Coalition of anti-fascists outnumber EDL in show of feeling
THE English Defence League marchers were outnumbered by a vociferous counter-demonstration organised by We Are Bristol. The demonstration – made up of trade unions and community groups – marched from the city centre fountains to Castle Park where a rally was held.
Also opposing the EDL were a number of splinter groups made up of anti-fascists and those on the far left.
A group of around 30 of these greeted the EDL supporters arriving at Temple Meads in the morning with chanting.
Police could do little to avert a handful of scuffles breaking out at the bottom of Station Approach where EDL members clashed with counter demonstrators.
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However, the majority of EDL members arriving by train were swiftly moved through the station by a heavy police presence.
According to Temple Meads duty station manager, police had joined the EDL on one train from London, which was delayed after the emergency handle was pulled.
Supporters of both groups clashed again moments later on Redcliffe Hill where chants of "whose streets? Our streets" – a sound that was to become familiar throughout the day – could be heard from both sides.
The far-left group withdrew and attempted to block Redcliffe Way before further minor clashes with the EDL were met with firm police intervention.
The anti-fascist group was guided up Welsh Back where they were met by more police.
Officers mounted on horses and with full riot gear enclosed the splinter group before escorting them to Castle Park where the majority of We Are Bristol protesters had gathered peacefully.
The counter demonstrators from all groups then mobilised on Bristol Bridge from where the EDL march could be seen crossing from Redcliffe Wharf to Welsh Back.
On their way to Queen Square, where their own separate rally was held, the EDL march came within 200 metres of the counter demonstrators. Separated by a police cordon, and metal barriers, the protesters called for the "fascist" EDL to "go home".
Shortly after, the crowds returned to Castle Park where they were addressed by a number of speakers.
Dave Chapple, vice chairman of the South West TUC, opened the speeches, saying: "Fascism and racism must always be confronted and not appeased."
A spokesperson for the Sikhs Against the EDL Campaign added: "Hands off our city."
MP for Bristol East Kerry McCarthy addressed the crowds. She said: "When I first heard the EDL was coming to Bristol I called for the march to be banned. Today we want to really show them that Bristol is a diverse city where different communities come together as one."
Fellow Labour party member and city mayor candidate Marvin Rees followed her on stage where he told the demonstration: "This is an opportunity to make a statement about what we want Bristol to be. We are a city that wants to be about diversity that lives with difference and thrives on difference."
Speakers also urged demonstrators to make their way to the Bristol Pride celebrations on College Green.
Although a large section followed that advice, many broke off to confront the EDL as they left.
Walls of riot police stood in their way as the EDL returned to their starting point on Redcliffe Wharf.
Anti-EDL demonstrators managed to get close enough to throw missiles at one point, with bottles and rocks coming back at them in return.
And as some EDL members were slowly released from a police cordon to cross over Prince Street Bridge and head into South Bristol, they left with insults and chants following them.