A Bradford Socialist Party member’s eye-witness account of the day.
There was an eerie feel walking into the centre of Bradford on the day of the English Defence League’s visit on the 12th October. The streets were practically deserted and there was a cold chill to the air as we walked towards centenary square near the point where the EDL planned to gather.
The fascists had arranged with the police to meet around 11am at The Queen pub, next to the Interchange, and numerous police vans were already in place, blocking off access to Bridge Street and various other roads in a usually busy spot for shoppers and pub-goers. Given the provocative nature of the EDL — in Bradford, particularly, where the far-right group last visited in 2010 — it was pretty clear from the off that the police weren’t about to tolerate any nuisance this time around.
With no march route granted, this was basically a day out to the pub for the EDL, with various coaches shipping in supporters right into their designated pen as early as 10 am. Despite the landloards of the pub proclaiming that they “do not support the EDL in any shape or form” on their Facebook page earlier in the week, they were happy to cooperate with the local police and council and fuel the EDL thugs with alcohol during their visit.
Various England flags could be seen from behind the blockade of police vans, but the EDL’s desire to be heard and threat to cause havoc were practically none existent. Unite Against Fascism, as part of We Are Bradford, had arranged a peace festival a few streets away, but the desire of about fifty or so of us to get close to the EDL early alerted the police to tighten up their security even further.
Police horses surged forward in an attempt to move us towards the UAF demo point, but we avoided them and were determined to stand our ground. Attempts to kettle us on at least three occasions were also thwarted, with groups splitting and then reforming to patrol the city centre back-streets in search of stray EDL troublemakers.
It was encouraging to see activists from various organisations uniting for the sake of opposing the EDL – Bradford-based “Yorkshire Anti-Fascists”, along with “Leeds Anti-Fascist Network”, “Anonymous UK” and “Socialist Party” members were among those determined to make a stand on the frontline and show that they were not intimidated by the violent and aggressive nature of the fascists in the city. Local residents, young and old, who were not aligned to any particular group, also contributed to the solidarity, shouting “Where’s your leader gone?” towards the fascists (referencing ex-EDL leader Tommy Robinson’s departure a few days previously).
In-fighting occurred within the EDL pen, with eleven reported arrests. Speeches at 1pm were also cut short, with police escorting EDLers to their buses after only twenty minutes in.
There were 250 fascists at most in total – pretty pathetic considering the EDL likes to brag about how much support it has in Bradford. A few stray members loitered around the Interchange for a short time after the main group had been dispersed, but we, as anti-fascists, stuck around, determined to protect our city. The rain had been pouring down all day and the EDLers now looked more pathetic than ever, drenched in their own misery and insignificance, before the last of them got onto their public buses and trains, having achieved absolutely nothing on the day.