Quote of the day - “Well who thought it was a good idea to organise these two demonstrations on the same day? Surely it was obvious there would be problems” - random Brighton theatre-goer/by-stander
SchNEWS is far too collectively exhausted to give a a blow by blow account of today’s battle to prevent the March for England on the streets of Brighton – a full account will be filed tomorrow.
Today’s counter-protest against the March for England exceeded all expectations. Although the fascists did march they did so inside a mobile police kettle continuously surrounded and occasionally bombarded by counter-protestors. Last year the police successfully kettled most of the anti-fascists, allowing the MfE free rein through the city. Brighton anti-fascists were determined to avoid a repeat.
Aware that the cops plan was to push the march straight down the road from the railway station to the sea front, the crowd was encouraged to spread themselves thinly along the route. This prevented a pre-emptive kettle.
The March was due to start at midday, but due to the geography of the area no-one had a direct view of the MfEs meet-up point at the station. A strange High-Noon quiet settled over the town centre as the counter-protest shuffled and waited, eyeing up police movements for a clue as to what might happen.
For a while it looked as if the cops were going to throw the towel in and refuse to allow the MfE out of the station. At 12.30 jogging lines of cops and the arrival of horses let everyone know that the fash were on the move. One eyewitness at the station told SchNEWS “From where they were mustered, they could only see a tiny part of the counter-demo, mainly the UAF contingent. They were very cocky. As soon as they turned the corner and saw the opposition their faces fell”. By this point there were around 500 anti-fascists on the streets.
The nationalists had only mustered around 100, a third of what they had predicted. To be fair, the was little if any English Defence League insignia actually on display. However the main body of march consisted of known EDL faces, including virtually all of Brighton and Portsmouth EDL. Despite the presence of a few token women and kids the march was overwhelmingly male, bald and fat.
It didn’t take long before the first few antis were in the road behind a banner and the march became a rugby scrum as the cops used horses, truncheons and pepper spray to force the MfE through. The pressure only intensified as the police decided to abandon the planned high-profile route and try to smuggle the nationalists down the back-streets. Anti-fascists got ahead of the game and running around the side got in front to build barricades. Fascists and police came under attack with bottles. It was at this point that some-one set a bin on fire, irritating everyone, right and left, with the acrid smoke.
Eventually the March, numbering around 100 ended up in their pre-prepared pen, – unfortunately for them so did almost the entire counter-demo. They then had to put up with two hours of being jeered at by the surrounding mob before cops rushed them back to the station to be dispersed. Anti fascists went on to enjoy a pint in the sunshine.
Despite the usual online japery the few EDL who tried to make a stand outside the cordon were quickly seen off. Virtually none of the pubs would serve them and they failed to maintain a presence in town after they were dispersed.
Is this the end of the March for England in Brighton? Big thanks to all who turned out – and watch this space!