white gangs fighting. During the whole day, whilst it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between who was who amongst the whites, the atmosphere was most definitely not anti-white from the Asian youth, but was understandably suspicious.
The crowd which gathered outside Addisons bar was totally mixed. The Fascist strategy of getting events portrayed as a race riot was achieved thanks to the local police.
Tensions had been increasing in Bradford in the weeks preceding the proposed National Front (NF) march. Rumours were rife and many young people were getting ‘prepared’ for the expected arrival of the NF determined that they would not be able to run amok in the city.
In a disgraceful capitulation to NF threats the city council, on police advice, cancelled the Bradford Festival due to be held the same day. Their excuse was that they could not guarantee public safety.
The maximum the NF had turned out on any event in Lancashire was 25. Most people were outraged by this decision, seeing it as giving in to NF threats. As one anti-fascist activist put it: “NF 1, Bradford 0”.
There were several suspicious individuals who were probably ‘spotting’ for the NF. But the anticipated arrival of leading NF member Terry Blackham never occurred.
There were unconfirmed rumours that there had been arrests of known fascist activists approaching Bradford and that the Leeds contingent, seven of them, were boozing in Leeds city centre.
This could create the impression that the police were acting to prevent the NF arriving in Bradford. But the reality is that although the police later lost control their heavy presence was designed to protect the fascists not the local community.